Final Wheelhouse Talk to focus on a local leader

GV / Emily Frye
Chair of the GVSU Board of Trustees Shelley Padnos (left) and Current Board of Trustees member, and former chair, Kate Pew Wolters (right)

GV / Emily Frye Chair of the GVSU Board of Trustees Shelley Padnos (left) and Current Board of Trustees member, and former chair, Kate Pew Wolters (right)

Meghan McBrady

Grand Valley State University’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies will host disability advocate Kate Pew Wolters on March 18.

Speaking at the Charles W. Loosemore Auditorium in the DeVos Center from 3:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m., Wolters will present at the final Wheelhouse Talk of the 2015-16 academic year.

“Each year, the Hauenstein Center seeks to invite Grand Rapids community leaders to our Wheelhouse Talk series who can speak from their own experiences and express leadership lessons from a variety of perspectives,” said Chadd Dowding, program manager for the Cook Leadership Academy at the Hauenstein Center.

A graduate of Aquinas College and Michigan State University, she earned a master’s degree in social work. The philanthropist is co-chair of the First Steps Commission and a two-time appointee to the Board of Trustees at GVSU. She is also president and co-founder of the Kate and Richard Wolters Foundation, which supports nonprofits for education, social justice, arts and individuals with disabilities.

Dowding said that having Wolters speak on Friday will showcase her longstanding leadership role in West Michigan.

“We felt that Kate was an excellent representative to share her story, given her long-running involvement in philanthropy and other endeavors in West Michigan, many of which help to improve the community through serving those with disabilities, advancing opportunities in higher education, and ensuring the inclusiveness of our community,” he said.

Dowding said that Wolter’s work in the community is focused on creating a greater level of equality among citizens. Those efforts, he said, have helped to increase the visibility and expression of multiple and often underrepresented perspectives throughout the nation.

In 1994, Wolters was appointed by then-president Bill Clinton to the National Council on Disability. She is also co-chair of the First Steps Commission and a board member of the Progressive Women’s Alliance of West Michigan and Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service.

Previously, Wolters has worked with a number of nonprofits, including Indian Trails Camp, Grand Rapids Art Museum Foundation, UICA and the Disability Funders Network.

Noreen Myers, a mentor for the Cook Leadership Program, said that with Wolter’s upcoming Wheelhouse Talk, she is happy that the community will that her friend and colleague is a strong leader in the West Michigan.

“Kate understands that the responsibility for our community is a collective one,” Myers said. “She inspires others with her intellect, confidence and persistence to move our city forward through her leadership in the arts, culture and the university.”

Dowding said that he is excited for the fellows in the Cook Leadership Academy to meet with her and discuss her past and future philanthropic roles.

“I think it is important that students, especially those who seek to be future community leaders, have an opportunity to engage with past and current leaders to seek their counsel, feedback, and support,” Dowding said. “Through Kate’s experiences and perspective, I hope our students gain a greater insight into how leaders in our community think about themselves, how they express their leadership ethos, and how they seek to address the communal problems of our time.”

To register for the Wheelhouse Talk on Friday, visit