President's Office  

Juan Olivarez, Ph.D., President of Aquinas College

Dr. Juan Olivarez

Juan Olivarez became the seventh president of Aquinas College on July 1, 2011. Previously he served as the president/CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation from July 2008 through June 2011 and as president of Grand Rapids Community College from 1999 through June 2008. He holds a doctorate in family and child
ecology from Michigan State University, a master's degree in educational psychology from Wayne State University, and a bachelor's degree from Aquinas College.


A native of Benavides, Texas, Olivarez and his family moved to East Chicago, Ind., where his father and uncle worked in the steel mills of Gary. In 1967 he arrived in Grand Rapids to attend Aquinas College. His career in education began in 1971 when he was hired by Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) to teach first grade, becoming one of the first bilingual teachers in the district. Olivarez worked for GRPS for 20 years.


Olivarez currently serves on several national and local/regional boards and committees including the Innovation Network for Communities; National Commission on Adult Education; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; National Advisory Committee for Higher Education; the Van Andel Education Institute; Ryerson Library Foundation; and the Early Childhood Investment Corporation. He received the Exemplary Leadership Award from Junior Achievement Worldwide in 2010, the Aquinas College Reflection Award in 2009 and the Education Excellence Award, from the School of Education at Michigan State University in 2008.

Olivarez met his wife, Mary, at Aquinas College. They celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in May 2011. They have two sons, Elias (Mindy) and Sam. They also are the proud grandparents of two beautiful grandchildren.