GRCC to award President’s Medallion during commencement



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications

(616) 234-4213

April 27, 2015 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — More than 500 students will participate in Grand Rapids Community College’s commencement on May 1.

The ceremony — 7 p.m. in Van Andel Arena, 130 Fulton St. W. — will officially conclude GRCC’s centennial celebration.

In addition to the debut of a new alma mater, and keynote remarks by GRCC Board of Trustees Chairperson Bert R. Bleke, the event will include the posthumous awarding of the President’s Medallion to Gerald R. Ford, the 38th president of the United States. A special honor that is bestowed on Grand Rapids Community College presidents, this is only the second time that it has been given to anyone else: It was awarded to Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Irish leader John Hume in 2009. Susan Ford Bales, Ford’s daughter, is scheduled to accept the medallion on behalf of her father.

Other honors presented during the evening will be the Distinguished Alumna Award to Terri A. Handlin and honorary Associate of Arts degrees to Noorthoek Academy students Betty Malmyga and Sue Udell.

Handlin, who was was first elected to GRCC’s founding Board of Trustees in 1991 and was re-elected in 2001 and 2007, received an Associate of Arts degree from Grand Rapids Junior College in 1974 and went on to eventually earn master’s degrees in occupational-vocational education from the University of Michigan and in educational administration from Michigan State University. She spent 30 years as an education professional, two in the Grand Rapids school district and 28 in Forest Hills, where she promoted such innovations as computer use in classrooms, co-op programs, mentoring, experiential learning and diversity education.

Beyond celebrating the alumni and community figures who have supported GRCC throughout the years, several student stories will highlight this year’s graduating class, which includes 1,788 students who were eligible to graduate at the end of the fall 2014 semester, or who applied to graduate during the winter or summer 2015 semesters.

The student feature stories include (and will be forwarded in separate emails, with photos):

  • Noorthoek Academy students Betty Malmyga and Sue Udell.
  • Arielle Brown, a Detroit resident who plans to study biology (pre-dental path) at the University of Detroit-Mercy and eventually become an orthodontist.
  • Dan Eggerding, a Sparta High School graduate who gained real-world political experience at GRCC.
  • Kaylee Hanson, a Northview High School graduate who found opportunities in the Honors Program.
  • Christina Karas, who overcame personal struggles and accident injuries to receive an Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences-Corrections degree.
  • Jonathan Lopez, a Rogers High School graduate who succeeded at college in his second attempt.
  • Noah van Hartesveldt, a West Catholic High School graduate who got help changing his career path.
  • Carla Villasana Acosta, a Venezuelan who started in English-As-a-Second-Language classes at GRCC.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.