Celebrating 'high hopes'
Founders Day becomes GVSU tradition
Fifty-three years ago, Grand Valley State University was a field of corn and mud. Now, it is home to almost 25,000 students and has close to 100,000 alumni scattered throughout the world.
About 300 students, faculty, staff and family members of the university’s founders gathered on campus Thursday to honor the first Lakers and kick off Founders Day—a new tradition at GVSU.
“I’m proud to be a part of a university that takes the time to appreciate where we come from,” said Cody Rivers, a senior at GVSU.
A bronze statue of L. William “Bill” Seidman, who is recognized as a founder of GVSU, was unveiled at the ceremony in memory of his achievements. Brett Grill, a Grand Rapids native who now teaches in Columbia, Mo., created the statue, which was placed near the new Mary Idema Pew Library.
“Bill Seidman is one of those individuals of the 300-plus people that came together who had a vision for Grand Valley State University,” President Thomas Haas said. “They wanted to develop the talent and keep the talent here in West Michigan. It sounds like this story all over again. Right now, this year in 2013, where we’re hearing from our state and across the nation that we need to create, we need to shape that talent necessary for our economic vitality and security. It hasn’t changed. But what has changed is this glorious university called GVSU.”
Seidman and his citizen’s committees traveled the West Michigan region asking for support and playing their theme song—“High Hopes” by Frank Sinatra. Through donations from community organizations, banks, business labor unions and individuals who donated “a buck a brick,” they were able to raise the initial $1 million and obtain a university charter.
“Really the essence of Grand Valley State University is truly the story of entrepreneurship, of innovation and continued service,” Haas said. “Grand Valley State University is a remarkable success story.”
In 1960, GVSU became Michigan’s 10th state-supported college, and in 1963, the first 226 students were enrolled.
“Let’s think about this just for a minute,” Haas said. “What if Bill Seidman and the others gave up? What if they didn’t have the vision of creating the talent here in Allendale to support this region? They had the confidence in themselves and then had confidence that they could sustain this model of public higher education in West Michigan. What if they didn’t? Well we wouldn’t be here today. We wouldn’t be here today without those founders.”
Tom Seidman, a son of Bill Seidman, spoke on behalf of his family at the ceremony and commented about the statue that was set up to honor his father.
“The expression on his face should have a very familiar lopsided grin,” Tom Seidman said. “And I can tell you this: that if it doesn’t, and this statue is unveiled and this likeness of my father is looking out at what has been created here from the dream that he had—this incredible campus that extends all the way to downtown now and all the way to Detroit—he will have the grin on by tomorrow morning, and it will be there for the life of this university.”