May 20, 2020 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Community College Foundation board trustee Dave Custer has been recognized by a national organization for his service to the community -- for the second time in six months.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education has named Custer, CEO and founder of Custer Inc., the recipient of the 2020 Ernest T. Steward Award for Alumni Volunteer Involvement.
The award, named for the first executive director of the American Alumni Council, recognizes an individual for service to his or her alma mater and is the highest honor CASE presents to an alumni volunteer.
“The individuals who received these awards have devoted themselves to advancing education to transform lives and society,” said Sue Cunningham, president and CEO of CASE. “They have demonstrated their commitment to education in unique and special ways, and they share a deep commitment to making a difference through their impactful support of education.”
Custer knows first-hand the crucial role community colleges play: He was a first-generation student at what was then Grand Rapids Junior College.
“Because of our family’s financial situation when I graduated from high school in 1965, it was not possible to go to a four-year university with its inherent cost,” said Custer, who transferred his GRJC credits to Western Michigan University.
“Grand Rapids Junior College had lower tuition and allowed me to stay at home and helped me get a start on a college degree. And having that degree allowed for better opportunities of employment, which then molded my career.”
Custer became a member of the foundation’s board of directors in 1989 and immediately joined efforts that led Kent County voters to redistrict GRJC into the independent, standalone Grand Rapids Community College.
In 2008, he was named board chair -- the first time this leadership position was held by someone other than the college president. He has served as chair of the fundraising committee for 30 years and most recently as co-chair of GRCC’s A Broader Vision capital campaign.
“I am delighted to see Dave honored in this way!” said Dr. Kathryn Mullins, director of the GRCC Foundation and vice president for College Advancement. “This is a significant honor because this award is not just for community colleges -- this recipient is selected and recognized as a leader among national nominees from all across higher education
“Dave’s leadership is no secret here in West Michigan, and it’s wonderful to see him recognized and acknowledged nationally for his devotion to GRCC and his hard work to help our students.”
In December, the American Association of Community Colleges named Custer one of just four 2020 Outstanding Alumni Award recipients from among 600 nominations. He also received GRCC’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2010.
“I want to help give others the same chance and opportunity I had,” he said. “I don’t know what our community would do without GRCC.”
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.