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GRCC hosts its annual Scholarfest event with the official opening of the Secchia Plaza 

GRCC Interim President Dr. Juan Olivarez and spouse Mary Olivarez honored at Scholarfest 2022. (Alena Visnovsky/The Collegiate)

By Blace Carpenter 

In honor of Juan and Mary Olivarez, the first Scholarfest in three years took place yesterday. At $150 a ticket, all proceeds went to student scholarships, and representatives from several companies, such as Meijer, Fifth Third Bank, Spectrum Health, and many others, came to donate. The event raised a total of $126,350 to help students afford tuition through the several scholarship programs GRCC offers.

“Schloarfest is our largest scholarship event for the year,” said Kathryn Mullins, Vice President for College Advancement and the Executive Director of the GRCC Foundation. “…We are extremely excited to bring it back to GRCC and provide a GRCC experience for our donors.”

This event was also the official opening for the Secchia Plaza and the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education after being under construction for over a year.  Those in attendance were able to enjoy the evening in an open environment,  with natural and ambient lighting coming from the giant glass windows and multi-colored dome in the center of the room. Also, music from the GRCC Guitar Ensemble, directed by Johnathan Marshall, and the Latino band Atrevidos Norteños played throughout the evening. 

The Secchia Institute for Culinary Education students and staff made several Hispanic and Ukrainian dishes in honor of Olivarez’s Heritage. With dishes such as Ukrainian Apple Cake, Elote Corn, Pierogies, and a special beer made for the event, La Cerveza Del Presidente (The President’s Beer). 

After three years of the pandemic, the evening was a reunion for many faculty members of GRCC. Past GRCC leaders, donors, and staff, such as former President Bill Pink, Raleigh J. Finkelstein, GRCC’s Board of Trustees, and many more, attended Scholarfest.

“It’s always great to come back to campus, being at Ferris State was still close enough and connected enough that we still have good relationships, but it’s always good to physically come back,” said Pink, who left GRCC during the summer to become president of Ferris State University. “And also good to come back and celebrate Juan and Mary Olivarez, good friends and awesome leaders, so this is special as well.”

Kathryn Mullins and several board members ended the evening with a speech giving thanks to Juan and Mary Olivarez and highlighted all he has done for GRCC and his traits of leadership, diversity, and philanthropy.

“This place is really special, and I don’t need to go on and on about that, because we know how special it is,” Juan Olivarez said. “It is a gem in the community. We have been here over a hundred years. We have provided educational services for so many citizens…We continue to grow and prosper and to celebrate this great place. And it wouldn’t be what it is without donors and volunteers, but especially with our faculty and staff, who every day come and make this place what it is today.”

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