By Ellie Halvorson
“Growing up, my grandmother was my best friend. She was very particular about her house, but my siblings would get angry because she would treat me as if I owned the place with her,” said Grand Rapids Community College President Bill Pink with adoration. “My goal was to do whatever I could for her.”
In his younger years, Pink resided in his grandmother’s two-bedroom home in Abilene, Texas with his parents and his four older siblings. “The news there is that one of the bedrooms was hers,” Pink said. “So six of us shared the other bedroom, and my dad had a bed that was outside the bedroom, kind of in the back part of the living room.”
After the passing of his grandmother, Pink’s focus shifted to his mother.
“She was one of those heroes growing up. She’d come to bed around 2:30 a.m. and wake up at 6 to do it all over again,” Pink said of his mother who worked nights as a custodian at a local college, along with his father who worked the morning shift.
From watching both of his parents’ work as custodians at a college to achieving his second college presidency, Pink understands the value of hard work, but also the value of taking time to relax. Pink enjoys many of Michigan’s extracurricular activities including fishing and golfing, as well as spending time with his wife, Lori.
“During the shutdown, we watched all of the Marvel and Star Wars movies and just had a great time watching them together,” Pink said. “Being a child of the ‘70s, it’s amazing to see that something I grew up with (Star Wars) is still bringing joy to the younger generations. It’s really something.”
Pink’s daughter, Lydia, just completed her freshman year at GRCC, but will be following her father to Ferris State University.
“I decided to choose GRCC because I don’t know what I want to do in the future but I wanted to get my general classes out of the way,” Lydia said. “Plus, my favorite part about my dad being the president here is that between classes, I can hangout with him and eat lunch at his office (if his schedule allows it).”
Not everyone has the unique perspective of having their parent also be the president at their college, but Lydia has nothing but good things to say about her father.
“I admire his ability to draw people in. He has such a magnetic personality that everyone just always wants to be around him and loves spending time with him and talking to him,” Lydia said. “He makes everyone feel as if they are important and what they have to say is important.”
When asked to describe himself in one word, Pink reflected for a while before deciding on “approachable.”
“I always want to be approachable, especially to students,” Pink said. “Meeting with students is one of the best parts of my job.”
Being approachable is an attribute that President Pink has held dear for over his 25 years in higher education, including his seven years at GRCC and his previous work at Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma.
Pink plans to maintain his approachable, relevant, and responsive nature as he says farewell to GRCC and takes his first steps as Ferris State University’s 19th president this summer.