GVSU awards 75,000th degree, sends grads to face future

GVSU graduates and their families and friends filled the VanAndel Arena for commencement on May 1.

Emanuel Johnson

GVSU graduates and their families and friends filled the VanAndel Arena for commencement on May 1.

Lauren Fitch

About 2,500 Grand Valley State University graduates were recently sent off to face their futures with a handshake, diploma and all a liberal arts education has to offer.

Saturday marked the Winter 2010 commencement at VanAndel Arena in Grand Rapids. The event was divided into two ceremonies, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., to accommodate all the graduates.

As family and friends flooded the VanAndel Arena to witness the important occasion, the day was even more special for Chelsea Robinson as she was recognized as GVSU’s 75,000th graduate since the university’s beginning in 1963.

The ceremony paused to mark the milestone as Robinson crossed the stage. She received a clock from President Thomas J. Haas and other Laker memorabilia along with her bachelor of science degree in Health Professions.

Other individuals were also given special recognition during the commencement as Stuart Padnos and Helen DeVos received honorary degrees for their active support of GVSU.

For one GVSU graduate, Bill Makela, Saturday marked his second GVSU commencement, though he said the day was actually more memorable this time.

“I liked it because it wasn’t too long,” said Makela, who received a master’s degree in Health Administration to top his bachelor’s in Health Science. “Mark A. Murray was an extremely good commencement speaker.”

Murray, GVSU’s third president and current president of Meijer Inc., offered his words of advice to graduates at the morning ceremony, while Richard DeVos, a local entrepreneur, spoke at the second session.

Murray discussed how things of value are easier to tear down than build up, citing the destruction of the World Trad Center as an example. Makela said this statement resonated with him, and he appreciated Murray’s other comments as well.

“Rather than tell us how hard it’s going to be … He more so challenged us to be great,” Makela said.
Haas and Gayle Davis, vice provost, also offered their congratulations to the new graduates after a video featuring different scenes from GVSU and perspectives from various graduates.

Makela also shared a positive view of all the ways GVSU had equipped him for his future career.

Still a bit undecided after receiving his undergraduate degree, Makela said he fell into graduate school.

Connections through GVSU helped set up his internship at Advantage Health Physicians Network, where he is still currently employed.

“My teachers were good at challenging me,” Makela said. “They encouraged me to do projects with a direct correlation to my future.”

Similar to many graduates, Makela’s family traveled to attend the ceremony. Parental pride was evident in all the cheers, smiles and hugs exchanged during and after the event.

“Commencement is a good way to culminate your college career,” Makela said. “Otherwise you just end with a final. It brings closure.”

[email protected]