A valued member of the Grand Valley Visual and Media Arts Department, Beverly “Bev” Seley, retired last year and has received Emeritus status, a special title of recognition given to professors after leaving that remembers the meaningful impact they’ve had on the community. At Michigan State University, Bev acquired a BFA in Studio Art and BS in Human Ecology. After teaching art for 2 years in Cadillac, she continued her postgrad education, getting an MFA from Michigan State and completed a postgraduate study in metals at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. With a focus in jewelry, she earned assistantships at Haystack Mt. School of Crafts and Haystack Hinckley.
Right upon graduation, she was called by former chairperson Don Kerr and offered a position at GVSU and offered the position of Assistant Professor of Art, and was welcomed as the first woman in the department. After 2 years, Don asked if Bev would like to take over his responsibility as chairman, and she accepted. In her new position, she sought and gained accreditation in the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, which she considers to be one of her greatest contributions to GVSU.
While at GVSU, she taught a range of classes including 2D Design, 3D Design, Drawing I & II, Weaving/Fibers and all levels of Jewelry and Metalsmithing and was the Area Head of Jewelry and Metalsmithing. “Taking chances to teach outside of one’s major expertise and comfort zone is healthy for faculty as well as students! In this case, it made the common denominators that hold all of our disciplines together so apparent and rich,” says Bev of her teaching experience. “What struck me about teaching here was the potential. We have a great thing going and the students are so fortunate.”
Dean Frederick Antczak calls Bev a “strong and articulate connection to the best part of Grand Valley’s past, while leading us to do better.” He continues, “Her keen sense of what worked best for students was like a North Star for all of us. She also served as Marshal at so many graduations and it seemed so appropriate, given all she’d done to help students get there.”
Virginia Jenkins, a former chairperson and colleague, describes how Bev set high standards for students of jewelry and metalsmithing and for herself so that they could succeed after graduation and says she made many positive contributions to the department. “Her long-standing professional relationship with the National Association of Schools of Art and Design brought many benefits throughout the years.”
Former colleague and friend, Renee Zettle-Sterling, is most appreciative for Bev’s guidance over her last 18 years at GVSU. “I started here completely green behind the ears and Bev patiently and lovingly nurtured me as she did her students. She taught me the ropes and I learned how to thrive in an academic environment. Over the years I have strived to emulate Bev in my approach to teaching and being a steward of the educational system at GVSU. I learned and nurtured my core values and understood the importance of rigor, dedication, and kindness under her tutelage. I am forever grateful.”
Jewelry and Metalsmithing alumni, Jennifer Surine says it is overwhelming to even try thinking of the words to describe her. “I have never had a professor or teacher match her level of devotedness to her students. She genuinely cares for every single student so deeply, and it goes way beyond simply wanting them to do well in her class. She knows every student like they are family and would often lovingly describe herself as if she were a mother to us all. I’m thankful for all the technical metalsmithing skills I learned from her, but her encouragement and excitement was electric and left a deep impression.”
The contributions by faculty do not go unnoticed in the GVSU Visual and Media Arts Department, and the heartwarming impressions Bev Seley has made on students will forever be appreciated. The art of teaching with passion continues to spark fires in those that it touches.