GRCC graduates told to ‘play big’ in whatever they do in life after commencement

Grand Rapids Community College graduates must “play big” in whatever they do in life, GRCC President Bill Pink told graduates at commencement ceremonies on Friday.

The college celebrated the graduation of about 450 students spread out over two Friday ceremonies to allow for distancing. The events were the college’s first commencements with both students and spectators since 2019.

Pink in his closing remarks shared a story from when he coached basketball, where players were told to strive to give their all and do big things.

“I need each of you to play big,” he said. “I need you, in your career after this, and whatever your ‘next’ is, I need to have you playing big. Because you are not just our future, you are our now. We’re in a society today where I need to have you playing big. Because you are the future of West Michigan, and the future of this great city. Because you need to do better than any of us have ever done. You will blow us away with what you do in this world. Playing small does not help us.”

Birgit M. Klohs, recently retired as president and CEO of The Right Place, provided the keynote address at each ceremony.

Klohs has spent more than four decades working to enhance economic development in West Michigan. Under her leadership, The Right Place Inc. created or retained more than 50,000 jobs and stimulated more than $5 billion in new investment. Among the projects she worked on were the opening of Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine and the creation of the Manufacturers Council.

Since stepping down from The Right Place in 2021, Klohs has served as a director for the New Community Transformation Fund, a venture fund she co-founded for entrepreneurs of color.

“There is a thread that goes through my story, and that thread is education,” she told graduates. “It is the key to my success, and my journey. And it will be the key to your success and your journey. What you are getting today, with that diploma, they are giving you a key. They are giving you a key to a room you would never enter if you did not have that diploma. What you do with that key, and that room is up to you.”

Paul Krieger, a biology professor who retired in 2019, was honored with the 2022 Faculty Emeritus honor.

Before starting at GRCC in 1991, Krieger taught at high schools in Beijing and Jackson, Mich. During his teaching career, he wrote and illustrated the four-book Visual Analogy Guides series, which cover anatomy, physiology and chemistry.

Loyd Winer, an acclaimed civil engineer, was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award.  His engineering work took him across the United States and many countries. One of his most memorable projects was designing the original runways and taxiways for Gerald R. Ford International Airport – he still checks up on them from the public viewing area once or twice a week.

The ceremonies were the first to celebrate a large group of students who attended GRCC through the Grand Rapids Promise Zone. There were 15 Promise Zone students getting degrees on Friday, and 20 students have graduated through the program so far.

Started in 2020, the Grand Rapids Promise Zone is a “last-dollar” scholarship that covers up to 60 credit hours, including the costs of tuition, books, required course materials and any required fees associated with attending GRCC.

The ceremonies were the last at GRCC for Pink, who will become the president of Ferris State University this summer. But they were the first in two years with boisterous and celebrating families. The 2020 commencement was conducted virtually due to the pandemic, and the 2021 ceremonies were held with students present but without spectators, and the event spread out over four sessions.

Photo by Steve Jessmore.

My Story Started at GRCC: Jose Rodriguez taps his own experiences to help others complete their education

Jose Rodriguez smiling.

As a college completion coach for GRCC, Jose Rodriguez provides the support students need to get into their field of study. He compares the job to being “a student’s personal cheerleader.”

Start at GRCC and go anywhere. Every former student has a story to tell about how GRCC gave them the education and opportunity to be successful.

Rodriguez is a GRCC alumnus, so he knows first-hand the challenges students face. He’s also a current student: pursuing a health sciences degree at Grand Valley State University. He credits GRCC with giving him both the academic and people skills he needs for his dual roles.

“GRCC does a great job of accommodating students to their needs,” said Rodriguez, who was involved in ALAS, NIA and the Brother 2 Brother Network on campus. “Being a close-knit community helps when you’re trying to maneuver the challenge that is higher education.”

The college completion coach program, offered through the Michigan College Access Network, aims to improve equity and inclusion in higher education.

“I have been lucky enough to be able to relate to the population of students I help on a personal level,” Rodriguez said. “Whether it be struggling through a system as a minority, being a first-generation student or facing the struggles of mental health illnesses, I want my students to know there is always light at the end of the tunnel — and I’ll be there the whole way to guide them.

“GRCC is my second home, and I hope it can be yours, too.” 

Let GRCC help you start your story. The first chapter starts at

GRCC baseball team sweeps doubleheader from Kalamazoo Valley Community College

A GRCC baseball player throwing the ball during a game.

