Update: This article has been updated to show that the gala is scheduled for Oct. 14.
During the 2014-2015 school year Grand Rapids Community College will be celebrating its 100th year anniversary. Even though the official celebration does not begin until next school year, an event planning team has been working for many months to put together the ongoing celebration to start this August.
“I am excited that we will have what I believe to be a wonderful recorded history of the college as a result of this,” said GRCC President Steven Ender. “…we have been here 100 years, and that’s good. But also we have been here 100 years, and that’s not good, because people, I believe, tend to take us for granted as an institution, rather than embrace how lucky this community is that it has Grand Rapids Community College.”
The celebration kicks-off prior to students coming to campus for the fall semester. As usual there will be a gathering of all faculty and staff, which is called convocation.
“This year that is going to be a different twist, and it is going to be an academic convocation for our faculty and staff. We typically don’t put on our gowns and hoods and celebrate that we are an academy of education,” Ender said.
The first community event is scheduled for Sept. 13 in the Ford Fieldhouse. This will be an open house for alumni, current students, and staff to attend.
Former President Jimmy Carter will speak at the Diversity Lecture Series on Sept. 22. Since this is expected to be such a widely attended lecture, the event will be hosted in the Ford Fieldhouse.
Ender said he was able to get Carter to come and speak because of a mutual friend he has with Carter. “At the end of the day it is going to happen, and I am quite delighted with it…but that’s one of the coolest parts of being a president, you get opportunities like that.”
There will be a gala that is to be hosted at DeVos Place on Oct. 14.
“The goal with this, and with celebrating the 100 years is fundraising towards student scholarships,” Ender said.
Other than scholarships, fundraising will hopefully go towards building a new Early Childhood Center, for finishing renovations on the Main Building, and eventually renovating the Music Building.
“Hopefully the gala will introduce a lot of people to our work, who have never given to the college before,” Ender said.
Spectrum Theater is also putting on a musical production that is about the history of the college. The musical’s main character is a present-day GRCC student named Jill. Jill finds herself in a time warp, and ends up in the first president of GRCC’s office. Jill must walk through different eras of the college in order to reach the present day. The show will run Nov. 7 and 8.
The writers of the musical are Walt Lockwood and James Schafer. The music and theater departments have been very involved with the development of the show as well.
The year will end with the commencement ceremony at the Van Andel Arena on May 1, 2015. Ender said, “Quite frankly we had to really manage the number of students and their family members that can come into the Fieldhouse…we are taking advantage of the 100 years to kind of test the Van Andel as a perhaps permanent spot for our graduation.”
Ender said he is torn on having the graduation location change. “I really loved the Fieldhouse graduation. I loved being on campus, with Lyon Street closed, and Olivarez Plaza filled with students and families. So we will see how it goes. It will be different.”
Many departments across campus will have their own celebrations, and will be making connections with alumni that have graduated from their department.
Lockwood, a former English department member, is also writing an official history of the college in addition to helping write the musical. Ender said, “It is fascinating for me to see the evolution of this institution…by itself, it is a great outcome of us celebrating our 100 years.”
Ender said that with the celebration, “I hope that students find avenues to participate, but I hope they reflect a bit on what an opportunity this college is.”
For more information on the 100-year celebration, events planned for next school year, and the history of the college, visit grcc.edu/100th.