Grand Rapids Community College faculty and staff are mourning the November 29 death of President Emeritus Richard W. Calkins, who led unprecedented campus expansion and the college’s transformation as an independent institution.
Mr. Calkins became chief executive (a title later changed to president) of what was then Grand Rapids Junior College in 1975. At that time, GRJC was operated by the Grand Rapids school district. A Creston High School graduate, Mr. Calkins earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Albion College and a master’s degree at Michigan State University. After earning his degrees, he became Creston’s vocal music director. In 1969, he became assistant director of personnel for the Grand Rapids school district.
Students today can see some of the results of Mr. Calkins’ leadership from almost anywhere on campus: The Music Center, Ford Fieldhouse, Spectrum Theater, College Park Plaza, Student Community Center, and the Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center opened during his 23-year tenure. The Calkins Science Center was later named for him.
But Mr. Calkins led less-visible expansion, as well. The college began or vastly expanded its theater department, photography program, media services, computer technology training, culinary arts program and occupational therapy program under his leadership.
Mr. Calkins also helped organize a campaign that led to a February 1991 vote that changed the junior college to Grand Rapids Community College, an independent institution with a board of trustees.
“Dick worked tirelessly to move the college forward and increase student-learning opportunities,” said GRCC President Dr. Steven C. Ender. “We will be forever grateful for his vision and tenacity. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
A video retrospective on Mr. Calkins work at GRCC can be found here.