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More than 600 Attend `First-Class' Ferris Foundation Benefit as Now & Always Campaign Kicks Off

Ferris State UniversityGRAND RAPIDS – More than 600 Ferris State University friends and supporters gathered Friday, Nov. 10 in the Steelcase Ballrooms of the DeVos Place Convention Center, in Grand Rapids, for The Ferris Foundation’s 19th Annual Benefit for Excellence.

The Benefit continued a celebration of the kickoff for the public phase of Now & Always: The Campaign for Ferris State University,” the first comprehensive campaign in the 133-year history of the university. President David Eisler, and Now & Always campaign co-chairs Jeff Rowe and Gary Granger, addressed the $80 million goal of the appeal and the variety of benefits that will be derived from the support of individuals, corporations and foundations. In a video that identified several goals of the campaign, Welding Engineering Technology student Richard Little, a senior from Sault Ste. Marie improvements to the Swan Annex will have an impact on campus, for the state of Michigan and across the region.

“The expansion will benefit Ferris and its students along with the companies who hire our graduates,” Little said. “Doubling the Welding shops, or laboratory space, and installing new equipment, along with offering an increased variety of equipment for students to learn on will better prepare them for graduation. It will make them better able to serve in the industry after they leave Ferris.”

Another initiative gaining support through the Now & Always campaign is the promotion of Informatics as a multi-curricular offering for Ferris’ colleges. Billie Anderson, the Hagerman Endowed Chair of Medical Informatics in the College of Arts, Sciences and Education, said the deep analytical skills of a data scientist were described as “the #1 career” by Forbes Magazine, in January 2017. She told the audience, at the Benefit, that Ferris seeks to offer degree programs and certificates to students with a cross-college, interdisciplinary approach.

“I really believe for businesses to thrive and prosper, colleges across Ferris will need to teach and include this concept in their curricula,” Anderson said. “An emphasis on Informatics is going to be an important step up for our students, as their particular industry moves forward.”

The keynote presentation for the evening came from Olympian Aly Raisman. As the day began, the gold medalist was the lead story in national newscasts, as CBS reported Raisman would appear on “60 Minutes” Sunday, Nov. 12, to detail allegations of sexual abuse made against a physician associated with the USA Gymnastics program.

“I actually feel the best I have felt, in months, because I got it off my chest,” Raisman, whose book, “Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything,” is due to be released Tuesday, Nov. 14. “I know the week ahead is going to be a busy, difficult one.”

Raisman said her return to the Olympic stage, as a member of the USA Gymnastics team, was not without struggle, as she lost a month of practice, due to injury suffered before an important stretch of preparation and competition.

“I had gone through one of the worst competitions of my life, just before the Olympics,” Raisman said. “I forgot to love the sport, because I was too focused on winning.”

In 2016, Raisman and her teammate Gabby Douglas became the first women gymnasts to compete in consecutive Olympiads since Amy Chow and Dominique Dawes made the 1996 and 2000 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics teams. Aly said that she will have more fond memories of her trips away from the competition site in Rio De Janiero, which were made with her gold-medal winning teammates.

“The journey, and one’s experiences with her teammates is more important than the color of your medal,” Raisman said. “I felt like I relived the hardest times, as well as the best, and worst times.”

Carla Miller, executive director of The Ferris Foundation, said an announcement is likely early in 2018 regarding the 20th annual Benefit for Excellence, which is expected to be held on Friday, Nov. 9.

“We are very pleased by the positive reactions from our guests and supporters, as we strive to present a first-class event that highlights our great University, its students and programs,” Miller said. “Many months of planning went into this evening, as well as the Now & Always campaign kickoff, which was held the day before the Benefit, on the Big Rapids campus.”

President Eisler added that he was pleased by the reaction to the campaign kickoff, and to The Ferris Foundation Benefit for Excellence.

“We benefit from a tremendous volunteer spirit at Ferris,” Eisler said. “This was a wonderful evening to celebrate our university and the very special support we receive from alumni, donors and the campus community.”

PHOTO CAPTION: The Ferris Foundation Benefit for Excellence was hosted on Friday, Nov. 10 at DeVos Place Convention Center, in Grand Rapids. More than 600 people attended the 19th annual event, which was held in the Steelcase Ballrooms.