Jerry and Suzanne Callahan’s relationship with Davenport University spans more than two decades, which is fitting for people who describe themselves as lifelong learners. Their strong commitment to education and connection to Davenport led them to establish the Jerry and Suzanne Callahan Endowed Scholarship. Suzanne is a Davenport faculty member, teaching at the W.A. Lettinga Campus and online within the Marketing department. Jerry, now the Vice President of Innovations & Collaborations at the Van Andel Institute, served in a leadership role for Davenport’s Information Technology team from 1995-2000 and was instrumental in launching Davenport Online in 1997. They shared some of their thoughts on scholarship opportunities and the type of education DU provides with us.
You established an endowed scholarship at DU which you still support. What was your primary incentive to fund a scholarship?
Jerry: Simply put, we are lifelong learners. Our parents, and hopefully our children, see the true value of education as a life changing force. While our endowment is not the largest, we take great pride that someone is able to build part of their learning legacy as a result of our gift. We only hope it inspires the recipients to become lifelong learners, because that is where the fun is.
Suzanne: We realized that our [own] education was our ticket to opportunity and we wanted to do something to try to ease the burden for future students. Many of the students we knew at the time were full time working parents who might not have continued their degree if they did not have financial assistance. Other students we met were first-generation college attendees who may not have seen firsthand the way the college experience could open doors for their future and might not continue if finances got tight. The work ethic and desire to do more for themselves and their families motivated us to do our part to support their goals.
Jerry – you have been very involved in the West Michigan business sector for many years, including many entrepreneurial roles. Do you see Davenport as a launching pad for similar career paths? How does the education and experience DU provides prepare students to succeed in today’s world?
In a word, innovation. Every economy needs well-informed, practical problem solvers. This has always been, to me, the precise type of applied learning Davenport University has offered for more than 150 years.
What do you both feel most passionate about in your community?
Suzanne: I am privileged to serve on the Forest Hills Public Schools Board of Education and am completely immersed in innovation in K-12 education and how it relates to college and career. Now more than ever, I see a strong desire from the workforce, colleges and K-12 education to ensure students are engaged in deep and meaningful learning that will lead to success for them, their families and the community around them. In a related vein, we are active ambassadors for the Mary Free Bed YMCA. The Y is a powerful force for good in every corner of our community and we are particularly proud to be part of new facility. Teaching and learning about healthy lifestyles helps kids and families do well in school and work so this is a logical place to invest our energy.