Struggles and successes

From a former student to the current chair on the Board of Trustees, Ronald E. Snead has been a part of Ferris for nearly four decades.

Snead, a 1971 Ferris graduate with a degree in biology/pre-medicine, came to Ferris as a student at age 24 married with two young children.

He said it was tough being married at a young age with children while working on receiving an education, but feels there is a lot of opportunity out there “if you get them in the right direction.”

During Snead’s time at Ferris as a student, he faced racial struggles. Racial discrimination was one of his most daunting challenges, including being the product of a multi-racial marriage, which brought on more challenges.

For Snead, it was hard trying to fit in while facing such difficulties. On May 20, 1969, Snead was one of two students arrested from the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) student chapter on campus during a fight that broke out due to racial discrimination.

After the incident, Snead was among students who wanted to end the racial gap on campus. During his time as a student, Snead was part of the “I’ve Had It” campaign that took place on campus to help put a stop to the tension and violence among the student body.

“A lot transpired, but I ended up working for the university ever since that time,” said Snead.

Much of Snead’s efforts to end racial tension on campus helped him build solid relationships and gain confidence as a leader.

Snead’s most recent accomplishment was being elected chair on Ferris’ Board of Trustees. Snead told the Big Rapids Pioneer that his priorities as board chair include diversifying faculty and staff, improving student retention and graduation rates and maintaining strong fiscal management.

Snead is the first African-American graduate to serve as chair and was first appointed in January 2005 by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. He will serve an eight-year term.

Snead said his biggest motivation is “trying to help people gain access and to do what you can for those who are less fortunate.”

He said he still stands with his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brothers from 30 years ago.

“I’m a networker, I stay in touch with people from every job from high school, college and childhood,” said Snead.

He is also a recipient of Ferris’ Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1995, has served on the Ferris Foundation Board of Directors and currently serves on the Jim Crow Museum Board.

Snead has served on several university search committees and has been involved with work related to the university’s role and mission and minority merit scholarships. He has also worked with nine of Ferris’ 18 presidents.

Snead said being a part of Ferris has given him self-confidence and the capability to be a leader – from a leader as a student to a leader as chair on the Board of Trustees. n