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GRCC mourns the loss of Bob Woodrick, a leader in addressing racism, supporting education in West Michigan

Oct. 3, 2020 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Bob Woodrick sought to challenge the hearts and minds of people in West Michigan about what he described as “the disease of racism.”

Woodrick, who passed away Friday at 88, leaves a legacy of promoting community conversations and education on the topic through the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion at Grand Rapids Community College. 

“Bob Woodrick understood West Michigan cannot not truly be successful until everyone has an opportunity to thrive,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “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.”

GRCC renamed its Diversity Learning Center after the Woodricks in 2006 after the couple generously supported the program’s improvement. It was renamed the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion in 2016 to reflect the expansion of its work both on and off campus.

Through the center, GRCC and surrounding communities are provided with the opportunity to experience cultural competence through community partnerships, academic colloquium, youth conferences, student engagement initiatives, and programming that advances responsive social justice.

Woodrick began his career in the family business, D&W Food Centers in Grand Rapids, and worked there his entire life, leaving only for college and the military. He served many roles, 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."

Woodrick’s advocacy led to the Institutes for Healing Racism, now a partnership between GRCC’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Grand Rapids Chamber. The Woodricks also 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.”

Grand Rapids Community College offers learners of all ages opportunities to gain credits for degrees or transfer and in-demand career skills leading to rewarding careers. GRCC was established in 1914 – Michigan’s first community college -- and offers affordable classes on weekdays, evenings, Saturdays and online at locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.

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