GVSU mourns one of its founders

McKenna Peariso

Grand Valley State University founder and long-time supporter, Richard Kaufman, died Nov. 27. The GVSU community mourns the death of Kaufman who passed at age 91.

Kaufman and his wife, Sylvia, promoted diversity and interfaith acceptance at the university and helped support the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, established in 2007. The institute houses GVSU’s campus interfaith resources that supports and celebrates religious, secular and spiritual diversity on campus. It was Richard and Sylvia’s vision and over two decades of work that helped shape campus interfaith program values to be understanding and accepting.

The Kaufman Interfaith Institute offers a variety of dialogue and interfaith resources and hosts many events and lectures to bring the university’s community together. It also houses the inter-institutional interfaith cohort which brings students from Hope College, Aquinas College, Calvin College and GVSU together in cooperation to improve interfaith relationships in west Michigan. This cohort also helps facilitate the Made In Michigan Interfaith Lab each year.

Kaufman’s work with interfaith also span beyond GVSU as he spent his lifetime actively supporting engagement and connection among different religions and beliefs. He served in a leadership position on the Shalom Hartman Institute board in Israel which promotes strengthening Jewish identity and pluralism. He was also active in national nonprofit organization, the Interfaith Youth Core.

“Dick was a great friend to Grand Valley from the very beginning, working with Bill Seidman to help launch our university,” said GVSU President Thomas J. Haas. “As a lifelong learner and champion of inclusion and equity, he became a role model for our students and our community. He will be deeply missed.”