By Kayla Tucker – Managing Editor
After a year-long battle with cancer, Grand Rapids Community College Board Trustee Richard Ryskamp died Tuesday afternoon at the age of 59.
Dr. Ryskamp is survived by his wife and two sons.
He was born in 1956 and grew up in Pennsylvania. Ryskamp went on to attend Lehigh University with National Merit and Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps scholarships, and graduated with a bachelor’s of science in engineering. He went on to get a medical degree at the University of Rochester, New York.
In 1983, Ryskamp moved to Grand Rapids and gained medical residency before serving four years in the US Army Medical Corps in Germany. Ryskamp returned to Kent County in 1997.
Dr. Richard Ryskamp
2009 – Elected to GRCC Board of Trustees as a critic of the college
2010 – Opposed funding Diversity Learning Center and Actors’ Theatre, fighting to uphold conservative standards of decency
2013 – Began writing and introduced his “Respect for Law Policy” which would require employees to respect the rule of law
2014 – Opposed buyouts for faculty contracts
Feb. 2015 – “Respect for Law Policy” voted down on grounds it was too broad and too difficult to monitor
March 2015 – Introduced “Advocacy” policy which would create a document outlining the college’s political goals, beliefs and values and called for the president to advocate for the college in Lansing
Ryskamp was elected to the GRCC Board of Trustees in 2009. He was a practicing physician at St. Mary’s Health Care and was a clinical assistant professor at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine.
Ryskamp was known at the college as a conservative “critic” for the board.
“I had a tremendous amount of respect for Dr. Ryskamp,” said Bert Bleke, board chairperson. “We didn’t always agree on everything, but I felt that he was very thoughtful. I felt that Dr. Ryskamp was deeply concerned about the institution, deeply concerned about students and was a very dedicated, hard worker who really wanted to make this a better place for everybody.”
Bleke and GRCC President Steven Ender both agreed that Ryskamp’s passing is a loss for the institution and the board.
“He represented a voice in the community and he was not shy about bringing up issues that might be controversial and because of that I think he really helped to make a stronger board, and at the end of the day a stronger college,” Ender said.
Although many board meetings brought up strong opinions and conversations, Ender and board members alike have fond memories of working with Ryskamp.
“His attention to detail was always there,” said trustee Richard Verburg, recalling the time and work Ryskamp put into the presidential evaluations each year. “He had his own points of view and he stuck to them. He had a good insight, he asked a lot of questions about things that were good to be asked.”
Verburg recalled Ryskamp’s consistent attendance of the Tassel M-Tec graduations.
“He was very attentive to his duties as a board member,” Verburg said.
Ryskamp was praised for his willingness to speak on topics that not many brought up.
“I really admired his courage as a board member and in his own personal battle with the illness that he was dealing with,” Ender said. “I had a lot of respect for Rich Ryskamp.”
Cynthia Bristol, trustee, lived in the same neighborhood as Ryskamp and was very close with him and his family. She described him as a wonderful husband, father, and friend.
“He served as an example to me,” Bristol said. “He’s a pillar of the community, of his church, a very principled person, a God-fearing man. I certainly appreciate all the…contributions that he has made to the community, to his church and to the college…He took his responsibilities very seriously.”
According to GRCC Today, a visitation will be held from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Sept. 11 at Stroo Funeral Home, 1095 68th St. E.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at Dutton United Reformed Church, 6950 Hanna Lake SE.