The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce has announced Davenport University as the 2016 Diversity Visionary Award recipient and Ronald Jimmerson, Sr., Seeds of Promise co-founder and executive director, as the 2016 Change Agent Award—both of whom will be honored during the award celebration on March 30 held at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

“It is a privilege for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber to recognize the strategic, intentional, and visionary work of these two outstanding award recipients who are leading Grand Rapids forward with their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts,” said Rick Baker, Chamber president & CEO. “Both Davenport University and Ronald Jimmerson are changing the cultural dynamics of their respective communities and helping make West Michigan a top-of-mind region that not only welcomes diverse talent but also nurtures rich opportunities and supports local neighborhoods.”

The prestigious Diversity Visionary Award, created by the Chamber in 2003, honors Davenport University for its excellence and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of the university—having truly integrated them into the fabric of who they are as an organization. It is clear Davenport University works diligently to cultivate a community where similarities and differences are understood, respected and valued and where people are engaged in inter-cultural experiences. Their commitment is infused within the institution through exemplary leadership, intentional behaviors, and a five-component transformation framework that equips and supports faculty, staff and students in creating excellence in inclusion as a “way of being and leading the world.”

This year’s Change Agent Award recognizes Ronald Jimmerson, Sr., as an exemplary servant leader who has created long-lasting impact within the community as evidenced by increased access, equity, and diverse participation. He has demonstrated standout leadership that empowers others as the executive director and one of the co-founders of Seeds of Promise—a faith-based 501(c)3 non-profit initiative that seeks to transform Grand Rapids’ Southeast neighborhood through community collaboration on self-sustaining, place-based, urban prosperity initiatives and neighborhood improvement issues. Ronald is credited with the vision to have a community directed “bottom up” organization, and he also directly transplanted his previous work creating successful welfare-to-career and school-to-career programs at Cascade Engineering Consulting Group to his work at Seeds of Promise. He is an author, the recipient of the Floyd Skinner Justice Award for Giants as well as the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award, and has been called “The Equalizer.”

Both recipients will accept their awards during the Chamber’s annual Diversity Visionary Awards Celebration held Wednesday, March 30 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, 1000 E. Beltline. The event will also include a keynote address on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Over 200 community and business leaders are expected to attend, and the event is open to the public. Tickets cost $60/member, $75/future member, and $800 for a corporate table of 10. Visit to register or for more information.


Past Diversity Visionary Award Recipients

  • Goodwill Industries of Grand Rapids, Inc. – 2015
  • Grand Rapids Community Foundation – 2014
  • Faye Richardson-Green, Steelcase Inc. – 2013
  • Bing Goei, CEO, Eastern Floral & Goei Center – 2011
  • Warner Norcross & Judd LLP – 2009
  • Cascade Engineering, Inc. – 2007
  • James Hackett, Steelcase Inc. – 2005
  • Bob Woodrick, D & W Foods – 2003


Past Change Agent Award Recipients

  • Dr. Andre Fields and Eric Williams, co-founders of Alpha Beta Omega (ABO) at GRCC – 2015