Archive for the 'Scholarship Success Stories' Category

Following Grandpa’s Footsteps – Roger Luurtsema & Allison Luurtsema #TBT Story

“I chose Davenport because I wanted instruction that was practical and directly applicable to my career,” Roger Luurtsema explained.  Now, nearly 65 years later, his granddaughter Allison Luurtsema is following in his footsteps; eager to learn and grow at Davenport.

Roger was born to Peter and Lillian Luurtsema in their Grand Rapids home in 1932 and graduated from Ottawa Hills High School. He knew he wanted to go into sales because he had uncles he admired who were salesmen and because he had “the gift of gab” and a sense of humor.

He enrolled at Davenport after high school in 1950 and still recalls that many of his instructors left a lasting impression.  Like instructor Andy Anderson, who tricked a shy boy into overcoming his fear of public speaking in the Dale Carnegie class or the commercial law instructor who was a lawyer and also an artist and illustrated principles of law with cartoon style drawings.

“Our class was very close and had a lot of comradery. We were on the second floor of the Fulton and N. Division street building. The first floor had retail stores and a restaurant where we often socialized over coffee and donuts,” Luurtsema reflected.

He appreciated that his classes were always led by people who were successful in their professional fields.  Roger remembered Robert Sneden as a good teacher who was professional, sophisticated and businesslike and added that, “we were all in awe of Mr. Davenport.”

“I am happy with my choice of attending Davenport,” said Roger. “Throughout my forty-five year career in sales, the fundamental principals were the thing that carried me through and that show the quality of the training.”

Roger earned his diploma for completing his salesmanship course from the Davenport-McLachlan Institute in 1951. He married five years after graduating from college and moved to Ann Arbor, MI to start his long, successful career.

Roger worked at a few different companies before settling in at EcoLab where he spent more than 33 years as a salesperson with a territory spanning from Lansing to Detroit. He also found success in translating his education and experience into training other salespeople.

During this time period, Roger and his wife, Wilma, started a family. They have five children, fifteen grandchildren, seventeen great grandchildren and more on the way.

One of his granddaughters, Allison Luurtsema, started at DU in the fall of 2016. Allison grew up playing soccer with her father, Phil, who also spent many hours on the soccer field as a kid. “She has won all the awards you can win, including the top female athlete of her high school,” said her proud grandfather.

When it came time to look for colleges, Allison knew she wanted to play soccer and pursue nursing. One of her coaches recommended Davenport. As her family researched options, Roger showed her a promotional piece with his photo on it from his days at Davenport.

Roger’s experience sparked Allison’s interested in Davenport. “I think it is a great connection to have with my grandpa. Similar to my connection with my dad and soccer, I am able to follow in my grandpa’s footsteps at Davenport, building a family legacy.”

Allison’s first year as a Davenport University nursing student at the W.A. Lettinga Campus is off to a great start. Soon, she will have stories of her own about teachers, student life and classwork to share with her family.

Do you have a Davenport legacy story? Davenport University legacy families are families who have a multi-generational connection to the University. The University identifies legacy students as those who have had a family member or members graduate from DU. Submit your legacy story to!


Alumni Success Story – Mohamad Abdulkader Agha ‘03

Chancellor Emeritus Donald W. Maine called it fate. Mohamad Abdulkader Agha ‘03 called it meant to be. Their serendipitous relationship is heartwarming. Learn more about Mohamad’s path to Davenport and his success as he lives and works in Dubai, leading the strategy team at the International Humanitarian City (IHC), part of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Global Initiatives foundation to improve 130 Million lives by 2025 through humanitarian and developmental work. Read more below.

Mohamad Abdulkader Agha '03.png

Nearly 6,000 miles from his home in Syria, Agha found a new place to call home in Grand Rapids in early 2001. His decision to come to America wasn’t easy. After losing his father at the age of 13 and his mother only nine years later, Agha found himself looking for guidance in his next step. Luckily, he has three older sisters who had his best interests in mind and encouraged him to gain a global perspective on life by pursuing his MBA in the United States.

