Today the Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees presented the President Emeritus Award to former GRCC President Juan Olivarez for his accomplishments to college and the local community.
The board surprised Olivarez with this award at the meeting using a video detailing his accomplishments.
Olivarez was selected GRCC president in 1999 and hit the ground running. He established the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion, Salute to Women Awards, Latino Youth Conference and many more programs.
“(Olivarez) remains an important part of our family,” said Chairman David Koetje. “The Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees wishes to add one more award to your resume.”
Surprised and moved, Olivarez stood in front of the board to expressed his gratitude.
“I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Olivarez said. “… This is a tremendous, tremendous honor for me… I spent a lot of blood, sweat, tears in this institution with a lot of folks that are still here and that I care about. This means so much.”
Along with being the keynote speaker, Olivarez will receive the award during the commencement ceremony on April 27 at the Ford Fieldhouse.
The board also recognized GRCC students Marcus Barissi, Elijah Paparella and Micha Rupert for receiving the Phi Theta Kappa Academic All-Michigan recognition.
“I had absolutely nothing to my name before GRCC,” Barissi said. “But now I have worked so hard and have something to my name. I never thought I would be recognized by the Board of Trustees.”
GRCC student Kelly Burrows joined Paparella as they were acknowledged for being named semifinalists for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.
This scholarship is the largest award given to transfer students from community colleges. The scholarship is given to 45 students each year, however, semifinalists can also reap many benefits.
The program notifies universities that the student was a semifinalist and often the student will get calls from universities trying to persuade them to enroll. Students often end up getting more money from schools that they want to go to because they were semifinalists.
“My being a semifinalist is not my accomplishment, but this college’s accomplishment,” Burrows said. “I couldn’t have done it without the support of my professors, – like Dr. (Frank) Conner – the support staff at academic support and everyone here. I have to thank (the board) today.”
Before the meeting was adjourned, Trustee Deb Bailey made a closing statement regarding the honored students at the meeting and the support that faculty provides them.
“I think (the student’s) comments about where they’ve come to where they are has really happened with a lot of support from the faculty and staff here,” she said. “I find it humbling when I listen to those students doing things I would not be capable of doing today. The comment ‘was nothing’ – it’s like no, that person had something and the rest of (faculty) saw it. So, thank you.”
The next meeting will take place at 4:15 p.m. on May 7 in the Board of Trustees Library.