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Honorable George K. Heartwell to speak at 159th Commencement

Apr 16, 2012
Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary will hold its 159th Commencement exercises on Sunday, May 20, 2012. The Honorable George K. Heartwell, mayor of the city of Grand Rapids, Mich., has been invited to deliver the commencement address at the afternoon event, which will be held at 3:30 p.m. at Harvey Browne Memorial Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky., where Rev. John Roper is Senior Pastor.

“Mayor Heartwell exemplifies the kind of engagement of faith and public leadership that has long been a hallmark of Louisville Seminary,” said Seminary President Michael Jinkins in a community letter.

Heartwell earned a Master of Divinity from Western Theological Seminary in 1987. While there, he received the Old Testament Theology Award, the Senior Homiletics Award, and the Henry J. Pietenpoll Senior Excellence Award. After graduating from seminary, he served from 1987 to 1999 as Minister of Heartside Ministry, a pastoral care and advocacy ministry to homeless persons in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area. Beginning in 1992, and until 1999, he served as Grand Rapids City Commissioner in the Third Ward. He was also President of the Commission in 1995. From 2000 to 2005, he served as Director of the Community Leadership Institute of Aquinas College, an organization dedicated to developing leadership capacity among undergraduates and in the public and non-profit sectors of Western Michigan. From 2005 to the present, he has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Pilgrim Manor Retirement Community. And, since 2004, he has served as Mayor of Grand Rapids.

Heartwell has also served as an International Elections Monitor to South Africa, under the auspices of the World Council of Churches (1994); as a Board member for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (1990-1995); and a Board member and member of the Executive Committee of the National Urban League (1984-1987).

As mayor, Heartwell is well-known for his widespread implementation of energy conservation measures in Grand Rapids. Caring for the environment is a high priority for him, and under his leadership, Grand Rapids has become a leader in sustainability and green efforts. The City of Grand Rapids leads the country in the number of LEEDS (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings per capita. In 2007, the United Nations recognized Grand Rapids as a "Center of Expertise" in sustainability, and Grand Rapids received the U.S. Chamber of Commerce award as the nation's most sustainable mid-sized city.

Among Heartwell's most important accomplishments is his advancement of inclusion and diversity. During his first term as mayor, he began a program to recognize "Champions of Diversity," persons in the Grand Rapids community who work to nurture environments in which diversity is welcomed. Working with civic, educational, business, and religious leaders in Grand Rapids, 2012 was declared "The Year of Interfaith Understanding" in the city. In a public address, Heartwell said:

"I want to honor ... individuals whose vision, creativity, and hard work have brought about this celebration of diversity of religious faith in our community. Theologian Hans Küng wrote, 'There cannot be peace among nations until there is peace among religions.'"

As an ongoing part of this emphasis, the mayor assembled a distinguished group of leaders from across his community to plan “The Year of Interfaith Understanding” as a year of activities and programs to bridge religious divides and foster the understanding and respect that he believes can lead to peace.

“Mayor Heartwell is a public leader whose faith informs and shapes his political efforts to build a better community. He shares the vision and embodies many of the ideals and commitments of Louisville Seminary, particularly our Doors to Dialogue program, which is preparing men and women for leadership and ministry in a world of religious difference,” said Jinkins.

For more than 150 years, Louisville Seminary, as a Presbyterian and Reformed theological school, has been committed to an ecumenical perspective that values relationships with communities of faith in which theological, social, and religious perspectives are distinctly different from one another.

“Our graduates will serve in perhaps the most pluralistic society in history,” said Jinkins. “We believe that understanding and respecting such diversity is essential to the formation of our students as they prepare for leadership in the church or for service in a variety of vocations throughout the world, even public office.”


If you attend, Harvey Browne Memorial Presbyterian Church is located at 311 Browns Lane, St. Matthews, KY 40207, (502) 896-1791 ‎.

Louisville Seminary celebrates its strong ties to the State of Michigan. Currently, 69 graduates of Louisville Seminary live and serve within the state. A total of 84 students have come to Louisville Seminary from Michigan congregations, which have also commended many individuals to serve on various Seminary boards: ten Trustees, five Alum Board members, and five members of the President’s Roundtable.

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