Wheelhouse Talks now open to public

Artist Gretchen Minnhaar in the hallway outside her penthouse at the top of Plaza Towers.  Because of the size of her pieces Minnhaar keeps her artwork in the entranceway.  
(Press Photo/Katy Batdorff)

Artist Gretchen Minnhaar in the hallway outside her penthouse at the top of Plaza Towers. Because of the size of her pieces Minnhaar keeps her artwork in the entranceway. (Press Photo/Katy Batdorff)

Dan Spadafora

Mark Murray, Andy Dillon and Rick DeVos are just three of eight influential faces scheduled to speak to university students and other community members this year through the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies.

What was for five years a speaking series offered only to students involved with the Leadership Fellows now includes the whole Grand Valley State University student body and Grand Rapids community. Gleaves Whitney, director of the Hauenstein Center, said he is very excited to offer the series to the entire GVSU community.

“We are going to have a whole series of talks that will include some really interesting people,” Whitney said.

The series, Wheelhouse Talks, is scheduled to hold monthly presentations from local or state leaders beginning in September and lasting through the end of the academic year in April.

Brian Flanagan, associate director of the Hauenstein center and program director of the Wheelhouse Talks, said this is a great opportunity for potential student leaders, which is why the talks this year have been opened to the community.

“The idea from the beginning was to put up-and-coming leaders at Grand Valley in touch with current leaders around the community who are having an impact in the business world, the non-profit world and in our governing system,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan said he is also excited about the quality of speakers lined up for this year’s presentations.

“These presenters are having enormous impacts in various parts of our community,” he said. “So often it’s hearing that person’s story, learning from that story but also being inspired, frankly.”

Flanagan points to Mayra Martinez, who will present her story on Mar. 14, 2012.

“I’ve seen a girl get shot right next to me at a very young age right next door,” Martinez said. “She was my neighbor, shot with a pellet gun and a year later she is a prostitute. You know you got gangs, you got fights and prostitutes. I lived right off Division, I was exposed to that at a very young age.”

Martinez has no college education. She grew up in an area in Grand Rapids with a high crime rate and had her first child at 17. But she said that did not stop her from getting what she wanted.

Now 29, Martinez runs four family restaurants, one tree cutting business and one catering service. She is the founder of the Mi Raza Association of Commerce and she has made it onto the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 under 40.

For Martinez, she credits all of her success to her drive and determination to simply get things done.

“Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty,” Martinez said. “They say to me, how do you do it? If you want to do something, you just do it. Like Nike says, you just do it.”

Martinez’ background is just one of many among the Wheelhouse Talks lecturers, who come from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, H. James Williams, dean of the Seidman College of Business at GVSU, has a doctorate degree in accounting, a Master’s of Business Administration degree, a Master of Law degree, and is both a certified public accountant and acertified management accountant. Williams will speak on Nov. 30.

“I think education does play a major role [in leadership],” Williams said. “People want to know that their leaders are knowledgeable and have an understanding of what needs to happen in the arena. Education is a firm foundation for developing the knowledge basis and actually quite frankly, educating the leaders so they are in position to continue to adapt and continue to learn.”

Flanagan says he likes the diversity within the group to present this year.

“There are high profile people,” Flanagan said. “People like Rick DeVos, people like former governor candidate Andy Dillon. But there are also some lesser known names. Someone like Luisa Schumacher is having an incredible impact on children, high at risk children in Grand Rapids. People don’t know her story but you don’t need to be the CEO of Meijer, although we have him coming too, to lead an enormously consequential career.”

Schumacher is scheduled to speak on Nov. 9 and Mark Murray, former president of GVSU and current CEO of Meijer, will speak on Oct. 19.

All of the Wheelhouse Talks are scheduled to be held at the Kroc Community Center in Grand Rapids, located at 2500 S. Division Ave. Visit http://www.allpresidents.org/wheelhouse for scheduled times and a complete list of speakers.