Merkle set to retire as Dean of Students

GVL / Courtesy -

GVL / Courtesy –

Drew Howard

After 31 years on the job, Bart Merkle is planning to step down from his position as dean of students at Grand Valley State University with intentions to pursue a faculty position down the road.

Before arriving at GVSU back in 1984, Merkle acted as dean of students in New Orleans for four years.

Merkle said he was looking for a change of pace when he applied to work at GVSU.

“My wife and I decided we aren’t big city people, and it was hard to do the things we liked in New Orleans,” Merkle said. “My wife is from Muskegon and we both attended Hope College, so I was familiar with Michigan before arriving.”

Over three decades later, Merkle has had the opportunity to watch GVSU grow and evolve into what it has become today.

“The campus is dramatically different than when I started,” Merkle said. “In 1984 we had 7,100 students with no downtown campus and were teaching classes in Union High School. Today, we have eight academic colleges and over 25,000 students with 6,200 living on campus.”

Merkle said his plan to step down from the position was seriously discussed during the past year.

Rather than retire completely, Merkle said he will finish his time as dean of students at the end of this academic year and become a faculty member within the College Student Affairs Leadership program.

“I’ve taught the CSAL program for over 20 years,” Merkle said. “I’ve always felt like I wanted to spend more time before I retire working with graduate students, so I began to explore if maybe I could make the move over to a faculty position.”

Among his many achievements over the past 31 years as dean of students, Merkle said a few stand out.

“The first thing I’m most proud of was the opportunity to build a team of staff in Student Services that I think are first rate,” Merkle said. “I would put them up against anyone in the country in terms of their commitment to students and learning. That’s my greatest pleasure – just developing an outstanding group of people to serve our students, faculty and staff.”

In addition to building a great team, Merkle said he is proud of how far the housing system has progressed since he came to GVSU.

“Our housing system when I started only had Robinson, Copeland, Kistler and the Ravines, so I’ve been here to help plan and develop an expanded housing system,” Merkle said. “I feel very good about the way we went about doing that, and I think we have an outstanding housing system.”

President Thomas J. Haas said Merkle is not only an excellent dean of students, but he is also one of the main reasons for GVSU’s level of excellence today.

“Bart is a person with great integrity and character,” Haas said. “He has done a remarkable job encouraging an environment that attracts great students. He sets the tone with his leadership, and we are this place because of him.”