President Ford's son to speak at fieldhouse rededication

Jan. 10, 2019 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Mike Ford, son of President Gerald R. Ford and first lady Betty Ford, will speak during a rededication of the renovated Grand Rapids Community College building named for his father.

GRCC will celebrate the renovations to the Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse with a ceremony from 3-5 p.m. Jan. 14. The ceremony begins at 3:30 p.m., followed by an open house and tours. The event is open to the public.

"The Ford Fieldhouse transformation demonstrates how GRCC remains responsive to our campus and greater community's needs," GRCC President Bill Pink said. "This rejuvenated facility plays an important role in our college and city history, and will become more relevant through the many upgrades, allowing us to serve more students and West Michigan residents in a variety of ways." 

Mike Ford, the oldest of the four Ford children, recently completed a career in higher education, serving the past 36 years in multiple leadership roles at Wake Forest University. He received the Medallion of Merit Award from the university in 2018.

He'll be joined in the rededication program by District Court Judge Sara J. Smolenski. The state Supreme Court appointed Smolenski chief judge of the 63rd District Court in 1996. She received GRCC's Salute to Women and Distinguished Alumna awards in 2003.

The Ford Fieldhouse, 111 Lyon St. NE, underwent $8 million in renovations starting in May, creating a state-of-the-art facility for Exercise Science Department classes, GRCC athletics, commencement and public events.

Renovations are intended to enhance student learning, support student-athletes’ performance, and create a more comfortable environment for spectators and community events.

New features include: 

  • Air conditioning throughout the building, creating a comfortable environment for students and spectators year round.
  • Additional upgrades for the Gordon Hunsberger Arena -- including LED lighting -- making the facility better suited for hosting local and national events, such as the NJCAA Region XII basketball tournament in March.
  • Three classrooms for exercise science and other programs. 
  • Team locker rooms with increased seating and technology for study and game preparation, along with an updated athletic training room.
  • Upgrades and new equipment in the Fitness Center, used by student-athletes and students, faculty and staff and community members belonging to the Health Club.
  • Murals and trophy cases in the Paganelli Foyer sharing GRCC's athletic legacy and showcasing its bright present and future. 
  • Portable basketball hoops and two more courts, allowing more open recreation and practice space.

The fieldhouse, originally called the Gerald R. Ford Health and Physical Education Center, was constructed in 1976 at a cost of $5 million. GRCC -- then Grand Rapids Junior College -- hosted President Ford and first lady Betty Ford at the dedication in November. 

Health and wellness facilities were added and the arena was named for Hunsberger, NJCAA Hall of Fame football coach, through donations from David and Carol Van Andel Foundation in 2011. A gathering space outside the arena was named in honor of the Carl Paganelli family, many of whom are GRJC and GRCC alumni, in 2013.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 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.

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