The Grand Rapids Community College Foundation is honoring Dr. Juan Olivarez and Mary Olivarez for their service to the college and community in this year’s Scholarfest.
Scholarfest is an annual event celebrating GRCC’s philanthropic leaders and highlighting achievements of faculty, staff and students. Proceeds support GRCC scholarships.
The event is planned for 6-8 p.m. on Nov. 1. It will be the first event in the Secchia Piazza, located in the Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center, 151 Fountain St. NE in Grand Rapids.
Tickets are available here.
The GRCC Foundation awarded more than $1.4 million in scholarships last year and supported students in other ways as the community was affected by the pandemic.
“Juan and Mary are such an important part of our campus community, and their service extends throughout West Michigan,” said Dr. Kathryn Mullins, executive director of the GRCC Foundation and vice president for College Advancement. “Honoring them allows us to salute their service, and also inspire the next generations of GRCC students and those who help them be successful.”
As GRCC’s eighth president, Juan Olivarez forged community partnerships and increased educational opportunities for underserved populations.
The son of migrant workers from Benavides, Texas, he was the first Hispanic president of any Michigan college or university.
Dr. Olivarez was an educator in the Grand Rapids Public Schools for more than 20 years before becoming GRCC’s Dean of Institutional Research in 1991.
After retiring from GRCC in 2008, Olivarez became president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. He was named Aquinas College’s seventh president in 2011, retiring in 2017. He was a distinguished scholar in residence for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Grand Valley State University’s Dorothy Johnson Center for Philanthropy between 2018 and 2021.
Dr. Olivarez continues to be an important part of GRCC, serving as interim president while the college searches for a new president.
Mary Olivarez is equally committed to education, spending 24 years with Grand Rapids Public Schools, teaching kindergarten and early childhood education, and working with students with multiple impairments.
The Secchia Piazza is the newest addition to the GRCC Main Campus and connected to the renovated Heritage restaurant. Supported by donations by former Ambassador Peter Secchia and his family, the Secchia Piazza provides opportunities for students in the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education and tells the story of the program’s global reach.