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GVSU names first female president

ALLENDALE, Mich. — Grand Valley State University has named its new president.

Philomena V. Mantella will be the fifth president and the first woman president in the school's 60-year history.

She is currently the senior vice president and chief executive officer of the Lifelong Learning Network at Northeastern University. Mantella has a Ph.D. in college and university administration from Michigan State University and master's and bachelor's degrees in social work from Syracuse University.

“When the search firm called me, I thought ‘let me see what’s happening there,’ and I was just so incredibly impressed with the growth,” Mantella said. “You start to dig a little deeper you start to look at the learner experience, and it just is pretty unprecedented all the assets that are here, so it drew me like a friend would draw you forward and I just found myself in the search going deeper and deeper.”

Mantella was unanimously selected by the university’s board of trustees out of dozens of candidates.

“We are so excited that we don’t have to keep it under wraps and that it’s all in the open now, and we are so excited — we believe we picked the right person,” said Mary Kramer, board chair.

Mantella will finish the school year at Northeastern University and take over on July 1, when current president Thomas Haas is set to retire.

Mantella said she wants to do a lot of listening when she gets started to understand what the university is about.

“I really want to be sure that the moves we make are the right moves for the university and the community is gonna be a very big part of it,” she said. “I don’t come with a vision in my pocket, I come with a lot of things I think we need to think about moving forward, which I’m happy to talk about.”

She said she is going to focus on an extraordinary student experience.

At the announcement Tuesday, Haas said he is excited for GVSU’s future with Mantella.

“What my hope is: that she can embrace our community, embrace our students, stay focused in on the student centrality, student success model that we have built here,” Haas said.

She has been married for 40 years to attorney Robert Avery, and has three sons and four grandchildren. Her mother, who is 91, will also be moving to West Michigan.

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