Home GRCC Board of Trustees Two GRCC trustees retiring this election year

Two GRCC trustees retiring this election year


Two long-time members of the Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees will retire this November.

Ellen James and Richard Verburg have been members of the college’s board for many years. They both say it’s just the right time to retire.

After serving 25 years, James is the last remaining founding member of the board, and has served five terms in total.

James Courtesy GRCC

James said she was on a committee, some 25 years ago, that was composed of mainly African American individuals, looking for a candidate who could serve on the board. James was encouraged to run, so she did.

“Each time there was an election, I always felt that I had more work to do,” James said. Since then, she has served as chairperson, vice chair, secretary and treasurer.

“Every decision that we have made as a board, I’ve been apart of it, and that truly stands out in my mind.”

Both James and Verburg said one of the best decisions the college made was the purchase of the Davenport University lot, where Sneden Hall currently stands.

“That allowed us to serve more students,” James said. “That allowed us to expand our visibility in the community.”

James said she will miss the time commitment, the interaction with other trustees and working with people in the college community.

Serving over two decades as a trustee, James said she’s not sure if she would have lasted if she hadn’t made a specific decision early on.

“I decided that I would not go home angry from a board meeting,” James said. She said this worked for her almost 100 percent of the time.

James said she will continue to be active in the Grand Rapids community. She still serves on the Grand Rapids National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) board, the Advisory Committee for the Grand Rapids Housing Commission, the Mercy Housing board and the Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church board.

By November, Verburg will have served 19 years as a trustee at GRCC. He said the board has involved aspects of his entire life.  

Verburg Courtesy GRCC

“I was secretary of the board when my two children graduated and I got to sign their diplomas,” Verburg said, proudly.

Beyond that, Verburg enjoyed knowing and working with fellow trustees and the college president and professors.

While he’s been at the college, Verburg has been proud to see all the construction and additions to the campus and the workforce programs.

“That’s a big deal,” Verburg said. “A lot of people really aren’t that aware of all that work that the community college does for those areas.”

Verburg worked at General Motors for 28 years before he became a trustee. He said it wasn’t what he expected to do, but his wife was very supportive and that helped him, too.

“It’s been the honor of my life to be a community college trustee,” Verburg said.

For the next trustees that will be elected in November, James and Verburg had some words of advice.

“They’re not there on a personal matter,” James said of the trustees’ responsibility. “They’re there to be representatives for the entire community college … They’re also representing citizens that brought them to that table.”

Verburg said trustees should remember their purpose at the college in their decision making.

“Remember the students,” Verburg said. “Remember the community college movement and mission.”


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