Ferris State names Michigan community college leader as its next president

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Ferris State University announced Monday that Grand Rapids Community College President Bill Pink would serve as its 19th president.

Pink has more than three decades of experience as an educator, leader, and active community member, officials said. He will begin his tenure in July pending approval by the Board of Trustees in May.

Pink, 55, is the first African American to serve as FSU's president. He was introduced in person and through the college's social media channel by Amna Seibold, chairwoman of Ferris State’s Board of Trustees and the presidential search advisory committee. 

Ferris State University announced Monday that Grand Rapids Community College President Bill Pink would serve as its 19th president.

"He will uphold the mission, vision and values that we all hold dear and will support our core values of collaboration, diversity, ethical community, excellence, learning and opportunity, " said Seibold, noting that the choice was unanimous.

Pink said that he is excited to lead Ferris at a pivotal time in higher education when many are questioning its value. He borrowed a line from the Broadway show, "Hamilton." 

"In higher education, we need to be in the room where it happens because ... there are those who are choosing and want to leave us out of that room," Pink said. "That can't be ...  We have to be in the room so that we can have the voice that says, 'Here is how we advance our citizenry. Here is how we help create and build and thrive communities.'"

Pink has served as GRCC’s president since May 2017. Before that, he was GRCC’s vice president and dean for workforce development. He was previously Oklahoma State University’s vice president for academic affairs, according to his biography on the GRCC website. 

Ferris State University announced Monday that Grand Rapids Community College President Bill Pink would serve as its 19th president.

A native of Abilene, Texas, he taught and coached in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Oregon and was a college basketball player who earned many awards, including a 2016 induction into the New York-based York College Athletic Hall of Fame. 

President David Eisler, who has served as FSU president for 19 years, said Pink was the only person he encouraged to consider being his successor because he believed he was the right person to lead the university into the future.

"He's enthusiastic, he is charismatic and he is a leader," said Eisler, adding that he was not involved in the search. "This is an institution that changes lives. I believe under your leadership we can and will create a truly extraordinary university of the future."

Bill Pink, the new president at Ferris State University

David Koetje, chairman of the GRCC Board of Trustees, said Pink's departure is "bittersweet."

“Dr. Pink always has focused on access, making sure everyone in our greater community was able to take advantage of the opportunities created by our college, and by supporting students once they arrived so they could complete successfully," Koetje said in a statement. “GRCC has changed in many ways on his watch. We witnessed transformational projects such as the GRCC Lakeshore Campus development. His students-first approach during the pandemic ensured West Michigan residents were able to continue their education and emerge stronger."

Seibold said the search started over a year ago when current Eisler announced he would be stepping down in June.

Ferris State did not respond to questions about the status of Pink's contract or salary, nor a request for Eisler's salary.

The school conducted a national search and received over 70 applicants including many sitting presidents, according to the school, and the board whittled down the list to four people before choosing Pink.

The board kept the names of applicants confidential, a decision the school said was intended to expand the applicant pool, especially for women and people of color, Seibold said.

Incoming Ferris State University President Bill Pink smiles with his daughter, Lydia, left, and his wife, Lori.

Pink currently serves on the executive committee of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the board of trustees of the Higher Learning Commission. He also serves on the boards of the American Council on Education, Spectrum Health West Michigan, Heart of West Michigan United Way, the Economic Club of Grand Rapids and the American Association of Community Colleges. Pink is vice-chair of The Right Place, Economic Development and will become chair in 2024.

He has a bachelor's degree in physical education and professional education from Oklahoma Christian University and a master's degree in physical education and secondary education from the University of Central Oklahoma. He earned his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oklahoma.

Pink and his wife, Lori, have two children, Lance and Lydia. Lance and his wife, Kayla, have a son, Nathaniel.