Retirement Bio of John Dersch

Teachers affect eternity; they never know where their influence ends.

I’ve wanted to teach since I was twelve.

In 7th grade I wanted to be a 7th grade math teacher.

In 8th grade I wanted to be an 8th grade math teacher.

After spending a couple years among high school kids I decided that I’d rather teach in college.

At graduation my goal was to earn a PhD in mathematics and teach at the university level.  A year of grad school taught me that I wasn’t smart enough for a PhD, but my Masters was enough to land a temporary teaching position at Calvin College.  A couple weeks into the semester, on a Monday night, I got a phone call from the Head of the Physical Sciences Division (Bud Elve) at Grand Rapids Junior College.  He had heard that I taught math and wanted to know if I would take a night class at JC.  Its first meeting was earlier that evening.  The class had no assigned instructor.  He asked if I could start Thursday.  My brilliant response: “Where’s Grand Rapids Junior College?”

Thursday night I went to 411 North (Cook) and introduced myself to a somewhat annoyed but bemused group of adults, most of them my senior by many years.  I did the best I could.  So did they.  It was the beginning of my calling.  For while Elve was responsible for hiring me, it was JC students who compelled me to come back.

That was more than forty years ago.  Much has changed.  Not all change is progress.  But the incredible diversity of our student body has never wavered, and pedagogically related changes in our students have not been significant.  I’ve been a part of the lives of adults who struggle with basic grade school math, of those who excel far beyond the highest levels of math that we offer, and of those everywhere in between.  Our students still inspire me to do my best.

In late December 2017, during a layover at O’Hare on our way back from visiting family in Seattle, my wife and I ended up in a hospital.  Mary had severe pain and dangerously low blood pressure.  After many hours, the cause was determined and emergency surgery was scheduled.  It was near midnight.  I had gotten very little sleep the previous 36+ hours.  Desperately needing to talk with someone on her surgical team, I was directed to a young woman.  She looked familiar.  After kindly and professionally answering my questions, she asked if I still taught at GRCC.  She had been in one of my night classes a decade earlier.  She thanked me, mentioned that the intellectual challenges of her GRCC experience helped prepare her for med school, then helped save Mary’s life.

My sincere thanks to everyone who helped me during my JC/CC career.

And heartfelt gratitude to Mary, my bride, best friend, and patient math widow, for her love, understanding and support.  It was she, as a 16-year-old budding librarian, who introduced me to the History of Mathematics.  She has also affected eternity.        

Library Closed week of Monday, July 12

The Library building will be closed the week of Monday, July 12, due to steam pipe issues. We expect to re-open on Monday, July 19, but will re-open sooner if the issue is fixed sooner.

Library services continue virtually. Library staff will be working remotely, and students may check out materials and technology on an appointment-only basis.  Email with your full contact information and a list of materials and/or technology requests; staff will contact you to schedule a pickup time.

Virtual Reference Services via Ask-a-Librarian, OneSearch Chat, and email direct to your liaison librarian continue as usual.

Students needing to use a computer should visit the ATC Computer Lab.

GRCC Library information 

Highlighting staff who help our students

Lynnae Selburg, an academic advisor, smiling while wearing a GRCC Advising & Counseling jacket.

Always remember, at GRCC, you are surrounded by people who want you to be successful and are ready to walk with you on your educational pathway. We are here to help!

Meet Lynnae Selburg. As an academic advisor, Lynnae works with students to help them navigate higher education. They work together to identify and clarify a student’s academic goals, and then possible career exploration.

Once a student knows if they plan to start a career or transfer after graduation, or skill up for their current career, Lynnae helps them identify the best course to take.

This includes graduation planning, (making sure they have all the requirements met), transfer planning (making sure they are connected with the transfer institution and have everything done for a successful transfer), and academic success strategies.

“Sometimes the plans don’t work out and we have to change course, but it is like a giant puzzle with each student and I help them find the best pieces and put it all together,” she said. “You couldn’t have a better job than this!”

Lynnae works with all GRCC students, but a majority of her work is with GRCC Early/Middle College students. This growing population is taking advantage of an incredible opportunity – earning a high school diploma and associate degree in just 5 years!

She loves meeting with all the different students who come to GRCC, and watching them achieve success when often they didn’t think that was possible. 

Lynnae’s favorite day of the year is commencement when she gets to watch students walk across the stage, knowing how much work they put into getting there!

Lynnae knows that often life can get difficult, and that barriers can impact a student’s ability to be successful. And she is here to help students identify resources and develop a plan to help them get back on a path to success.

Lynnae has worked in a variety of counseling roles for the past 30 years in many educational and health care settings. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from GVSU and earned a master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling from MSU.

She is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Michigan and is a nationally Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.  She has worked in many different student services & academic affairs departments, at various institutions, which has provided her a wide range of experiences to draw upon when working with students at GRCC.

You can connect with Lynnae and other members of the Academic Advising and Transfer team by emailing, calling (616) 234-3900, and texting (616) 404-0044.

GRCC In the News, 7/12/2021

Candidates for Kentwood’s Second Ward seat share their views ahead of August election

July 09, 2021; MLive

KENTWOOD, MI — Three candidates, including the incumbent, are vying to represent Kentwood’s eastern half.

… Jessica Ann Tyson, 49, is an owner of three businesses: JA PR Group; The Candied Yam, Delightful Southern Cuisine; and Pink Lounge, Dry Salt Therapy. Tyson attended Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo Valley community colleges. She serves on the following boards: the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan, Kentwood Economic Development Council, River City Scholars – National Heritage Academy, Kentwood Community Foundation and Hello West Michigan.

Good Things on The Lakeshore, July 9, 2021

HOLLAND (WHTC-AM/FM) — Each week, Shandra Martinez, managing editor of The Lakeshore, talks with WHTC morning-news anchor Peg McNichol about people and organizations making a difference. Listen to the full podcast. Here are some of the highlights of their conversation for the week of July 9, 2021:

July 09, 2021; WHTC

 Housing and education equity advocate Salvador Lopez to fill GRCC board vacancy. Grand Rapids Community College has named Salvador Lopez, a GRCC graduate with extensive involvement in education and community support, to fill a board seat vacated by Kathy Crosby. Lopez runs the nonprofit KConnect, which focuses on ensuring all children have an equitable path to economic prosperity.

Grant Opportunity: NEH Humanities Connections Grant

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is accepting applications for the Humanities Connections program. The purpose of this program is to expand the role of the humanities in undergraduate education at two- and four-year institutions.

Awards support innovative curricular approaches that foster partnerships among humanities faculty and their counterparts in the social and natural sciences and in pre-service or professional programs (such as business, engineering, health sciences, law, computer science, and other technology-driven fields), in order to encourage and develop new integrative learning opportunities for students.

Humanities Connections projects must include:

  • Substantive and purposeful integration of the subject matter, perspectives, and pedagogical approaches of two or more disciplines (with a minimum of one in and one outside of the humanities)
  • Collaboration between faculty from two or more departments or schools at one or more institutions
  • Experiential learning as an intrinsic part of the proposed curriculum
  • Long-term institutional support for the proposed curriculum innovation(s)

The NEH will award up to $35,000 for planning grants and up to $150,000 for implementation grants. Deadline for submission is September 14, 2021.

Email Kim Squiers ( or Lisa Dopke ( in the GRCC Grants Department for more information.