GRCC renames Bostwick Commons for Juan Olivarez


A Grand Rapids Community College space will bear the name of Aquinas College’s president.

Bostwick Commons, the circular courtyard that serves as a connecter between the downtown campus’s main building and Student Center at the corner of Bostwick Avenue and Fountain Street, will soon be renamed the Dr. Juan R Olivarez Student Plaza, in honor of the man who served as GRCC’s president from 1999-2008.

GRCC’s board of trustees voted to approve the re-designation last Monday.

“I am humbled and honored by this decision of the GRCC board of trustees,” Olivarez said. “My entire career has been focused on students, so to have my name on this outdoor space, where students congregate, is personally significant. My hope is that the plaza will continue to be a welcoming place for interaction, learning and reflection.”

Olivarez received his bachelor’s degree from Aquinas, his master’s in educational psychology from Wayne State University, and a doctorate in family and child ecology from Michigan State University. After serving as president of GRCC, he went on to become president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, before becoming the seventh president of Aquinas in 2011.

“As Dr. Olivarez said in his inaugural speech when he became president of GRCC, our college is ‘your community’s college,’” said GRCC President Dr. Steven C. Ender. “He had a vision that all students may find success in and out of the classroom. Student success is at the heart of everything we do at GRCC. We are proud to honor Dr. Olivarez and his work by re-designating the commons.”

The gesture is a fitting tribute for a man who served at the helm of GRCC for almost a decade, said Gary Schenk, a former GRCC trustee who led the efforts in proposing the name change.

“This means so much more than an honor to any one man,” he said. “To honor the first Hispanic president of any Michigan college or university is a testament to all young people that with commitment, dedication, hard work and perseverance, it is possible to succeed.”

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