GIANT Awards 40th anniversary celebration will honor decades of leadership while looking to the future

Eight past GIANT Awards winners standing in a line, smiling.

Grand Rapids Community College is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the GIANT Awards with an evening saluting the leaders of the past and present while inspiring the next generations.

Since 1983, GRCC has hosted the annual awards recognizing African American leaders and organizations for their exceptional contributions in shaping the history and quality of life in Grand Rapids and West Michigan.

The 40th anniversary celebration will highlight the past GIANT honorees and present a special anniversary award, with recipients revealed at the event.

“GRCC is tremendously proud to host the GIANT Awards each year, recognizing the people who have played key roles in making West Michigan a stronger, better place to live,” GRCC President Charles Lepper said. “The 40th anniversary milestone is a perfect time to pause and reflect on those who have been honored over the decades – to hear again their stories, appreciate their impact, and celebrate their important places in our history.”

The gala is planned for 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at DeVos Place’s Exhibit Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW. Individual tickets are $100, with eight-seat tables available for $1,000. Proceeds will support the Milo M. Brown Scholarship and the Junior GIANT Fund and can be purchased online.

The keynote speaker for the event is Dr. Jacqueline Walters – better known as “Dr. Jackie” – a philanthropist, health expert, women’s advocate, television personality and award-winning doctor of obstetrics and gynecology.

A two-time breast cancer survivor, Walters founded the 50 Shades of Pink Foundation, an organization focused on treating the inner and outer beauty of survivors. The Atlanta resident is featured on the Bravo hit reality series “Married to Medicine” and is a frequent speaker on the topics of women’s health, wellness and self-esteem.

Local media personalities Jamal Spencer, Eddie Rucker and Jennifer Moss will serve as emcees.

The event is being planned by a community committee that includes Vanessa Greene, Larry Johnson, Tempy Mann, Darius Quinn, Faye Richardson-Green, Misti Stanton and Shannon Wilson, and facilitated by GRCC President Emeritus Juan Olivarez and GRCC leaders.

“The GIANT Awards are special to so many people in our community,” Olivarez said. “It’s an honor to work with leaders who are devoted to recognizing what we have done to this point, but also making sure this important work continues long into the future.”

Mann said the awards are an opportunity to look back, but are also a call to action.

“The people who have been honored over the last 40 years are the ones who built our community,” Mann said. “When we tell their stories, we reflect on their legacy. But we also remind ourselves that there is so much more to do. We stand on the shoulders of our Giants, but we need to continue to carry on the work they started.”

The annual GIANT Awards, last presented in October 2022, salute 11 leaders. Each award is named after a local person who has demonstrated excellence and serves as a perpetual memorial to those notable contributions.

Honorees have made meaningful contributions to Grand Rapids in a variety of areas, including justice, education, religion, medicine, humanities, business and labor.

The Junior GIANT Award, named in honor of GIANT founders Dr. Patricia Pulliam and Cedric Ward, are presented to students of African American heritage who have demonstrated leadership, community involvement and impact. The Milo M. Brown Scholarship is presented to at least one male and one female African American GRCC students returning as full-time sophomores for the following fall semester.

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