Community college appoints interim president

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Juan Olivarez. Courtesy Grand Rapids Community College

A former Grand Rapids Community College president is returning to serve in the interim.

Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) trustees voted unanimously on Monday, May 16, to appoint former President Juan Olivarez as interim president. 

“GRCC is such a special place for me, and I’ve been proud to have stayed connected over the years,” Olivarez said. “I’m excited to be able to come back, work with this strong team and ensure the work of this college continues without missing a beat.” 

Olivarez was the eighth president of the college and served from 1999 to 2008. He will return to the role briefly as GRCC continues to search for a permanent successor to outgoing president Bill Pink. 

“Dr. Olivarez knows this college because he helped shape it to become the success it is today,” said David Koetje, chair of the board of trustees. “He has long been respected for his leadership here at GRCC and in our greater community.”

GRCC trustees are in the process of selecting a firm to guide the search to replace Pink. The former president was tapped to become president of Ferris State University starting July 1, the Business Journal previously reported.

GRCC is planning public sessions to discuss the selection process and timeline. Koetje said trustees hope to have Pink’s successor selected by the year’s end.

Olivarez is the son of migrant workers from Benavides, Texas and was the first Hispanic president of any Michigan college or university. 

He spent his 10 years at the institution working to increase access to quality college education and cultivating student-serving partnerships with local businesses, public entities and nonprofits. He was named president emeritus in 2018.

After his retirement from GRCC in 2008, Olivarez became president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. He went on to be named Aquinas College’s seventh president in 2011, retiring in 2017. He also was a distinguished scholar in residence for diversity, equity and inclusion at Grand Valley State University’s Dorothy Johnson Center for Philanthropy from 2018 to 2021.

“Dr. Olivarez is remembered for bringing people together and expanding opportunities for students so more people could take advantage of a quality education,” Koetje said. “His experience and vision will ensure this college continues moving forward at full speed while we select our next president.”

Olivarez earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Aquinas College and went on to receive a master’s degree in educational psychology from Wayne State University and a doctorate in family and child ecology at Michigan State University.

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