His brother-in-law, who is a doctor in the Grand Rapids area, recommended that he check out Davenport because he heard that the class sizes were small and the professors used real-life experiences to teach the classes.

Agha recalled wondering why he should go to a school in a small city, when he could go to school in Los Angeles or New York City.  His brother-in-law’s advice was to go a place where he could have personal attention. Agha remembered his brother-in-law saying, “Don’t be a small fish in a big pond, be a big fish in a small pond.”

Agha started classes at Davenport in spring 2001 and in the summer he completed a graduate program at Georgetown University, then went back home to be with family. While he was home, the events that shook the world on September 11th occurred. Things were uncertain and he was unsure if he was going to return to Davenport.

“I got a phone call from Davenport,” said Agha. “The call was from my advisor.  She said, ‘Congrats, Mohamad! You have been awarded the international students’ scholarship this year. We look forward to your coming back to Davenport.’ And that call made me book my flight to come back.”

As his studies progressed, he continued to build relationships on campus. He got an invitation to speak at the international students’ luncheon because of his reputation for academic success and charismatic professionalism.

“I got up, I did my speech and after I was done, I was asked to join a table with the former president of Davenport University, Don Maine. I shook hands with him and we introduced ourselves to each other. I was sitting there, enjoying being next to the “big man on campus,” yet not really knowing who he was. Then, the former VP of Alumni & Development walked up and said, “Mohamad, that gentleman paid for your scholarship. Your scholarship is the Maine Family International Student Scholarship!”

From that moment, Agha and Maine clicked. Although there was a difference in age and experience, they became friends.

Maine recalled, “When I realized international students did not receive financial aid, I wanted to direct my donation to those international students who needed it, kids like Mohamad. It is the humanitarianism in me. I enjoy helping young global talents.”

As Agha’s career flourished, so did their friendship. “We used to have lunches that lasted two to three hours to discuss global affairs at a restaurant in East Grand Rapids. At that point in my life, I didn’t have a father. So guidance was either spontaneous, by observing others, or by Don giving me the time and mentoring me step by step.”

Agha consulted and updated Maine about every chapter of his life. After earning his MBA from Davenport, Agha worked at Ernst & Young. Next he was recruited by the United Nations. At the age of 30, he was the youngest director hired at the UN to manage the Private Sector Development Program. He led the UN Global Compact as a representative and secretary general to its Advisory Council for five years.

In 2012, Agha left the Middle East. He took a job at the World Logistics Council as the director of strategic partnerships to lead a global team which coordinated with organizations from 56 countries involving the top technology, finance, insurance and semi-government organizations.

Now, Agha and his wife, Rim, and baby twins (Abdulkader & Ayla), live and work in Dubai. He leads the strategy team at the International Humanitarian City (IHC), part of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Global Initiatives foundation to improve 130 Million lives by 2025 through humanitarian and developmental work.

“Here is a person whose country has collapsed,” said Maine. “He built a brand new global career. There are a lot of people who could not do that. He now has mastered the culture of the UAE and risen to the point of being entrusted to serve its global initiatives. He left Damascus to work in Geneva and Kuala Lumpur and then made his way back to the Middle East.”

What makes Agha’s relationship with Davenport so special is the personal attention he was given by Maine and the professors. He left Davenport with high academic knowledge and the culminating experience of all of the individuals who shared their experiences and knowledge with him.

“I am thankful for Don Maine because he filled a void in my life. Yes, his scholarship has made a huge difference in my life, but money could be replaced. What isn’t replaceable is his experience and later on his friendship and love that keeps growing. Thank you, Don Maine!”

Alumni Success Story – Megan Collison ‘12

As a Family Medicine Physician Assistant at Metro Health Hospital, alumna Megan Collison ’12 is devoted to providing comprehensive care for people of all ages. “I care for patients who need anything from a basic check-up to taking out stitches to treatment of chronic health conditions.” Learn more about Megan and why she enjoys being in family medicine below.

