Who is Dr. Bill Pink?

Meeting Ferris’ presidential search finalist

Bill Pink poses
Pink will be leaving Grand Rapids Community College, where he’s been posted as President since 2017. Photo courtesy of Bill Pink’s Executive Assistant, Amy Autsema Bennet

Motivated by his faith and the opportunity to help others, Dr. Bill Pink is looking forward to joining the Ferris community as president. 

Pink was named Ferris’ presidential search finalist on March 28, five years into his presidency at Grand Rapids Community College.  

Making west Michigan history, Pink is set to be both GRCC and Ferris’ first African American president. He hopes this representation is encouraging to Ferris’ students of color.  

“If I can show African Americans, and just people of color period, my position as president of an institution like Ferris State University, I feel like it lets them know that there are things that they too can achieve. They now know that one day, they may be president of Ferris State University.” 

Pink’s position means a lot to him because of what it means to people in his background. He wants to be a familiar face on campus that students of color feel they can connect with and confide in.  

Sociology professor Diane Jackson sees great value in this representation. She believes that, while it is good to see a Black man hold this position at Ferris, it does not mean that the march towards racial justice is complete.  

“What it does mean is that [students] can see a forward star. There are many students of color on this campus that are sometimes limited to what they see in their area… My dad went to Ferris in the 60s, and some of the things that went on in west Michigan are the same things going on right here, right now. That forward star of where you can be is really important,” Jackson said. 

Pink climbed the collegiate ladder to get to where he is today, working as associate dean and vice president of academic affairs at public universities in Oklahoma before moving to Michigan. He worked in workforce development at GRCC for two years before taking the executive position.  

As an involved member of west Michigan, Pink feels confident in his ability to connect with Ferris’ students and help them form connections elsewhere. 

“I can hit the ground running when it comes to this region, and that’s helpful to me and helpful to the institution,” Pink said. “I love the fact that I can come into the university having formed a number of partnerships in our region with companies and organizations that I think will be just as anxious to partner with us at Ferris State as they partnered with us at GRCC.” 

Pink works as vice chairman of the Heart of West Michigan United Way nonprofit organization, and he is a board member of Spectrum Health West Michigan, West Michigan Works!, The Right Place and the Grand Rapids Economics Club.  

With his work in the Grand Rapids area, Pink got to know current president David Eisler professionally.  

“I am delighted with the selection of Dr. Bill Pink as the next president of Ferris State University,” Eisler said. “I have worked with Dr. Pink throughout his presidency at Grand Rapids Community College, and he is a great colleague and friend. He is exactly the right choice for Ferris, and I look forward to great things in the future as he leads our university.” 

Forming healthy relationships in the community is one of Pink’s biggest priorities. He plans to attend as many campus events as possible in order to get to know the students and staff in more relaxed, fun environments.

In a word, his wife, Lori Pink, describes him as “personable.” 

“He will be out there with students,” Lori said. “He will be working with faculty. He’s just a people person. High energy. He’ll be at activities all over. He has a hard time saying no; we have to rein him in.” 

The relationship between Ferris’ administration and faculty has been turbulent in recent years. The Ferris Faculty Association led a tenured faculty strike in 2018 and has been vocal about a lack of transparency from the president’s office ever since.  

Penny Nichols-Whitehead, the sole FFA member to serve on the presidential Search Advisory Committee, ensured the Ferris community that Pink has worked “successfully and respectfully” with unions in the past. 

Every month, Pink meets with the GRCC faculty union president and representatives from the campus police, support staff and maintenance facilities. They discuss a variety of topics, from campus life to family life. Pink believes that the key to forming a strong relationship with a union is sitting down and listening to what they have to say.  

In a comment submitted to the Torch, FFA president Charles Bacon said that he and his fellow union members look forward to “working with Dr. Pink on the challenges and opportunities that Ferris will face in the future.” 

The board of trustees will vote on Pink’s confirmation in May. Looking at how far he has come and his plans for the future, Pink hopes to be the kind of worker that his late parents would be proud of. 

“Both of them worked for a university, but they were in custodial services when we were growing up. They were making a lot less money than many folks make today. They just wanted the best for their kids… and this is my way of filling that and hopefully doing them proud,” Pink said. 

To find more information about Pink and the 2021 presidential search, visit fsutorch.com for previous stories.