The Ferris Foundation | Grand Rapids

The Ferris Foundation - Grand Rapids

The Ferris Foundation in Grand Rapids
Ferris State University’s Grand Rapids Advancement office provides the vision, leadership, and management for fundraising efforts in West Michigan. The office brings together university partners to strategically develop funding models and cohesive messaging to share with the community. Barbara Benda ([email protected]), Executive Director of Leadership Giving and Relationships, leads this effort in partnership with the Ferris Grand Rapids Council.

Ferris Grand Rapids Council
The vision of the council is to build a robust Bulldog community that ensures every area student has an accessible pathway to a Ferris education and a successful career. A group of dedicated volunteers, the council collaborates with the Ferris Foundation to cultivate Bulldog Pride, support Ferris' economic impact, and increase educational opportunity in the Grand Rapids area. 

Ferris State University in Grand Rapids
In Grand Rapids, Ferris State University meets students “where they are”. Beyond traditional college recruitment, Ferris Grand Rapids works with under-connected and under-represented communities: listening, identifying needs, and finding partners.

Since 1991, Ferris Grand Rapids has been building these bridges for the educational and professional achievement of current and future students while cultivating a vibrant and supportive community around them. This important work is not done alone, in a vacuum. Our work engages partner organizations that in turn make our programming more robust and valuable to students.

Ferris State University has laid institutional foundations in Grand Rapids for many years. Moving forward, our work will focus on our strengths:

  • Ferris Grand Rapids will address financial barriers with comprehensive scholarship development. Ferris Grand Rapids will cultivate a welcoming and inclusive outreach to diverse populations, meeting students of all backgrounds and walks of life “where they are”.

  • Ferris Grand Rapids will echo the larger university’s commitment to graduating students who are ready to work, emphasizing hands-on experiences and real-world skills. Through collaboration and community partnerships today, we will offer our students and the larger Grand Rapids community a head start on the agility and scholarship to adapt for tomorrow.

  • Ferris Grand Rapids will remain a community of learners. Collaborating in meaningful ways is dependent on the humility to acknowledge that no person or institution has all the answers. Ferris Grand Rapids is unencumbered by the restrictions of a conventional institution. Instead, we are a living, adaptive organization that is very comfortable in ambiguous space.

Growing Opportunity: A Partner Celebration
May 13, 2020
2020 Partner Honoree: Cherry Health

Each year, the Ferris Grand Rapids Council hosts its signature fundraiser to highlight and honor a different Ferris State University partner in Grand Rapids. In recent years, we have honored Grand Rapids Public Schools and Grand Rapids Community College. Proceeds from the event benefit college scholarships to local students through the West Michigan Opportunity Scholarship.

Dawg Catcher: Ferris Grand Rapids Council Fall Service Project
The Ferris Grand Rapids Council gives back to the West Michigan community through a volunteer project each fall. Council members and their friends, families, and co-workers, as well as other community members and Friends of Ferris are welcome to participate on behalf of Ferris State University.

Alumni Events
View all alumni events

West Michigan Opportunity Scholarship
In the West Michigan area, there are talented students who have dire need, but aren't eligible for scholarships because they come in just under the usual scholarship GPA. The West Michigan Opportunity Scholarship broadens scholarship availability beyond those who are already high-achieving, creating a base of support for West Michigan Ferris State University students to succeed. Support this scholarship online.

Selected Partnerships and Locations


Richard Antonini II (Co-Chair)
Partner, Plante Moran
Ferris State University: Accounting

Dan Bailey
VP/Project Executive, Rockford Construction
Ferris State University: Construction Technology & Management

Wayne Bersano
Agent, New York Life Insurance Company
Ferris State University: Hospitality Administration/Management

Chuck Christmas
EVP - Chief Financial Officer, Mercantile Bank of Michigan
Ferris State University: Accounting

Mary E. Dale
Chief Human Resources Officer, Metron Integrated Health Systems
Ferris Growing Opportunity Event Committee
Ferris State University:  Applied Speech Communications

Jean K. Elder
CEO and Senior Partner, J.K. Elder and Associates
Ferris Foundation Board of Directors
Ferris Growing Opportunity Event Committee
Ferris State University: Honorary Doctorate, A&S D. Pub Srv
University of Michigan: Development Psychology, Education, Organizational Development

Mary Anne Jones
CFO and SVP of Operations, Priority Health
Ferris State University: Accounting

Susan K. Jones
Professor of Marketing, Ferris State University
Ferris Foundation Board of Directors
Ferris Growing Opportunity Event Committee
Northwestern University: Advertising, Political Science

Brad Laackman
President & CEO, Honor Construction
Ferris State University: Construction Management

Andy Maier
North American Digital Products Marketing Specialist, Gordon Food Service
Ferris Growing Opportunity Event Committee
Ferris State University: Business Administration/Advertising

Evvia Marshall
Sr. Consumer Insight Analyst, Priority Health
Ferris State University: Computer Information Systems

Drew Mayer
Account Manager, Trace3
Ferris State University: Business, Management, Marketing and Sales

Paola Mendivil
Owner, El Granjero
Ferris State University:  Business Administration

Andy O'Brien
Benefits Consultant, Axios Incorporated
Ferris State University: Business Marketing

David Pagan
Security Police, Spectrum Health  
Arbor Circle and Bethany Youth/Social Work 
Ferris State University: Criminal Justice

Laura Smith
Cancer Center Director, Metro Health - University of Michigan Health 
Ferris State University: Project Management

Betsey Spayde RPh
Property Manager and Owner, FMG Properties, LLC
Ferris Growing Opportunity Event Committee
Ferris State University: Pharmacy

Mike Van Diepenbos (Co-Chair)
Group Manager – Business Banking, Comerica Bank
Ferris State University: Business Administration