Vernis Schad has spent most of her life advocating for increased opportunities for women and believes that donating to GRCC is an important way to advance that goal.
Schad grew up during the Depression, moving frequently as her father found work. She came to Grand Rapids to attend what is now Calvin University for a year before returning home to California. In 1947, she married George Schad Jr., whose family owned Nucraft Furniture Co., and they eventually moved to Grand Rapids for good.
While Schad eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in 1974 from Western Michigan University, she has made her biggest impact as a volunteer.
She started, as many women of that era did, as a volunteer in her children’s schools and became PTA president. In 1960, she was part of a successful campaign to get Grand Rapids Public Schools to annex the smaller North Park district. That successful effort sparked her interest for politics. She was elected to the GRPS Board of Education in 1972, where she served for 12 years and was president from 1974 to 1978.
As a Grand Rapids school board member, she helped oversee Grand Rapids Junior College before it separated from the district in 1991 to become Grand Rapids Community College.
She is delighted with the changes she’s seen in GRCC over the years.
“I am so pleased with the expansion of classes in the downtown area and all that GRCC now offers, as well as its impact on the community,” said Schad, who was appointed to the state Board of Education’s Board of Public Community Colleges in 1997.
As a GRPS board member, she also worked to promote racial and gender equality — a cause that she’s taken into the broader community. She served on a committee that studied the lack of integration in public schools and was part of the steering panel that led to the creation of the Women’s Resource Center. She is also a member of the American Association of University Women, the Progressive Women’s Alliance and a former president of the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council.
It’s no surprise that Schad strongly supports the Women in Math and Science Scholarship and the Ms. Ellen M. James Trailblazer Scholarship at GRCC.
“I believe that GRCC is the best place for many students to begin their college studies,” she said. “My contributions are very important to providing opportunities to students who might not otherwise be able to continue their education beyond high school.”