GVL / Allison Young
GVSU students signing the final beam on the new Pew Library.

Allison Young

GVL / Allison Young GVSU students signing the final beam on the new Pew Library.

Anya Zentmeyer

More than 1,000 students flooded the west lawn of Grand Valley State University’s Kirkhof Center on Thursday to sign their names on the final beam in the construction of the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons. The hoisting of the final beam marks the last of stage of construction in the steel erection of the new library, scheduled
for completion next spring.

“I was really, really pleased too,” said President Thomas J. Haas. “There was just hundreds, if not over a thousand, students that came sometime during the signing and many of them stayed to actually see it hoisted and put into place.”

Haas said the beam was the last structural portion on the northwest corner that was hoisted up last Thursday after he, along with Kate Pew Wolters and other administrators signed the beam.

“It looked like it was going fairly slowly when I saw, literally truck loads of clay taking off to site when it was building the hole in the ground, but once the infrastructure started coming up out of the ground it’s just moving on very, very quickly and what I’d call on-time and on-budget,” he said.

James Moyer, assistant vice president of Facilities Planning, was part of the senior management team — including the Pioneer Construction — that spearheaded the event, in this spirit of engaging the campus community in what Haas called a “milestone” for GVSU.

“The idea of students participating in the construction effort is something that we attempt to do on most projects,” he said. “Usually, student participation is limited to tours at a later date in the project. Student response to this idea was phenomenal; it shows the power of the electronic media.”

Jarrett Martus, former Student Senate president and current student philanthropy coordinator with GVSU’s University Development, said planning for the event began about three months ago, and viewed the event as an opportunity for students to show gratitude to the more than 1,400 donors who made the construction of the library possible.

“Without the private support we would not have the buildings that we have or the private scholarships that students receive,” he said.

Because of the largely-donor supported financing for the library, Haas said GVSU did not have to raise tuition specifically for the project — a fact he is “very, very proud of.”

The library is named after GVSU Trustee Kate Pew Wolters’ mother, a gesture of recognition by lead-donor Bob Pew.

“It was really neat, I showed Kate Pew Wolters some of the stonework that’s going on already on the foundation and she was beaming,” Haas said. “I know her dad Bob Pew, who was the lead gift, to recognize his wife and Kate’s mom that this particular building is going to serve Grand Valley and generations of students to the future.”

The new library consists of 1,500 student study seats, 20 group study rooms, room for 150,000 books on open shelves and an additional 600,000 books in an automated storage/retrieval system.

To see floor plans, or take a virtual tour of the library, visit

“This was a university wide effort and I would like to thank all of the students for coming out and showing their support to our donors and being a part of history,” Martus said. “We were especially happy that Kate Pew Wolters was able to be a part of this milestone for what will be her mother’s library. Finally, a thank you to President Haas for his support in this effort as well as the faculty and staff that put hours of planning into this event. It was a great day for the Laker community to gather and celebrate.”

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