Home Featured News Richard W. Calkins, president of GRCC for 23 years, dies

Richard W. Calkins, president of GRCC for 23 years, dies

Courtesy Photo

By Joshua Vissers

Courtesy Photo
GRCC President Emeritus Richard W. Calkins

The man who led Grand Rapids Junior College to become Grand Rapids Community College in 1991 has died on Nov. 29. Richard W. Calkins, for whom the Calkins Science Center is named, was chief executive of GRJC and then president of GRCC for a total of 23 years.

While they never worked together, current GRCC President Steven Ender has had occasion to to meet Calkins several times over the last five years.

“Dick’s contributions to GRCC are incredibly important in the history of this institution,” said Ender.

Calkins became chief executive of GRCC (then GRJC) in 1975. The Music Center, Applied Technology Center, Spectrum Theater, College Park Plaza, Ford Fieldhouse and Student Community Center were all added to the school’s campus during Calkins’ tenure. He also led the expansion of several other departments, including the photography and culinary arts programs.

“(Calkins was) a person who didn’t carry himself with the air of ‘I’m somebody important, and I’ve got this big job, and look at everything I’ve done’. It was the exact opposite,” Ender said. “I found him to be very humble.”

Calkins also guided the college through some rough times, including tough faculty negotiations in the mid-90s.

“Even though it was a difficult negotiating time, people stayed at the college,” said Faculty Association President Frederick van Hartesveldt. “Sometimes when morale dives, people quit, or leave or are fired. That didn’t happen.”

A public memorial celebration will be announced for the spring of 2014.

“He was really true and loyal to the institution and also to the employees,” said Van Hartesveldt.

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