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2022 Spring/Summer Highlights of Hope

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HIGHLIGHTS OF

HOPE

SPRING/SUMMER ’22 ISSUE

2 VAI welcomes six new scientists 4 New program launched in cancer research

5 Rallying to the grand challenge of Parkinson’s

6 VAI scientists have record-breaking year for scientific grants

8 VAI scientists recognized as top of their fields 9 Research highlights

10 Newest Grad School cohort illustrates growth

12 A day in the life of a VAI grad student 13 Graduate School highlights

14 From Afterschool Cohort to Fulbright Scholar 16 In-person field trips return

17 Education highlights 18 Events 24 Event sponsors

26 VAI Purple Community partners put in the time, effort & talent

28 VAI Marathon Team runners back in action

29 VAI Student Ambassador Program making moves

30 Gifts in action: Funding new equipment to peer into cells 32 Memorials & Tributes


RESEARCH

VAI welcomes six new scientists

and their labs

In the past year, VAI recruited six new faculty — an achievement that expands our scientific capacity and impact in Grand Rapids and

beyond. These exceptional experts, each of whom leads their own lab at the Institute, bring with them a wealth of expertise at the

forefront of scientific innovation and discovery.

Nick Burton, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Department of Epigenetics

Joined VAI from University of Cambridge

Dr. Nick Burton explores how our environment,

especially microbes, can impact our health and

the health of our offspring — even before they

are born. His research has extensive implications

for understanding how epigenetics contributes to

human disease and how the environment we are

exposed to today affects not only our own health,

but also our children’s.

“In the last decade, it has become increasingly

clear that an individual’s environment and their

epigenetics play a major role in determining

whether or not they will go on to develop many

different pathologies, ranging from diabetes to

autism. We are now beginning to understand

the mechanisms underlying many of these

observations. At Van Andel Institute, I look

forward to working alongside many world-class

researchers looking to solve these mechanisms

and find new ways to improve human health.”

— Dr. Nick Burton

Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf, Ph.D., Professor

Department of Epigenetics

Joined VAI from University of Kentucky

Dr. Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf investigates how

environmental factors, such as toxicants, impact our

genetic code and contribute to cancer. Her research

is illuminating powerful new insights that could

influence our understanding of health and disease,

providing a path forward for new strategies for

cancer prevention and treatment.

“Our environment has a profound impact on our

health, down to the molecular level. My research

addresses some of today’s health challenges

by developing a deeper understanding of

the mechanisms underpinning this critical

relationship. Van Andel Institute is a global

center for leading-edge epigenetics research,

and I am thrilled to be part of it.”

— Dr. Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf

Stephanie Grainger, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Department of Cell Biology

Joined VAI from San Diego State University

Stem cells give rise to every cell type in the human

body and play important roles in health and disease.

Dr. Stephanie Grainger seeks to understand how

these special cells develop, how they are maintained,

and how they can become cancerous, with the goal

of developing new strategies for combating cancer.

“Traditional cancer therapies do not target

the rare cells that initiate cancer growth, and

instead take a brute force approach of killing

any cells that are growing. This includes the

cells in your intestines, skin and hair and is why

chemotherapy causes side effects like an upset

stomach and hair loss. These rare cells, which

behave similarly to a specialized group of cells

in our bodies called stem cells, are often able to

regrow tumors once therapy is withdrawn. One

of the main goals of my research group at VAI

is to figure out how these rare cells talk to each

other in normal and cancerous conditions. Once

we figure that out, we can more effectively kill

off these cells that initiate cancer.”

— Dr. Stephanie Grainger

2 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


Sara Nowinski, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Department of Metabolism and Nutritional

Programming

Joined VAI from University of Utah

Dr. Sara Nowinski investigates how cells determine

the amount of energy needed for everyday life

and how they adjust to meet those requirements.

Her research has uncovered new insights into the

intricate balance between nutrient availability and

cellular respiration — both critical components for

maintaining health.

“Mitochondria are well known for their role in

energy production as the ‘powerhouses of the

cell,’ but there is still so much we don’t know

about how cells control and fine-tune their

activity in different situations. I’m incredibly

excited to join the Department of Metabolism

and Nutritional Programming at VAI and

look forward to the discoveries we will make

together.”

— Dr. Sara Nowinski

Evan Worden, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Department of Structural Biology

Joined VAI from Johns Hopkins University

Dr. Evan Worden leverages VAI’s powerful suite of

cryo-electron microscopes to explore the complex

molecular interactions that give rise to cancer. To

date, his research has revealed novel insights into

poorly understood regulatory elements in the genetic

code and illuminated how aberrations in these

processes can transform healthy cells into malignant

ones.

