Hometown Heroes 2014 Profiles: A Global Vision: Arend D. Lubbers

This week we continue our series of blog posts highlighting the awards recipients for the 2014 Hometown Heroes Celebration hosted by the American Red Cross of West Michigan. Each year the American Red Cross celebrates the community heroes who inspire us through their commitment to service and their recognition of the humanity of their neighbors down the street, across the country, and around the world. The event will be held on Thursday, May 1 from 6:00PM-10:00PM at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. For ticket information please visit our Hometown Heroes event page.


ImageThe American Red Cross of West Michigan is proud to present the Henry Dunant Global Impact Award to President Emeritus Arend D. Lubbers. He is being recognized for the precedence he set for the students of Grand Valley. As president, he valued the experiences of a global community and encouraged students of Grand Valley State University to reach beyond the borders of the classroom, regardless of political concerns, to engage with communities around the world and to bring those experiences home to Grand Rapids.


Lubbers is a native of Holland, Mich., and a graduate of Hope College, where his father, Irwin Lubbers, served as president. He received his master’s degree in history from Rutgers University in 1956, and then taught at Wittenberg College in Ohio before returning to Rutgers in 1958 to pursue his doctorate. In 1962, Life magazine named him to its list of the top 100 young men under 40 in the United States. Before coming to Grand Valley, Lubbers worked at Central College in Pella, Iowa, where he served as president for nine years. At the time of his appointment to that position at Central College, Lubbers was the youngest college president in the country, at 29.


President Emeritus Arend D. Lubbers became president of Grand Valley in 1969 at the age of 37, making him one of the youngest college presidents in the nation. When he retired in 2001, he was the longest-serving public university president in the country. In the 32 years in between, Lubbers led the university’s evolution from a small, liberal arts college to a regional university.


“He started with not much more than a field in Allendale and a handful of faculty clustered in separate colleges,” said Kate Cragwall, colleague of president Lubbers and fellow 2014 Hometown Heroes Award recipient. “But, his vision for Grand Valley went way beyond building a university of bricks and mortar.”


As President of the University, Lubbers set the tone for compassionate internationalization for the growing institution.  Infusing global
understanding as part of the educational mission for GVSU, Lubbers founded the International Studies program and personally fostered institutional partnerships with universities behind the Iron Curtain, including in Poland and the former Yugoslavia.  His Imagecommitment to the peaceful exchange of ideas and students was almost unheard of for U.S. universities in the Cold War era.

“It was as if he could see the future—of how the world would become a global community,” observed Cragwall.

If you’re interested in learning more about the amazing work of president Lubbers, you can check the book Old Hopes for a New Place: The Legacy of Arend D. Lubbers at Grand Valley State University by Stephen Rowe.

Join the American Red Cross of West Michigan at our annual Hometown Heroes Celebration on May 1 at DeVos Place as we recognize Arend Lubbers for his incredible career!


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