posted December 9, 2009

Hope to Honor Al McGeehan and Craig Rich

The Hope College Alumni Association will honor former Holland Mayor Al McGeehan with a Meritorious Service Award on Saturday, Dec. 12, for his long-time leadership role in strengthening and celebrating the relationship between Hope and the Holland community.

Hope will present the award during an annual event that is itself a celebration of the Holland and Hope town-gown relationship:  the men's basketball Holland Sentinel Community Tournament at the DeVos Fieldhouse.  McGeehan will receive the award, which recognizes a person's contributions to Hope and its alumni through notable personal service and long-time involvement with the college, during halftime of the 3 p.m. Hope game.

During the event, Hope will also recognize the many years of service to the community by former Holland City Council member Craig Rich, who like McGeehan also retired from office in November.

McGeehan, who is a 1966 Hope graduate, recently concluded more than three decades of service in city government, including eight two-year terms as Holland's mayor, the longest mayoral tenure in the city's history.  Prior to first being elected mayor in 1993, he had served four four-year terms on the Holland City Council beginning in 1977.

It was Hope that initially brought McGeehan to the community.  He came to Holland from Metuchen, N.J., in the fall of 1962 as a Hope freshman and never left.  He had learned of Hope through Reformed Church in America ties, from youth pastors who came to his church from nearby New Brunswick Theological Seminary.

After graduating from Hope, he went on to the Holland Public Schools, where he spent nearly 30 years teaching history at either the junior high school or the high school.  He retired from teaching as chair of the social studies department in 1995.

Among other activities while serving as mayor, McGeehan was the City of Holland representative on the Policy Committee of the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council; chaired the City of Holland Sesquicentennial Commission, The Holland Celebration 2000 and Project Pride; and co-chaired the successful City of Holland All America City Award effort.  He was also active in the efforts of Michigan's West Coast, the United Way and March of Dimes, and graduated from the regional Leadership West Michigan program.

McGeehan served on several committees of the Michigan Municipal League and the National League of Cities, and for three years he represented the Michigan Municipal League as the league's West Michigan regional coordinator.  From 2006 to 2008, he served consecutive terms as president of the Michigan Association of Mayors.                       

He chaired the Hope Community Campaign during 2005-06.  The college presented him with a Distinguished Service Award during halftime of the 32nd annual Hope-Holland Community Day celebration in September 1997.

He has received a variety of awards through the years in recognition of his teaching and service.  Among other honors, he was named the Community Education Teacher of the Year in 1976 and 1987, and was named a Paul Harris Fellow by The Rotary Foundation in 1997.  An Eagle Scout in his youth, he received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award - the highest honor bestowed by the Boy Scouts of America - in March of this year.

McGeehan is well known in Michigan and beyond for his passion for studying and collecting artifacts from the time of the American Civil War.  He has taught and lectured on the subject, and has also authored a book and several magazine articles related to the Civil War.

He and his wife, Marsha, celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary in August.  They have three children and nine grandchildren.  Their daughter Laurie is a 1989 Hope graduate, and McGeehan's brother George graduated from Hope in 1969.

Rich was appointed to the Holland City Council in 1982 and was subsequently elected in 1983 and re-elected every four years from 1985 through 2005.  He was also Mayor ProTem from 1987 to 2007.

He grew up in Holland, where his family has lived since 1910.  He is a 1972 graduate of HollandHigh School and holds a business degree from DavenportCollege.  He and his father operated radio station WZND in Zeeland from 1971 through 1986, and he has since been with the "Grand Rapids Business Journal," where he is an advertising sales consultant and sales manager.

Rich is a founding member of Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates and a "master"-level SCUBA diver.  He combines his love of local history and genealogy with scuba diving to research and document area shipwrecks, and he is the author of the forthcoming book "For Those in Peril:  Shipwrecks of Ottawa County."

He and his wife, Vickie, have two grown daughters.

Holland and Hope were both founded by the Dutch immigrants who came to West Michigan in 1847 led by the Rev. Albertus C. Van Raalte.  Hope ultimately grew out of the PioneerSchool that the community opened in 1851 as its first educational institution.  The college enrolled its first freshman class - 10 students--in 1862 and was chartered by the State of Michigan in 1866, the year before Holland was incorporated as a city.

Hope today has 3,230 students from 42 states and 28 foreign countries.  The college employs some 780 faculty and staff, and approximately 5,000 Hope alumni live in the Holland area.  In addition to scheduling presentations and cultural events throughout the year that are open to the public, the college is estimated to have an economic impact on the region of more than $250 million annually.  In October, Hope received the Holland Area of Commerce's second annual Corporate Leadership Award, recognizes companies and organizations that have made a significant impact in the community through a history of local investment and job creation.