Whine And Geez

December 16, 2002
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Grand Valley State University's attempt to steal thunder from Western Michigan University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School's collaborative announcement last week has some in Allendale privately shaking their heads.

Why, they wonder, would a growing university in West Michigan issue a scathing statement to the media just one hour before a press conference by two other schools?

The decision to let MattMcLogan, the school's vice president of communications, start yipping about Cooley Law School's decision to establish a branch in Grand Rapids before the official announcement was made was absurd.

McLogan's remarks seemed wholly unprofessional and ill suited to the occasion: the establishment of the first full law school on the west side of the state.

His statement was: "We think the WMU/Cooley program is unnecessary and, at this time of state budget difficulties, unwarranted."

His statement breaks down into two parts.

First is the highly questionable sincerity with which a public university is fretting about the state's budget. Or does GVSU's statement actually relate, instead, to its worry about a potential threat to the size of its own share of the shrinking state budget?

As an aside, JimSchultz of WMU said Cooley, as part of a public-private partnership, will be paying its own way, thank you very much.

Who's going to get hurt if Lansing should pare the raises of state employees in the manner that has happened to federal workers? GVSU staffers, perhaps, but not the taxpayers, many of whom are getting no raises at all.

McLogan's "unnecessary" clause is a knife that slices both ways.

If Cooley Law School is unnecessary in GVSU's eyes, then Cooley/WMU are equally and possibly even more justified in questioning whether GVSU's plans to dabble in law are necessary.

The "unnecessary" clause also is another way of saying local students don't need a law school. That's a pretty broad assumption concerning a community that so far doesn't have even one pure law course. In fact, all that the area had until two weeks ago was GVSU's plan to offer an unspecified course or two in law and an unspecified number of courses in the indefinite future … and the possibility of GVSU serving as a sort of continuing education site for practicing attorneys.

So, what was that, the tentative baby steps of a law school wannabe? Was GVSU gingerly dipping a toe in the waters of legal instruction to see if a demand for a full JD curriculum might develop here? Were there visions of creating the Grand Valley State University School of Law?

If so, fine. In fact, GVSU Counsel TomButcher is quoted as saying he's spent five years on this project.

But at the same time, what possible complaint can GVSU have — other than maybe its own institutional jealousy — with Cooley deciding to go the whole nine yards? Cooley's presence will enable students to make their own decisions about whether WMU/Cooley is necessary, rather than rely on McLogan's pettish statement. At the same time, those students also can decide for themselves whether GVSU's law courses are necessary — or unnecessary.

Business is built on competition. The more competition out there, the better you have to be. The "we were here first" whine doesn't cut it in the private sector. GVSU can, and will, get better and offer a better product. But to try and rain on a "competitor's" parade with outlandish statements surely shows that the institution has a ways to go in terms of growing up.

  • Part of "Maid In Manhattan" is made in Grand Rapids. No, not the movie starring the multifaceted Jennifer Lopez. But at least one of her props comes from West Michigan.

It seems that Stella Royce likes to surf the Internet just a little, sort of, to check up on the stars, and discovered that the movie's makers were looking for some props for an ad and commercial about the movie. Since J. Lo plays a maid in the movie, she needed a bucket and wringer, Stella reasoned. And Stella knew her husband, Chuck Royce, who had the Rolls Royce of wringers at his disposal (since the Royces make them).

The rest, as they say in Hollywood, is history. Look for the wringer playing in movie theaters nationwide.

  • Grand Rapids lost another one of its leaders last week when Richard Gillett died at age 79. This comes just a couple of weeks after the passing of legal (and pro bono) pioneer John Cummiskey

Like Cummiskey, Gillett meant more to Grand Rapids than just business.

"We are saddened by the loss of our friend, Richard Gillett," said KevinKabat, president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank (Western Michigan).

Yes, Gillett was a businessman, and a darn good one, too. During his 30-year tenure, the former Old Kent grew from a $340 million bank with 27 offices in Grand Rapids to an $8 billion regional bank holding company with nearly 200 offices in Michigan and Illinois.

By all accounts, however, it was Gillett's generosity — with both time and money — that left an indelible mark on his community.

"Mr. Gillett's unselfish dedication to Grand Rapids has been considered instrumental in the revitalization of the city and its downtown area," Kabat said. "In 1988, the city renamed the historic Interurban Bridge, spanning the Grand River, in his honor. The Richard M. Gillett Bridge is a fitting symbol of his bridge-building philosophy."

Gillett personified the term "leader," Kabat said, and that service continued after his days of the daily grind at Old Kent were behind him.

"In retirement, he continued to be a catalyst for the community's continued prosperity," Kabat said. "He was one of the rare individuals who made a positive impact in all he touched. Mr. Gillett was a friend, mentor, visionary and inspiration to us all and a true gentleman in every sense of the word.

"He was a wonderful man and will be greatly missed."           

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