Hauenstein Center Staff & Associates
Gleaves Whitney became the first full-time director of Grand Valley State University’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies in 2003. During his tenure he has been the architect of more than 400 public programs, including four national conferences covered by C-SPAN and four internationally webcast debates — one to more than 3,500 viewers in 18 countries, and another watched on YouTube by nearly two million people in some 30 nations on all six inhabited continents. He has overseen tremendous growth of the Hauenstein Center’s website, which has been visited more than 30 million times; its original programs have been viewed a cumulative 27 years. He’s also premiered a popular web column called Ask Gleaves — the first presidential Q & A column in the nation — and created a leadership academy for students and young professionals committed to public service.
Under his direction, the Hauenstein Center’s Peter C. Cook Leadership Academy has emerged as a preeminent center of leadership excellence in the Midwest. Cook Leadership Fellows have been face-to-face with four U.S. presidents, three first ladies, two vice presidents, four secretaries of state, six state governors, numerous business and nonprofit executives, multiple Pulitzer Prize winning writers, the world’s most decorated academic, a Grammy Award winner, and a national championship basketball coach.
“Gleaves Whitney is a real treasure for those of us who do presidential studies and work in the field of presidential history,” said award-winning biographer H. W. Brands. “He’s also one of the most effective entrepreneurs in the business of higher education. You can tell this by the growth of the Hauenstein Center over the years that he’s been the director.”
“Gleaves Whitney and his energetic team at the Hauenstein Center have become, in a remarkably short time, a force to reckon with — and learn from — in the presidential studies field,” said historian Richard Norton Smith. “The Hauenstein Center is a jewel in the crown of Michigan.”
Prior to his arrival at Grand Valley, Gleaves worked 11 years in Michigan Governor John Engler’s administration, serving as senior writer, chief speechwriter, and historian. In 1993, the Governor assigned him to a task force that helped bring sweeping education and school finance reforms to Michigan that the New York Times called “the most dramatic in the nation.” In 2001 he helped the Governor establish Michigan’s Department of History, Arts, and Libraries.
In addition to his public-sector service and work, Gleaves is a scholar who writes and lectures nationally on a variety of historical topics. He is author or editor of 15 books including most recently To Heal a Nation: The Story of Gerald R. Ford, and (with Mark Rozell) Testing the Limits: George W. Bush and the Imperial Presidency. Other books include Religion and the Presidency (with Mark Rozell), Religion and the Bush Presidency (also with Mark Rozell), American Presidents: Farewell Addresses to the Nation, 1796-2001; John Engler: The Man, the Leader & the Legacy; and 6 volumes of Messages of the Governors of Michigan. He even has a children’s book to his credit, B is for Buckaroo: A Cowboy Alphabet (with Louise Whitney). Moreover, Gleaves has contributed chapters to a half-dozen books and written entries in two encyclopedias. In 2011 he partnered with M. W. Grass Strategic Communications and Meijer Inc. President Hendrik Meijer to produce a two-hour documentary on Michigan’s famous senator, broadcast on PBS in December of that year. Several of his talks have appeared on C-SPAN; his commentary has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, and journals; and he has been interviewed by, among others, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, FOX News, Newsweek, US News & World Report, and NPR and its affiliates.
Gleaves has won numerous awards and served on several committees. In 2012-’13, he served as the principal investigator and hosted two programs funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to explore the historical roots of bipartisan leadership. In 2008, Gleaves and a Hauenstein Center team were awarded a Russell Mawby fellowship to examine the connection between philanthropy and the American presidency. In 2009, he was appointed by Michigan’s Governor to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Committee, a two-year effort charged with helping the state celebrate our 16th president’s contributions to Michigan and the nation. In addition, Gleaves is a senior scholar at the Center for the American Idea in Houston, Texas; the first senior fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in Mecosta, Michigan; and a member of the College of Fellows at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California.
