Director of Communications
April 23, 2014 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Mayor George Heartwell has been a longtime partner in Grand Rapids Community College's educational mission, and he'll have advice for graduates as this year's commencement speaker.
Heartwell will address GRCC's class of 2014 during commencement at 6 p.m. May 2 in Ford Fieldhouse, 111 Lyon St. NE. But he said he hopes that graduation doesn't mark the end of their learning.
"Never stop learning," he said. "Don’t assume that what you are doing right now is what you are going to be doing for the rest of your life.
"I started in business, then went to ministry, college administration, politics, CEO of a retirement corporation -- I couldn't have imagined any of those things when I graduated from college. There is something to be said for being open to the possibilities that exist if you are willing to take risks along the way. You never know what amazing opportunities you could have along the way."
Heartwell earned a master's of divinity degree from Western Theological Seminary in 1987. He was a minister at Heartside Ministry from 1987 to 1999. He served as director of Aquinas College's Community Leadership Institute from 2000 to 2005 and as president and CEO of Pilgrim Manor Retirement Community from 2005 to 2012. He represented the 3rd Ward on the Grand Rapids City Commission from 1992 to 1999. He has been the city's mayor since 2004.
Heartwell said he's happy to celebrate GRCC's commencement with the graduates and their families.
"We have 22 higher education centers in Grand Rapids, but only one community college," he said. "People understand that it is 'our' community college. It is a public institution that is supported by taxpayers and there is a sense of pride in GRCC that doesn’t exist with the other institutions.
"Being at the heart of the biggest city in Kent County is who GRCC is, and it shows a 100-year commitment to downtown Grand Rapids. It says a lot about GRCC as an institution and means a lot of me as mayor."
President Dr. Steven C. Ender said the choice of Heartwell to serve as the commencement speaker is especially appropriate as the college embarks on its centennial year.
"GRCC's history has been connected with the growth and the success of the city of Grand Rapids for 100 years, and we're thrilled to have Mayor Heartwell celebrate with us,” he said.
A ticket is required to attend the graduation ceremony, which will also include recognition of Judge John Hallacy as the 2014 Distinguished Alumni and of Paul Chardoul as Emeritus Faculty.
Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for more than 30,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.