Hanging out with T. Haas

GVL/Luke Holmes

GVL/Luke Holmes

Audra Gamble

On the desk of Grand Valley State University’s president, a stack of blue folders sits, two-and-a-half inches high. Inside these glossy folders is everything Thomas J. Haas needs for the day. His schedule, any background materials, talking points and reading materials are placed in the folders by his secretary, Rachel Siglow.

According to Haas, he works from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. on an average day. He tries to keep Sundays open, but sometimes those fill up just as quickly as a weekday.

“He doesn’t say no to anything,” Siglow said. “He says yes to pretty much everything. Sometimes it’s impossible (to fit everything into his schedule). The most difficult thing is balancing everything that he has to do with everything that we want him to do.

“Making the calendar work (is the biggest challenge), and looking ahead and saying ‘I can’t have him out there seven nights in one week,’ and that could happen, honestly.”

In the Oct. 22, 2014 Lanthorn article, “How much does T. Haas make?” Haas’ base salary was listed as $371, 623, the fifth highest among public universities in Michigan. According to Haas, he works an average of 16 hours a day. Assuming he works six days a week and approximately 50 weeks a year, allowing for holidays, he earns $77.42 an hour. This amounts to nearly nine and a half times the pay someone working for minimum wage would receive.

So, what does he do to earn that $77.42 per hour? Mostly, Haas attends meetings and speaks at events. To get a glimpse of what a day in the life of T. Haas is like, here’s a glance at the president’s Oct. 26 schedule.

6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. – Drink one cup of coffee, read the newspapers, catch up with his kids

Though Haas’ schedule is jam-packed, just one cup of coffee is enough to get him through the day.

“I do enjoy a dark roast cup of coffee in the morning,” Haas said. While he drinks his coffee, he reads the Detroit Free Press, the Grand Rapids Press and NPR.

He also plays Words with Friends with his three children, to keep in touch with them. However, he doesn’t always win. Haas’ oldest son, Eric, tends to best him in the word game.

“I get beat up by my brother and my oldest son, and the rest of the matches are pretty even,” Haas said. “I don’t mind getting beat up by my oldest son. We do keep score, though.”

8 a.m. – Guest lecture at an organic chemistry class in Mackinac Hall

Haas teaches an organic chemistry class and an entry-level chemistry class each fall semester. He also has been asked to teach leadership and business classes. On Oct. 26, Haas taught about substitution reactions. Haas holds a doctorate in chemistry, and constantly surrounds himself with chemistry paraphernalia, no matter which of his two offices he is in. Molecular models scatter his bookcase at his downtown office, and Haas proudly shows off his dissertation in his Allendale office.

9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. – Answer emails, check his schedule for the day

“I get about 100 emails just to my personal email,” Haas said.

Many more are sent to the President’s Office email, but Siglow deals with most of those.

10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m – Meeting with Tom Butcher and Matt McLogan

The president frequently meets with other GVSU administrators, including Tom Butcher, general counsel for the university and Matt McLogan, vice president for university relations.

11:30 a.m. to noon – Travel to downtown Grand Rapids

Having a split campus can be challenging for administrators at GVSU, as they have to divide their time between the two.

“I spend about a third of time in Allendale, a third of my time in Grand Rapids and another third traveling between the two,” Haas said.

While Haas spent more time in Grand Rapids when Zumberge Hall was being renovated, he said he missed the Allendale Campus, and prefers the “third-third-third model.”

Noon to 1:30 p.m. – Econ Club essay committee meeting

Haas chairs a committee on the Grand Rapids Economy Club that creates an annual essay contest for high school students. At the lunch meeting, Haas and his fellow committee members decided on a topic for this year’s essay and solidified the deadlines for the contest.

2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – President’s Cabinet meeting

“We have President’s Cabinet meetings every three weeks,” Siglow said.

At these meetings, Haas sits down with his vice presidents and goes over any issues that need attention for GVSU.

5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. – DeVos Medical Ethics Colloquy, CHS building

After the President’s Cabinet meeting wrapped up, Haas’ schedule switched from meetings to events. First on the list for Oct. 26 was attending a reception and giving opening remarks at health sciences event.

“The day really can be divided that way,” Haas said. “I have a full work day, and then at 5 p.m. or so we change to the night adventures.”

His wife, Marcia, joined Haas at this point. They greeted each other with a kiss and chatted about what their children had been up to as they made their way to the event.

7 p.m. – Halloween party

The last thing on Haas’ agenda was a Halloween party at Greg and Meg Willet’s house. The Willets are foundation members for the university, and Haas ended his long day here.

During the day, Haas wears many hats. He is president, colleague, Laker athletics fan and more. For Haas, the most important hat he wears is family man. Prompt him, and he can talk for hours about his children’s military service or how great he thinks it is they’ve all become engineers. Haas also takes great pride in being a husband.

“Marcia and I are celebrating our 42nd anniversary,” Haas said. “She’s a great best friend.”

While Haas’ schedule is hectic, he has no plans to slow down any time soon. This year marks Haas’ 10th anniversary at GVSU, and he’s looking forward to the next 10.

“Grand Rapids feels like home,” he said. “When you’re home, you don’t want to leave.”