While director of the Hauenstein Center, he was recognized by the Michigan Council for the Social Studies as an “outstanding mentor,” and was awarded its prestigious Mel Miller Mentoring Award for 2009. In 2010 he was inducted into the national leadership organization ODK (Omicron Delta Kappa). In 2011 he established the Gleaves Whitney Fellowship at the Hauenstein Center’s Cook Leadership Academy. In 1984 he received Colorado State University’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Moreover, he has served on the boards of the Michigan Humanities Counsel, Arthur Vandenberg Memorial Committee, Michigan State Historical Records, and Historical Society for the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan. He has also cultivated many institutional partnerships – e.g., with the National Park Service, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Gerald R. Ford Foundation and Presidential Library and Museum, Russell Kirk Center — and numerous ongoing professional partnerships — e.g., with H. W. Brands, Richard Norton Smith, George Nash, and other historians of note.
Gleaves graduated with honors from Colorado State University (1980), was elected into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society (1980), and was a Fulbright scholar to then-West Germany (1984-85). His master’s degree and doctoral candidacy were at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he was a Richard M. Weaver fellow (1987-88) and an H. B. Earhart Fellow (1988-91). He has taught at the University of Michigan, Colorado State University, Droste-Hülshof Gymnasium, Aquinas College, and Grand Valley State University. In 2006, he received the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the Graduate Theological Union’s Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California.
Gleaves was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and now makes his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife, Mary Eilleen.
Kathy Rent joined the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies as the office coordinator on Presidents’ Day 2004. Famous for her energy, enthusiasm, and personality, Kathy is the glue that keeps everyone in the Hauenstein Center’s orbit together. She brings great expertise and sleuthing skills to her daily work. Having lived in Michigan for over 40 years, Kathy is active in the community and volunteers for several organizations. She currently tutors for the Grand Rapids YMCA’s Youth Mentoring Program and serves as board member of the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council.
Prior to arriving at the Hauenstein Center, Kathy worked in banking and university development. A lifelong learner, she studies the presidents and is working towards a degree in sociology at Grand Valley State University.
Kathy and her husband, Andy, have six daughters, one son, eight grandsons, and three granddaughter.
Chadd Dowding joined the Hauenstein Center in August 2013 as the Program Manager for the Cook Leadership Academy (CLA). Prior to joining the Hauenstein Center, he worked as a Legal Contracts Associate and as a GE leadership program participant with GE Aviation in Cincinnati, Grand Rapids, and Boston.
Chadd is a 2011 graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Comparative Cultures and Politics. His area of study stems from an interest in understanding the international community and the unique challenges and opportunities of interacting with an increasingly diverse and interconnected world. He has been to India, Thailand, and Laos and often enjoys the opportunity for a new adventure. He seeks to use his degree to foster strong relationships among the CLA fellows, and to encourage them to branch out to build strong and diverse relationships with other fellows, mentors and community members both locally, nationally and beyond.
In his free time, Chadd enjoys following current events and world affairs, visiting Lake Michigan, spending time with friends, traveling, and building new relationships.
Tori VanDragt applied for and accepted a student internship with the Hauenstein Center in March 2012. Shortly after, she was also accepted into the Cook Leadership Acedemy as a Fellow. At the end of her internship with the Hauenstein Center in August, she was offered a part time position doing program development for the Cook Leadership Academy. A few months later, she was hired on full-time as the Event Planner for the Hauenstein Center.
Tori graduated from Grand Valley State University in August 2012 with a degree in Liberal Studies and an emphasis in Interpersonal Relationship Studies. Her course of study emanated from her passion for understanding the importance of building and maintaining a relationship both with the self as well as relationships with others. She uses her degree to implement programs for the Cook Leadership Academy that encourage self-reflection and relationship building.
In her free time, Tori enjoys playing and listening to music, relaxing with a cup of coffee or tea, practicing yoga, and spending time outside.
Joe Hogan joined the Hauenstein Center in June 2014 as the Program Manager for the Common Ground Initiative, one year after becoming a fellow at the Cook Leadership Academy.
