Goodbye, Gilbertson

In his 24 years as university president, Eric Gilbertson has touched the lives of many students.

“There’s not a time I can recall where his number one focus has not been on students,” said exercise science junior Valerie Adams, who is a student worker in the president’s office. “Every single thing he does throughout the day, every way he goes through his daily activities, every conversation he has, it’s always for the students’ benefit.”

Political science senior Marissa Geyer said she interacted with Gilbertson through Law Club and the Moot Court program. He also acted as an adviser and mentor for her through one-on-one meetings about her future plans.

The Valley Vanguard

Photo courtesy | University Communications

President Eric Gilbertson is the current longest-serving president out of all 15 public Michigan universities. He began in 1989.

“He was extremely encouraging and supportive, and gave me so many resources. I could tell that all he wanted to do was just help me,” Geyer said. “Every single time I talked to President Gilbertson, he said ‘You better follow up with me. Keep me updated. Don’t let me down.’”

Gilbertson announced his intent to retire in June. The Board of Control searched for his replacement. Four finalists came to campus in January for interviews. The Board is expected to reach a decision Monday.

During his tenure as president, Gilbertson has interacted with students through open forums, walking around on campus and helping with freshmen move-in, among others.

Samantha Dinnan, who worked in the president’s office for more than three years before her graduation in December, said Gilbertson possesses the ability to put students at ease.

“Going in as a freshman, I was really nervous to meet the president and work with him, but he’s actually really funny,” she said. “He uses his humor in every single moment to make people more comfortable with interacting with the president of a university. I think he’s one of the few who cares about you as an incoming freshman, and he cares about you after you graduate.”

Geyer and Adams agreed that Gilbertson’s interactions with students are always friendly.

“The way he interacts with them is really not as an administrator with a student. President Gilbertson talks to me like I’m a person, and somebody that he wants to see succeed and grow,” Geyer said. “In general, most students at least know who he is, and they all like him. I’ve never heard a student say one bad thing about him.”

“I don’t even think his impact on the university can be put into words. It’s so immense,” Adams said. “Not even with the statistics that show how much population has grown, how many new buildings have been constructed or how many new variations to the curriculum and educational offerings have been added, but just the environment for students.

“I feel like he fully shaped what makes SVSU, SVSU. It goes into what we really care about and why we’re here.”

Geyer also attributed SVSU’s growth to Gilbertson.

“I think he’ll be remembered as one of the best things that this university has ever had, and one of the biggest reasons this university has succeeded,” she said. “He’s just done such an amazing job helping it grow in the past quarter century.”

Adams said that Gilbertson’s successor will have a challenge to face.

“I am sad to see President Gilbertson go,” Adams said. “Whoever comes in is going to have huge shoes to fill.”


This story is part one of a series on President Gilbertson. Read next week’s issue for continued coverage.

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