The Grand Rapids Community College baseball team scored two runs in the last inning to pull out a doubleheader sweep of Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

Earlier in the day, the golf team finished second at a tournament in Muskegon.

GRCC rolled in the first game, topping Kalamazoo Valley 8-2, with Ryan Dkystra starting the scoring with a solo home run.  

GRCC then notched three runs in the seventh inning, with Max Varon and Camden Keatley sending runners across the plate with RBIs in the inning.

Jerad Berkenpas earned the win, allowing six hits and two runs over seven innings, striking out five and walking none.

Grand Rapids Community College Raiders Varsity racked up 18 hits on the day. Xander Reisbig, Caleb Engelsman, Zacarias Salinas, Dylan Chargo, Jacob Gumieny, Andres Rivera-Calderon, Dykstra, and Keatley all managed multiple hits. Reisbig had three hits in four at bats.

GRCC won the nightcap 4-1, with Drew Murphy earning the win. The pitcher allowed two hits and one run over six innings, striking out 10. Eliott Traver threw one inning in relief out of the bullpen and earned the save.

Dykstra led the team with two hits in three at bats.

The sweep brings the GRCC season record to 22-20 and one tie, coming all way back after starting the season 1-10.

Meanwhile, the golf team placed second at the Muskegon Community College Invitational on Friday. The team’s score of 310 was five strokes higher than the host school, which won the title. 

Matt Denhartigh was just two strokes behind the medalist from Mott Community College shooting a 73.

Arie Jackman and Conner Oman each posted a 76, while Brad VandenHout and Sam Foss were the other Raider golfers posting an 85 and 91. 

GRCC is four strokes down from a conference championship with the last conference tournament being on May 2 at Ancilla College.

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GRCC In the News 05/02/2022

GRCC, Kuyper College partner on business leadership degree


Grand Rapids Community College students will have a seamless path to Kuyper College bachelor’s degree programs through a new agreement between the two institutions.

MCC selects ‘widely respected’ provost to lead college


After a national search, the Muskegon Community College’s Board of Trustees selected a familiar face to lead the college.

… Prior to coming to MCC, Selmon was the executive dean of student services at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor after working in student services at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta. He began his career in Michigan with Grand Rapids Junior College, then joined the Davenport University Educational System. He held numerous administrative roles during his 18-year tenure there, leading to his position as the Davenport system’s group vice president. He has served with numerous community organizations.

Grand Rapids Community College celebrates first graduates of Promise Zone program

4/29/22 MLive

(Photo gallery from Promise Zone reception.)

Inside Track: Planting seeds of hope

4/29/22 Grand Rapids Business Journal

The Rev. Nurya Love Parish has dedicated her life to feeding people spiritually and bodily.

… Parish said for the 2022 growing season she is discontinuing its CSA program and will instead donate all produce to community partners, including Community Food Club, Grand Rapids Community College Student Food Pantry and North Kent Connect in Rockford. The partnership with Community Food Club, which is new this year, will allow patrons to select from a variety of organically grown vegetables harvested at Plainsong Farm. Crop selections are being purposefully chosen to be familiar and easy-to-use for the patrons of Community Food Club.

Jayhawk golfers win the Muskegon Community College Invitational

4/29/22 Local Sports Journal (Muskegon)

TWIN LAKE—The Muskegon Community College golf team won the Muskegon Community College Invitational on Friday afternoon in an event held at Stonegate Golf Club in Twin Lake.

The Jayhawks finished with a team score of 305. They were followed by Grand Rapids Community College (310), Mott Community College (321) and Glen Oaks rounded out the field shooting a round of 336.

Vote: Who is the best high school pitcher in baseball in Battle Creek?

4/29/22 Battle Creek Enquirer

The B.O.B. is back!

… Isaac Stetler

… Why he is the best pitcher in the Battle Creek area: Stetler is the ace of the Marshall staff and earned Enquirer All-Area honors in 2021 as he helped the Redhawks to a conference title and was 6-3 with a 2.05 ERA. The left-handed hurler has committed to play at Grand Rapids Community College.

First large class of Grand Rapids Promise Zone graduates from GRCC journey, program celebrated

4/30/22 MLive

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Grand Rapids Promise Zone students were among the 450 Grand Rapids Community College students who graduated Friday at the Ford Fieldhouse.