Megan Collison '12.png

Tell us about yourself, Megan!

I was born and raised in Grand Rapids. I attended West Catholic and was involved in athletics – volleyball, basketball, golf and track. I knew I wanted to play basketball in college, and Davenport was the perfect fit. I graduated with my medical case management degree in 2012 and a year later, got into the competitive Physician Assistant program at GVSU on my first try. Now, I am a Family Medicine Physician Assistant at Metro Health Hospital.

Tell us about your experience at Davenport.

When I found out I received a full-ride academic scholarship and had the chance to play basketball at DU, I could not turn down the opportunity. I loved every minute of my time at Davenport and made some lifelong friends. I was involved as a Panther Pack Leader, student-athlete and student employee in the call center. I enrolled in the medical case management program because healthcare has always been a passion of mine. I knew I wanted to be a PA, so the medical case management program covered  most of the prerequisite classes for my next step in the masters program. I took nursing classes too, which I think helped me be successful in PA school.

In a nutshell, what do you do?

As a Family Medicine Physician Assistant, our team’s goal is to provide comprehensive care for people of all ages. The practice that I work with has one supervising physician and two other PAs. We work together, yet very independently. We have about 6,500 patients in our practice and I usually see about 20-25 patients a day. Patients visit our office for many reasons ranging from the care of a new baby, routine check-ups, post hospital visits, or treatment of ongoing disease like diabetes.

How did you decide on family medicine?

I decided a few months before I graduated that I wanted to go into family practice. My original plan was to go into orthopedic surgery. After I had a few practicums, I realized family medicine was my passion. I enjoy building relationships with families. I’m able to treat everyone from babies and their mothers to their grandpas & grandmas. One of the joys of my job is telling someone they are pregnant, caring for them throughout their pregnancy, and then caring for the baby once he or she is born and watch them grow up. It becomes very family-oriented.

What is your dream job?

This is my dream job! I love my job because every day is different, which keeps me on my toes! Also, the people I work with are great! It is a rewarding career.

What advice to do you have for students?

As long as you work hard and are motivated to do well, there are always opportunities for you regardless of what type of degree you have. Don’t settle. Don’t stop until you are where you want to be in life. It may be difficult, but it will be worth it.

What do you do when you are not working?

My boyfriend and I love to golf and ride bikes. I have a basset hound, Bentley, who is the best. I also enjoy golfing with my mom and my grandma, who is 85.

W.A. Lettinga Charter Scholarship Club Alumni Reunion

Alumni who received the full tuition W.A. Lettinga Charter Scholarship in 2006 gathered on Monday, October 10 to thank Mr. Wilbur Lettinga ’55 for his generous contribution.

Image may contain: 17 people , people smiling , indoor
Pictured L to R: Back Row: Jeremy Venlet, Nick Venlet, Katie Bravata, Megan Stiffler, Nick Kuncaitis, Rachel Payne, Beth Kosc, Vinny Baldiga, Sara Mooney; Second Row: Amy DeKievit, Devin Pierson, Samantha Mol, Emily Przekadzinski, Lisa Boeve; First Row: Bill Lettinga and Wilbur Lettinga

Q&A With Our Donors – Jerry and Suzanne Callahan

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.

Student Scholarship Success Story: Irma Cecila Garcia Murillo

Born in Mexico, Irma Cecila Garcia Murillo who goes by Ceci, immigrated at age 5. Her mother and father left a small town in Mexico to provide a better life for their children. Traditionally, the families in their hometown were very poor and children often went to work in the fields at a young age. Ceci says, “My dad finished 6th grade and my mom only finished 2nd. They’ve always encouraged me to pursue more education.”

The family made a home in Holland and Ceci enjoyed school. She first took accounting in high school to fulfill a math credit. It made sense to her and she liked organizing and watching data flow. She declared a major in with a degree in Accounting Information Systems and a specialty in Management Accounting at Davenport and hopes to graduate in 2018.

