Laurie Cope Grand’s scholarship honors her family of GRCC alumni.
Laurie Cope Grand followed in her older brother’s footsteps by attending Grand Rapids Junior College.
But that doesn’t mean she liked it.
“In my first semester, as a freshman from Forest Hills High School, I was resentful that I was ‘stuck’ at GRJC while others were able to go to four-year colleges and universities,” she said. “My family simply didn’t have the money, and my high school GPA was 3.0, which wasn’t enough to get into my dream school: the University of Michigan.”
While older brother David Cope found his footing as poetry editor for GRJC’s Display magazine. Laurie Cope Grand struggled to make friends, spending time between classes on what was then Bostwick Commons before heading to one of her two jobs.
Then a friend dragged her to a tea at Kappa Sigma Phi, one of the sororities at GRCJ back then, which opened the door to friendships that she maintains to this day. She was elected sorority president her sophomore year, strengthening her leadership skills and her self-confidence.
She also followed her brother’s lead by becoming Display’s poetry editor.
“Seeing my own poems published in the magazine was a thrill,” she said. “They were actually pretty
terrible, but it made me feel like I could do anything.”
Cope Grand proceeded to reach the goals she’d set for herself: earning a bachelor’s degree from U of M and launching a 14-year career in human resources. She worked for department stores Abraham & Straus in New York and then May Co. and Carter Hawley Hale in Los Angeles.
In 1985, she enrolled in a psychology doctoral program at the University of Southern California. After completing the internship and licensing process, she worked as a marriage and family therapist in L.A. and then Illinois for a decade before returning to the corporate world as an instructional designer.
Toward the end of her career, she found she was able to make charitable contributions. While she’s grateful for her GRJC start, it was actually another community college student – her daughter – who alerted her to the needs on those campuses.
“My daughter was a student at a CC in San Mateo at the time, and she relayed stories of fellow students who were struggling and couldn’t afford to buy books,” Cope Grand said. “So I began by contributing to a fund at her school and later moved my donations to GRCC.”
Cope Grand and her husband, Mark Grand, started with quarterly contributions to GRCC.
“Recently, we decided to make our gift more meaningful by endowing the Cope Family Scholarship Fund,”
she said. “This makes it possible for us to provide support in perpetuity and in a more targeted way.”
The “family” part of the scholarship is well-earned: In addition to Laurie and David Cope, who graduated from GRJC in 1969 and 1968, respectively, siblings Charlie Cope and Mary Cope Brennan graduated in 1973 and 1978. The scholarship, which is renewable, supports a freshman and sophomore, covering tuition and books.
“My single mother was a kindergarten teacher in the (Grand Rapids Public Schools), and we really struggled,” Cope Grand said. “As the second of four kids, with little money and one family car, it was very tough. If I can help a few students lighten that burden, I am glad to do so.”
Cope Grand now looks back at her GRJC years with affection and sees how they helped her become who she is now.
“Being a GRCC student means you are determined to have a good life,” she said. “It means you are strong and know that nothing will be handed to you. You have to work for it. You understand that a good education will help you reach your goals and make your world better. What could be more important than that?”
that nothing will be handed to you. You have to work for it. You understand that a good education will
help you reach your goals and make your world better. What could be more important than that?