“Our understanding of how epigenetics

contributes to cancer has exploded in the last

decade. This opened the door for us to use

structural biology to answer really detailed

questions about how the genetic elements

expressed in cancer are regulated. I’m excited to

continue this work at Van Andel Institute.”

— Dr. Evan Worden

Qiang Zhu, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Department of Neurodegenerative Science

Joined VAI from University of California, San Diego

Dr. Qiang Zhu investigates the genetic, epigenetic

and cellular factors that lead to neurodegenerative

diseases such as ALS and frontotemporal dementia.

To date, his work has revealed the complex

mechanisms underlying the most common genetic

cause for both of these diseases — an insight that

has provided novel targets for the development of

new therapies.

“The lack of therapies that impede progression

of ALS and frontotemporal dementia is a major

gap in patient care. I’m heartened that my

research to date has contributed to clinical

exploration of potential treatments and am

excited to expand my efforts at VAI. The Institute

has exceptional research facilities and a highly

supportive, collaborative scientific environment.

I look forward to teaming up with my colleagues

to achieve our shared goal — new, more effective

treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.”

— Dr. Qiang Zhu

In 2021, VAI was ranked by Nature Index as no. 24 in the Life Sciences

category out of the top 100 nongovernmental/nonprofit organizations

(up from no. 29 in 2020).

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 3


RESEARCH

New program launched to develop

future leaders in cancer research

The scientific leaders of tomorrow are the trainees of today —

and Van Andel Institute is committed to helping them achieve

success and improve human health, now and in the future.

As part of our dedication to this goal, we launched VAI’s Cancer

Epigenetics Training Program for exceptional postdoctoral fellows.

These trainee scientists have completed their Ph.D.s but are

pursuing additional training before starting their own independent

laboratories.

Cancer epigenetics is a growing field with untold potential to impact

human health. Epigenetic abnormalities are universally found

across cancers and serve as major drivers for transforming healthy

cells into sick ones, making epigenetic alterations promising new

targets for the development of life-changing cancer treatments.

The Cancer Epigenetics Training Program combines extensive

professional development with comprehensive, interdisciplinary

research training by VAI’s internationally recognized cadre of

experts. Postdoctoral trainees in the program also have access

to the Institute’s state-of-the-art shared scientific resources and

technologies as well as opportunities to participate in established

translational research programs and partnerships led by VAI

investigators.

“In the past few years, VAI has become a global destination for

groundbreaking, collaborative cancer epigenetics research,” said

VAI Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Peter A. Jones. “Postdoctoral trainees

will emerge from our Cancer Epigenetics Training Program with

extensive, rigorous training and a solid foundation from which to

launch their independent research careers.”

The program is supported by a five-year, $1.7 million grant from

the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Jones and VAI Associate Professor Dr. Scott Rothbart will lead the

program in collaboration with Dr. Erica Gobrogge, program director

of VAI’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. The program also benefits

from the guidance of its advisory committee, which includes

renowned scientists from across the U.S.

By supporting exceptional trainees today, VAI is helping to ensure a

brighter, healthier future fueled by innovation and discovery.

The Cancer Epigenetics Training program is supported by a National

Cancer Institute T32 training grant (no. T32CA251066). The content is

solely the responsibility of VAI and does not necessarily represent the

official views of the National Institutes of Health.

“In the past few

years, VAI has

become a global

destination for

groundbreaking,

collaborative

cancer epigenetics

research.”

— Peter A. Jones,

Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)

4 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


Rallying to the

grand challenge

of Parkinson’s

disease

How do a person’s genetics impact their risk for

Parkinson’s disease?

That’s the question more than 500 people from around the

world explored during Van Andel Institute’s annual Grand

Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease scientific symposium and

parallel Rallying to the Challenge meeting for people with

Parkinson’s and care partners, co-hosted with the U.K.’s Cure

Parkinson’s. Held virtually in October 2021, these events tackled

how two specific genes — LRRK2 and GBA1 — contribute to

Parkinson’s disease risk and how they may be leveraged to

develop new and urgently needed treatments. Attendees

heard scientific presentations from leading researchers and

participated in panel discussions with advocates and people

with Parkinson’s.

As part of Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease and Rallying to

the Challenge, we recognized two scientists for their exceptional

contributions to the Parkinson’s field and community. VAI

presented the 2021 Jay Van Andel Award for Outstanding

Achievement in Parkinson’s Disease Research to Dr. Ted Dawson,

of Johns Hopkins University for his groundbreaking research

into the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying

Parkinson’s disease — many of which have informed the

development of potential new medications.