She felt comfortable at DU Holland, first because it was close to home, and later, because she got to know and love the faculty and staff. The small classes and caring faculty meant a lot to her. Ceci says, “They really take care of students with welcome dinners and finals week snacks.”

Prior to receiving the Latin Americans United for Progress scholarship, she attended their youth conferences in high school. Now, she gives back and volunteers to create bilingual handouts and brochures to help build community relationships.

She also volunteers her Saturdays with VITA, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Ceci feels fortunate to be able to help families, students, and elderly people with limited income file their tax returns. Family and giving back is very important to her.

With a smile, Ceci describes her father, Gustavo, as a reserved man who doesn’t show emotion very often. When she thinks ahead to her graduation date in 2018 though, she beams and knows that her dad will be incredibly proud of her.

Thanks to generous supporters like you, Ceci will be able to achieve her dream of completing her degree.


Student Scholarship Success Story Featuring Breanna Wallace

DU President Scholarship Recipient, Breanna Wallace ‘18 is finding success in both the business and health realms. “As a nursing student, being involved with the College of Business through DECA is extremely insightful,” says Breanna. “I am developing a business acumen to help better understand and treat patients someday.” Learn more about Breanna and how she is changing the perception of health students below.

Why did you choose to attend DU?

As a junior at Grand Haven High School, my economics teacher offered extra credit to visit a college that we have never heard of before. I took him up on the offer and visited Davenport University. Little did I know how much this extra credit opportunity would change my life. I walked through the nursing labs of DU while on the tour, and I instantly fell in love with the campus. Within the year, I was accepted into the nursing program at DU and enrolled to start in the fall of 2014.

 What is your experience like at DU? 

I am a full-time student living on campus. My favorite class right now is pathophysiology, which is the study of the functions of diseases. While I do enjoy the information that I am studying in this class, the reason it is my favorite class is because of my professor, Dr. Clark. She is really great! Not only is she immensely knowledgeable about the subject, she also cares about her students – and that is the biggest thing for me. I want to learn from her because she cares about us as people, students, and future health professionals.

What else are you involved in at DU?

On top of being in the nursing program at DU, I really enjoy being involved. I played soccer my freshman year, play in the pep band, work in the library, participate in Intervarsity, compete with the DECA team, and plan on studying abroad in Costa Rica this summer. I really like to keep myself busy.

 What is it like being a part of the business side of DU through DECA as well as being a part of the Health side of DU through nursing?

Being involved with the College of Business through DECA and the College of Health as a nursing student is extremely insightful. DECA and nursing are two completely different worlds so I have two completely different perspectives. It has been an awesome challenge and blessing to be a part of them both. A weeks ago, I spent all weekend at a state competition for DECA and had nursing clinicals the next day. All weekend I was in business attire talking about strategic marketing and business planning, and then did a complete 180 and went to clinicals for nursing where I was taking care of psych patients.

One thing that I love about being a part of business and health at the same time is how helpful it is to gain experiences in both subjects. For example, a lot of my nursing patients are business people so being a part of DECA allows me to connect with them quickly. On the other hand, I am able to use psychological or health related terms I learn in nursing while at DECA competitions. Having both sides allows me to increase my critical thinking skills and better relate to and communicate with those I come in contact with.

Continue reading ‘Student Scholarship Success Story Featuring Breanna Wallace’

Spotlight on Your Impact, featuring Alpha League student Daronte Powers

Daronte Powers was one of the first members to join Davenport University’s Alpha League, a program launched in the fall of 2015 for African American males that aims to provide mentorship, brotherhood and leadership skill development for its members. I sat down with him to ask him about his experience at DU and what Alpha League means to him.

What made you decide on DU?

