In memoriam of Esther Padnos


Courtesy / Grand Rapids Press Obituaries

Grace Smith, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University community joined West Michigan in mourning the death of philanthropist Esther Padnos on Dec. 19, 2021, at 93 years old. 

A Grand Rapids native, Padnos touched the lives of those around her through her endeavors and her support of GVSU. 

Arend Lubbers, President Emeritus at GVSU, said the community will miss the light she emanated. 

“Esther’s gentle and compassionate nature, and her sincere interest in helping students and others in West Michigan, have marked her as one of the area’s philanthropic leaders,” Lubbers said. “We will always remember her with gratitude.”

Padnos was passionate about bringing opportunities for advancement to West Michigan science, engineering, and mathematics students.  With her late husband, Seymour K. Padnos, Esther’s philanthropic endeavors led to the creation of GVSU’s Padnos Hall of Science, and the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing.  

Padnos also devoted her time to combating the national shortage of nurses. In 2007, she established the Esther R. Padnos Nursing Scholarship. This scholarship has allowed many GVSU students in the accelerated nursing program to overcome financial barriers and complete their degrees. 

Over Esther and Seymour’s many years of support through the Esther and Seymour Padnos Foundation, GVSU was able to vastly expand their STEM programs, accelerating the regional talent pipeline for these fields. 

Padnos was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letter from GVSU in 1996 for her support of the university and the greater Grand Rapids community. She was also awarded the Grand Steward Award at the annual Enrichment Dinner in 2011 for her significant leadership and service to GVSU. 

“Esther’s loyal support for Grand Valley students for more than 30 years has changed the lives of thousands of students,” President Philomena V. Mantella wrote in a Tweet. “She will be remembered as a significant part of our history, with a legacy that will stretch far into the future. She will be missed.”

The Esther and Seymour Padnos Foundation also supported Hadassah (a religious women’s organization), Michigan Maritime Museum, Indian Trails Camps, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and others. 

In addition to this, Padnos was a member of the Temple Emanuel in Grand Rapids for more than 70 years. 

Along with being so involved in her community, Padnos was also a mother, and grandmother. 

She had four children, Mitchell, Shelly, Bill, and Cindy and a grandson, Louis. The Padnos Family legacy has continued on to them, as their charitable donations have allowed for the formation of the Padnos International Center, the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse, and the Padnos Student Gallery. 

Their support has also extended to supporting the greater Grand Rapids area through charitable goals such as finding shelter for the homeless, feeding the hungry, protecting the abused, assisting those at risk, and contributing to human interest causes important to PADNOS inc. team members. 

The family requests that donations in Padnos’ memory be made to the Temple Emanuel Padnos Building Maintenance Fund, the Esther Padnos Nursing Scholarship at GVSU, or the charity of their choice