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GRCC mourns the loss of Bob Woodrick, a leader in the education against racism

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A photo of Bob Woodrick and Aleicia Woodrick (center) at the opening of the 2006 dedication of the center. Courtesy of the Grand Rapids Community College.

By Sabrina Edwards

Bob Woodrick, a fighter against what he called “the disease of racism,” died Friday, Oct. 2. He was 88.

Woodrick leaves a legacy of challenging those around him to speak on issues of diversity and creating open forums through the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion at Grand Rapids Community College.

In 2006, GRCC founded the Diversity Learning Center, after the Woodricks generously supported the program. In 2016 it was renamed the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion.

“Bob Woodrick understood West Michigan cannot truly be successful until everyone has an opportunity to thrive,” stated GRCC President Bill Pink. “For decades, he opened eyes, changed minds and challenged people to take a look at themselves and their communities. The world we are living in today shows us we have more work to do. Bob’s leadership helped ensure GRCC is a place where that work can and will continue.”

Woodrick began his career early on at D&W Food Center, a family owned business, and he worked there his entire life, leaving only for college and the military. Woodwrick earned his undergraduate degree at Michigan State University. He has served in many different roles at D&W, including president and CEO, and chairman of the board. 

“I believe that racism is real, and that it is wrong — and that its presence with us has not diminished,” he wrote in a 1996 essay in The Grand Rapids Press. “Furthermore, I believe our denial plays a significant role in masking racism; only when we acknowledge our denial can the healing of racism begin.”

The Woodricks collaborated with Aquinas College to establish the Woodrick Institute for the Study of Racism and Diversity.

“GRCC has always been dedicated to helping students be everything they are capable of becoming. And learning to appreciate and understand the role that diversity plays in that process can not be underestimated,” Woodrick said at the GRCC center’s dedication. “It’s an honor for Alecia and I to be able to support GRCC and build upon the Diversity Learning Center’s decade of success. The future of our community depends upon us getting it right.”

Woodrick is survived by his wife of 63 years, Aleicia Woodrick, his daughter, and grandchildren.