Hauenstein donates $1 million to center

Sarah Hillenbrand

By Sarah Hillenbrand

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Grand Valley State University receives much of its financial support from outside donors, and one of them issued a large donation to the school this week. President Thomas Haas announced that Ralph W. Hauenstein, who made the initial investment in the GVSU Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, has donated $1 million to the center.

The center’s purpose is to teach students about ethical leadership skills while also engaging them and the community in conversations about history, politics and the greater civic good. The donation will aid in expanding and enhancing the academic and event-based learning opportunities for the leaders of tomorrow.

“I have ample opportunities to invest in many worthwhile programs and projects, but I can think of no better investment than the one to ensure our future leaders are wise and ethical,” Hauenstein said in a press release. “And there’s no better place for me to find that kind of program for our emerging leaders than the one Gleaves Whitney is so ably running at Grand Valley State University. I’m incredibly proud of the work he and the center are doing. We’re seeing the fruits in the young people who have been mentored in the program and are out taking their place in the world.”

The Hauenstein Center, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, has hosted hundreds of programs ranging from Hitchens vs. Hitchens to presentations by several first ladies, Madeleine Albright, General Brent Scowcroft, and others. Upcoming events that the center is hosting include a presentation by former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe and a leadership discussion led by George Heartwell, mayor of Grand Rapids.

“The Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies is an incubator for leaders of the future, and Colonel Hauenstein’s investment into the Center for Presidential Studies ensures our ability to continue to do good, meaningful work in the world of leadership and ethics,” Haas said in a press release. “On top of his initial gift, this is a very substantial commitment to the center on its 10th anniversary from a very involved philanthropist and friend.”

Hauenstein’s background explains his commitment to the center and giving back to the community. He served under General Dwight D. Eisenhower in an intelligence role in World War II and was one of the first Americans into liberated Paris. He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm and Legion of Honor, and the U.K. awarded him its Order of the British Empire.

Before WWII, Hauenstein was the editor of the Grand Rapids Herald, and after the war, he became successful in business. At the age of 101, Hauenstein continues his philanthropic endeavors throughout West Michigan and has never retired.

“Ralph Hauenstein’s remarkable life of leadership and service inspires everything we do, and we are deeply honored to have his generous support,” Gleaves Whitney, director of the Hauenstein Center, said in a press release. “With Ralph’s gift, we can build on our successes of the past 10 years to strengthen our Common Ground Initiative and leadership programs. None of this would be possible without Ralph, who steadfastly supports our efforts to form ethical, effective leaders who can make a difference in our communities.”