BIG RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Bill Pink is heading north. The president of Grand Rapids Community College has been named the next president of Ferris State University.
“I am honored to be selected by the Ferris State University board. I have been familiar with the good work of FSU for years, as the partnership we have on our GRCC campus has provided a great pathway from associate to bachelor degree for many years,” Pink said in a statement provided by Ferris State.
Pink became the president of GRCC in May 2017, the first African American to hold that position.
He has held several other leadership positions across West Michigan, including serving as the vice chairman of the Heart of West Michigan United Way and serving on several boards, including for Spectrum Health, West Michigan Works, The Right Place, Inc. and the Grand Rapids Economic Club.
The university board will have to formalize his hiring at its meeting on May 6.
At an event on campus Monday to announce his selection, Pink acknowledged the board and the leadership role that trustees will share in the years to come.
“I’m grateful to you for the partnership that you are showing,” Pink said. “In a board that says, ‘Here is who we want to put our trust in, to lead this institution.’ And I look forward to doing that together, with you. Because that’s the only way to get these things done, together.”
Pink will take over for David Eisler, who has served as president of Ferris State since 2003.
Eisler informed the university last March of his plans to retire. In his address at the Monday event, Eisler said he never planned on serving as president for so long and that he is walking away with a lot of new knowledge.
“I think we’ve learned that there are things to be had in stability. And so, I recommend that to you, sir,” Eisler said to Pink. “I think what happens over that period is that you learn to care deeply about Ferris, care deeply about the unique mission of Ferris, about the future of Ferris. When you accept a leadership position, I think you inherently understand that there’s an alpha and an omega to this experience. You’re going to work with this institution, you’re going to do the best you can. You’re hopefully going to turn it over to the next person in better shape than you found it and then hope that they do much better than you did in the days that follow.”
Eisler said Pink was the only person he urged to seek out the position but said he had no role in the university’s decision, saying only he knew Pink is “the right person.”
“There’s no one in this room that’s more excited than Patsy and me,” Eisler said, referencing his wife.
Pink, who called Eisler a good friend, said he has no plans to try and fill his shoes and respects the amount of work he has done for the university.
“The leadership that you have had at this institution shows strongly and I encourage you to be proud of the work that you have done here, because for us who have been on the outside that have been looking in, it’s obvious that your fingerprints are strong and your history is strong,” Pink said.
Pink also had high praise for GRCC, where he has worked for seven years, including the last five as president.
“It’s an incredible institution that I need to make sure I acknowledge this morning,” Pink said. “When you’ve gotten to know people and gotten to love so many people in a place, and really worked at and did some things with them and for them as much as you could as president to try to make things as smooth as possible for them to do their jobs and to do their jobs well. I was blessed because that campus is one that was doing it way before I got there and they’ll be doing it way after I’m gone.”
Pink has been in the role of president at GRCC since 2017 and shared in Tuesday afternoons livestream that this transition is a bittersweet move.
He said he is looking forward to bringing experience and relationships with him as he takes that next step.
“GRCC was my first presidency, so these last five years have been opportunity to see if all the ideas that floated around in my head prior to becoming president and thinking, ‘Would that work?'” Pink said in a virtual interview Tuesday at the WOOD TV8 Live Desk.
He said that connections he developed, both locally and nationally, will help further his role as president of FSU.
“To bring them to that space and say how does this make sense for Ferris State in terms of those connections and relationships, I think that’s exciting,” Pink said. “I do think there are some of those connections of opportunities we can bring to that table that will be fresh and new.”
David Koetje, the chairperson of the GRCC Board of Trustees, issued a statement following the announcement, calling the news bittersweet:
“Dr. Pink has been a wonderful leader for our college. His passion and energy are contagious, and he was certainly the right person at the right time for GRCC,” Koetje stated. “Dr. Pink was able to build on a solid foundation created by his predecessors, and he leaves GRCC in a strong position to continue moving forward. Ferris State University has been a close partner of GRCC for many years. Dr. Pink will serve that partnership well!”
Eisler will remain in his role until early July and Pink will be in his role at GRCC until early summer.