Joe graduated from Grand Valley State University with degrees in English and film. As a member of the Frederick Meijer Honors College, Joe worked as a lead writing consultant and writing fellow at the Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors, wrote weekly columns on higher education for the Grand Valley Lanthorn, and founded and served as editor-in-chief of Cinesthesia: the Grand Valley Journal of Cinema, a student-run scholarly journal.
As Program Manager for the Common Ground Initiative, Joe works to bring together participants from any side of current public discourse–commonly folks from the political, cultural, or economic left or right–to explore possible common ground in an open, respectful, and intellectually rigorous forum. The goal of the initiative: To find common ground for the common good.
Marketing and Communications Specialist
Jonathan Howard joined the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies in July of 2014, in the role of Marketing and Communications Specialist. Prior to joining the Hauenstein Center, he worked as a Graduate Teaching Associate at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio where he taught courses in history and assisted faculty in both traditional and online classroom settings.
Jonathan is a 2006 graduate of Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in history, and is currently a doctoral candidate in Early American History at Ohio State University. He graduated with an M.A. in history from Ohio State in 2011, and completed graduate coursework at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, also in history. Jonathan’s dissertation examines the Anti-Slavery movement in Cincinnati, Ohio during the early 19th century, taking into account competing political, social, religious, and cultural factors as means of understanding anti-slavery’s place in both the Queen City and the larger antebellum republic.
After enjoying living in Ohio for several years, Jonathan is excited to return to West Michigan. He enjoys spending time outdoors, reading, and visiting Lake Michigan with his family.
Hauenstein Center Associates
Laura Bulkely Goldsmith
Laura Bulkeley Goldsmith is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a BA in English. She has her Master’s Degree from Northwestern University in radio-TV-film. From 1991 to 1996, she was an associate editor of two separate media newsletters, Between the Lines and Dispatches, writing articles on popular culture. She is currently a film historian and freelance writer.
Marc Jordan is a recent graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Prior to studying at Harvard, he earned a J.D. from Michigan State University/ DCL. An alumnus of Michigan State University, Jordan has focused on presidential studies from both a historical and leadership perspective. Professionally, he served the State of Michigan for more than a decade in various policy positions. He currently works as a regional director with GSP Consulting Corp.
James Kratsas is deputy director of the Gerald R. Ford Museum where he has worked since 1989. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and earned his BA and MA in history at West Virginia University, and his MA in museum studies at Duquesne University. Before joining the staff at the Gerald R. Ford Museum, Mr. Kratsas worked as curator of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, and as curator of the Kansas Museum of History.
Hendrik “Hank” Meijer is co-chairman and co-CEO of Meijer, Inc., which currently operates 176 stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in English and significant graduate work in history, Meijer is the vice chair of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation board of trustees, vice president of the Grand Rapids Area Council for the Humanities, and a board member for Fifth Third Bank, the Kettering Foundation, and the Food Marketing Institute. He is author of Thrifty Years: The Life of Hendrik Meijer, and a forthcoming book about Arthur Vandenberg, the influential U.S. Senator from Grand Rapids who became a chief architect of U.S. foreign policy after World War II. He has made three academic presentations at Hauenstein Center events.
George H. Nash earned his doctorate at Harvard University and was a research fellow at Harvard’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American history. Dr. Nash has lectured and written extensively on 20th-century American political and intellectual history, and his publications include The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945. Dr. Nash is also an authority on the life of President Herbert Hoover. He is the author of the first three volumes of The Life of Herbert Hoover, a definitive, scholarly biography commissioned by the Hoover Presidential Library Association. His articles and reviews have appeared in National Review, Policy Review, Modern Age,New York Times Book Review, University Bookman, and other publications.
Mike Toth is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where he received a joint J.D./M.A. (History), and Stanford University (B.A. History). He is a former staffer for the White House Budget Director, Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. A former Claremont Institute Lincoln Fellow and Intercollegiate Studies Institute Honors Fellow, Mike’s work has been featured by the Claremont Review and the Acton Institute. He is currently working on a biography of the Connecticut Founding Father, Oliver Ellsworth, to be published by ISI Books.