My younger brothers were being recruited by Coach Lou Esposito for the football team. At the time, I was at Ivy Tech Community College in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and had been looking for a school to transfer to. I wanted to go to school with my brothers and I was interested in the football team so I decided to transfer to Davenport. I had been at Ivy Tech for a year and before that I had worked for a couple of years after graduating high school. It’s not the traditional route a lot of kids take to college but I needed that time to find my purpose and get a better vision of what I wanted to do so that I wasn’t wasting time or resources.

How did you get involved with Alpha League?

When I started working with Admissions, I met Terry Rostic and he was in the process of building this program [Alpha League]. My brothers and I, along with some of our football teammates, were some of the first members he approached to join.

And how has Alpha League impacted your time at DU and your success here?

The opportunities I’ve had would not have been possible without Alpha League. For example, the scholarships that were available, the brotherhood outside of football with classmates like ourselves, the networking with businessmen in the community where you actually get 1 on 1 time with them. Also, it’s great to have a mentor – in Terry Rostic and Javontae Ford along with all of the people that have come to speak to us – people with the desire to give back and show you how their experience got them where they are today.

What would you like people who aren’t familiar with Alpha League to know about it?

It’s still about education. It’s inspiring; there are motivational aspects about it. We’re being held accountable to a standard. We treat our Alpha League meetings just like we would a sport. There’s no excuse to miss a meeting, there’s no excuse not to be on time. It’s reinforcing all of the habits that school teaches us – being organized, time management. It reinforces ways to be more effective in the classroom, more effective in the community. The program is kind of aligned with Davenport’s DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion). In our meetings we talk about the history of our culture, educating ourselves beyond just the classes that we take.

Anything else you want to share about Alpha League?

The experiences we’ve had, through Terry’s hard work and the work of Davenport, they would have been harder to obtain if it weren’t for Alpha League. It’s all about creating change – you have to start somewhere.

A big thank you to Daronte for sharing a bit of his story with me and to the generous donors whose support will help ensure this program is available to students like Daronte for years to come! For more information or to assist students in Alpha League by supporting their program fund, contact Sarah Mitchell or visit our website to make a donation.

Student Scholarship Success Profile featuring Thomas Evans

Hometown: Grand Rapids
Graduation Year: 2019
Program: Network Design & Management
Student Groups: Pep Band & DU Gamers Club
Dream Job: Network Administrator

Thomas Evans is a first-year Networking Design and Management major at Davenport University. He is a first generation college student and was extremely honored to receive the Initech Global Scholarship this year. He loves DU for many reasons but says, “I feel like I belong here….Davenport chose me.”

Q & A with Thomas Evans

Tell us a little about yourself, Thomas!

I am native to Grand Rapids. I am a musician and started playing instruments and singing in the fourth grade. I play the drums, guitar, viola and violin. I also enjoy competitive gaming and designing new programs. Since I like engaging with customers and meeting new people, I also work part-time at McDonalds.

Why did you choose to attend DU?

I was adopted at two weeks old and raised by my aunt and two older sisters. When I was 15, my aunt passed away. My legal father, who was 77 at the time, adopted me. I grew up in Wyoming, so I knew I wanted to stay close to home.

I feel like Davenport chose me. Davenport had everything I was looking for in a college—the perfect program, pep band, and generous scholarships.

What is your favorite part about attending DU?

I feel like I belong here. The people are so welcoming and inviting. There are so many activities and things to get involved with on campus. So far, I have been involved with the athletic Pep Band and DU Gamers Club, and I hope to get involved with more things soon.

How has the Initech Global Scholarship helped you succeed?

When I found out I received the scholarship, I freaked out with excitement. I was so overwhelmed with happiness. It felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I am thankful and happy that I can spend my time as a college student, focusing on my studies and being social and not worry about working as much.

Without this scholarship, I would have to work a lot more. I would not be able to take a full semester of classes and my grades would suffer. The scholarship has allowed me to work part-time, while taking classes full-time and participating in campus life activities.

What is your dream job?

I would love to be a network engineer at a local company. I think that DU will help me accomplish my goals because my instructors know where I want to go and will lead me in the right direction.