As the new school year rolls on at Grand Rapids Community College, the school’s new leader is settling into his new role.
The youngest of five, hailing from rural West Oklahoma, that man is President Bill Pink. Working as a Collegiate editor, I recently got to spend the day with Pink and tagged along as he attended numerous academic events in the community.
Bill Pink is the 10th President of GRCC and he is the first African-American President in the school’s history.
Prior to becoming president, Pink was the former Vice President and Dean of Workforce Development at GRCC. In total, Pink has been working in higher education for more than 25 years.
Pink’s day started off at a meeting with GRCC Student Leaders, where they discussed different ways to attract students to on-campus activities. Right away Pink told the leaders his vision and that GRCC is a nationally respected school.
“I came to a school that’s already in great shape,” Pink stated during the meeting. “Nationally people know about us… I’m not here to fix things, I’m here to take this college to the next level.”
That statement from Pink immediately grabbed the student leaders’ attention and it sparked a series of conversations on how they can work together to make the nationally known school more visible to the public. The leaders felt comfortable opening up to Pink, telling him where they’re from, what their goals are and their expectations for themselves and GRCC.
After learning more about the student leaders, it flipped to the leaders wanting to know more about Pink. But it was one question that raised all of our eyebrows.
“What kind of music do you like?” a student leader asked.
“Music is very important to me,” Pink replied. “I love music from 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.”
A student shouted out ‘yes’ as he and Pink shared some songs from their playlists and their love for old school music.
Pink went on to tell the leaders, “I’ve sung in choirs and also did many other things involving music, music is a big part of me.”
Following the conversation about music, another leader asked an interesting question.“What quotes or sayings do you live by?” the leader asked.
“Wow, that’s a long list,” Pink replied. “My faith is one of the things I live by. It keeps me going. I also live by the saying, ‘don’t sweat the small stuff.’”
As students soaked up Pink’s quotes and sayings, he disbursed one more saying that resonated with the whole room.
“To be a college president and accomplish everything you have set out for the college is good, but it means nothing if I lose my soul in the end of it,” Pink said.
Pink loves music, golfing, and spending time with his wife and children. He said this helps him keep things in perspective for him and prevents him from sweating the small stuff.
The meeting ended with Pink giving out hugs to the student leaders and advisers and distributing his business card to all the student leaders.
“If you need my help with anything, just give me a holler,” Pink said before leaving the room.
While in route to another meeting, Pink drove his car with a smile and such hope and happiness on his face.
“Everyone in that room is a very good people, the stories of those students (are) things I love to hear about,” Pink said. “I’m excited for what’s ahead of us.”
The next stop was at City High School for the GRPS school kickoff event where staff, students, and alumni from each GRPS school came together to help students get ready for the upcoming school year.
It seemed like everyone knew Pink and as soon as we walked in the gymnasium, people noticed him immediately. Shaking hand after hand, giving out hug after hug, Pink was respected by so many in that gym. Asking friends, “when are you going to visit my college?” or “how’s everything going with you?” It was all smiles, laughs and love when when Pink was spotted at the event. He didn’t leave without shaking as many hands and giving as many hugs as he could.
The last event Pink attended was the fifth annual Cruisin’ to College Success Program awards ceremony. Once again as he walked into the ATC building at GRCC, Dr. Pink was immediately recognized.
Cruisin’ to College Success Program is a program funded by the DeVos Foundation where high school students in all grades, from different schools attend GRCC for eight weeks and take actual college courses. Courses such as CLS 100 and College Algebra. The high school students in attendance with their families all successfully completed the program and walked away with college credit and a check for their efforts.
Pink was scheduled to give remarks during the event and did what he often does when talking to an audience. He sparked a sense of hope and unwavering motivation.
“Don’t let people convince you that this can’t be done,” Pink said. “Now that you all are here that proves to you, that proves to the people here at GRCC that you aren’t only capable but you are more than capable. So I expect to see you back here, back here at GRCC.”
The crowd responded with applause.
“I expect to see you all as students at Grand Rapids Community College, because this is a place that not only will take good care of you, this (is) a place that will say ‘let’s get this done’ and then figure out what you do after that,” Pink said. “Here we prepare you for the world, whatever that world is going to be. I encourage you to come back here and get your degree done and one day they’ll probably be an April evening in the Fieldhouse and we’ll have these fine looking dresses on and a weird hat on and you will walk across a stage a college graduate of Grand Rapids Community College. I look forward to that day. Thank you and congratulations.”
The whole audience stood and gave Pink a loud and welcoming applause as he electrified the room with motivation, love, and hope.
Staff members around GRCC feed off his positivity and the unconditional care he has for the people around him.
“Bill cares about the students here and the people that work here,” Laurie Chesley, Provost of GRCC said. “I tell you, everyone is excited to have Bill as our President and is very optimistic. We are very happy to be working with him.”
Pink’s assistants also gave their thoughts on the new GRCC President.
“Dr. Pink is genuine and a man of integrity,” Amy Bennett said. “The person he shows to the community is the same person we see in the office. He likes to connect with people and really get to know them. He remembers people and I think that comes from genuinely caring about them. It’s awesome to come to work with someone who wants to have a positive impact on our students, our workplace and our community.”
“Dr. Pink’s energy around strengthening the community on and off campus is infectious,” Misty McClure-Anderson said. “He is the kind of leader that believes in walking along side his employees as he leads, which will take institution to the next level.”
At the end of the day, Pink shook my hand and said, “If you need anything, just give me a holler.”