March 18, 2019 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Main Building, Grand Rapids Community College’s gateway for nearly 100 years, will be transformed into a 21st-century learning environment to support the next generations of students through a donation from Raleigh J. Finkelstein.
The building, which houses classes for more than 5,200 students each week, will be renamed Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall, based on a resolution approved by the GRCC board of trustees on Monday.
“Mr. Finkelstein’s gift will not only allow our iconic building to continue serving our faculty, staff and students long into its next 100 years, but it will allow us to serve them better,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “He and his family have a long, vibrant history in Grand Rapids, and I know he has a passion for helping all students improve their lives through education so they can reach their academic and career goals.”
Finkelstein also is a generous supporter of Grand Valley State University -- a building downtown bears his name – and he hopes to see students completing their goals at GRCC and then transferring to GVSU.
Born and raised on Grand Rapids' east side, Finkelstein’s financial and business acumen helped him and his brothers grow Michigan Clothiers, the family business started by their parents. The business evolved into a surplus store after World War II and ultimately became MC Sporting Goods. The brothers then grew MC Sporting Goods into the largest retail operation of its kind in the Midwest with more than 2,000 employees at its peak.
Decades after selling the retail chain, Finkelstein and his brothers Mort and Ed are still partners. Their current business, REM Real Estate, is active in properties throughout West Michigan. Finkelstein also helped form Arbor Mortgage, served as its chairperson, and was a founding leader of Northpointe Bank. Other successful ventures included businesses in the automotive and restaurant industries.
The Main Building opened in 1923 as Davis Technical High School and became part of Grand Rapids Junior College in 1944. The configuration of many of its classrooms has not changed, limiting how it can be used.
The five-story brick building, on Dr. Juan Olivarez Student Plaza, also houses the Collins Art Gallery, the Meijer Center for Business Studies, the Admissions and Enrollment Center, and administrative offices.
Renovations, which are expected to start in 2021, will reconfigure existing spaces to meet program needs while providing additional classrooms and study spaces, and revitalizing labs and art studios. A dedicated space will also support technology-based learning.
Redesigned academic and career development floors will improve efficiency by providing streamlined student enrollment and academic counseling areas and offering dedicated space for veteran student services, engaging employers in the re-entry process for this vital workforce population.
“Helping students thrive in the modern world calls for modern facilities to help us grow and meet changing needs,” Pink said. “I’m excited at this opportunity, as we have not only gained a generous gift from a new friend of the college, but the means to preserve and improve a campus icon so it can be enjoyed by students, staff and faculty for decades to come.”
Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.