Cure Parkinson’s and VAI presented Dr. Camille Carroll, of

University of Plymouth with the 2021 Tom Isaacs Award, which

honors individuals who have had a significant impact on the

lives of people with Parkinson’s and/or involved them in a

participatory way in research. This award recognizes Carroll’s

commitment to engage people with Parkinson’s in research and

to foster collaboration between scientists, physicians and the

Parkinson’s community.

Save the date! The next Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s

Disease and Rallying to the Challenge will be held Sept. 28–29,

2022. Visit grandchallengesinpd.org to learn more.

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 5


RESEARCH

VAI scientists have recordbreaking

year for scientific grants

Our scientists surpassed the Institute’s

all-time funding record in 2021, earning

more external grants than ever before.

These important awards do more than

support our groundbreaking research —

they are vital, objective validation of this

research.

In 2021, VAI scientists earned 33 new

grants, totaling more than $39 million.

Achieving this milestone would not have

been possible without the exceptional

support from VAI donors, whose generous

gifts often fuel the early, foundational

research required to attain these highly

competitive grants.

Many of this year’s grants will support

projects that harness the collective

expertise of VAI scientists and collaborators

across the U.S. Here’s a snapshot.

Specialized Programs of Research

Excellence (SPORE) | National Cancer

Institute of the National Institutes

of Health

This five-year grant, estimated at $12.4 million,

will support nearly 20 scientists as they

work to improve epigenetic therapies for

cancer. The project is co-led by Coriell

Institute for Medical Research’s President

and CEO Dr. Jean-Pierre Issa, Van Andel

Institute’s Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Peter A. Jones and Johns Hopkins

University and VAI’s Dr. Stephen Baylin. 1

Read more at bit.ly/vaispore

Transformative Research Award | National

Institutes of Health Common Fund

VAI’s Dr. J. Andrew Pospisilik and Maine

Medical Center Research Institute’s

Dr. Joseph Nadeau earned a five-year,

$9.6 million Transformative Research Award

from the National Institutes of Health

to answer a set of questions that could

fundamentally transform our understanding

of health and disease: If you were born

multiple times under the exact same

circumstances, would you turn out to be the

same person each time? And if not, what

implications could the differences have for

your health? Although they may sound like

science fiction, the answers could provide

real-world insights into new strategies for

combating cancer, obesity and a host of

other health concerns and diseases. 2

Read more at bit.ly/vaitransform

6 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE

VAI GRADUATE SCHOOL STUDENT SVETLANA DJIRACKOR


Collaborative Research Network grants |

Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s

Two VAI scientists and their collaborators

were awarded more than $15 million to

advance Parkinson’s disease research

and accelerate the development of new

therapies.

This pair of awards, called Collaborative

Research Network grants, comes from

Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s, a

coordinated research initiative to accelerate

the pace of discovery and inform the

path to a cure for Parkinson’s through

collaboration, research-enabling resources

and data sharing.

VAI’s Dr. Michael Henderson and colleagues

at Yale University and University of

Pennsylvania were awarded $9 million to

identify areas and cell types in the brain

that may be particularly vulnerable to

Parkinson’s disease. 3

VAI’s Dr. Hong-yuan Chu and colleagues at

Emory University were awarded $6.3 million

to investigate the brain’s motor cortex —

which helps manage movement — and its

role in Parkinson’s. Changes to the cells

that comprise this critical brain region have

long been implicated in the disease. They

also will collaborate with scientists at SUNY

Downstate and Inscopix. 4

Read more at bit.ly/ASAPChu and bit.ly/

ASAPHend

Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award

| National Institute of General Medical

Sciences of the National Institutes

of Health

Maximizing Investigators’ Research Awards

are highly competitive and prestigious fiveyear

grants and, in 2021, one was awarded

to VAI Assistant Professor Dr. Stephanie

Grainger. The award is worth nearly

$2.4 million over the life of the award.

Grainger’s project will explore a critical

type of cellular communication that drives

healthy development and, when disrupted,

can spur cancer, osteoporosis, heart

conditions and other diseases. 5

Research Scholar’s Grant | American

Cancer Society

VAI’s Dr. Scott Rothbart earned a four-year,

$792,000 Research Scholar’s Grant from

the American Cancer Society to investigate

the mechanisms that power a promising

class of potent anti-cancer drugs. Called

EZH2 inhibitors, these drugs work by

targeting an enzyme named EZH2 that has

long been of interest to cancer researchers

because it interacts with the proteins that

support DNA. As such, EZH2 plays a major

role in switching genes that regulate cell

proliferation “on” or “off” — a process that

can lead to cancer if it goes awry. It

also helps tumors evade attack by the

In 2020, VAI

ranked among

the top five

National

Institutes of

Health-funded

organizations

in Michigan,

just after the

state’s larger

universities and

health systems.

immune system. 6 VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 7

Source: United for Medical Research.

2020. NIH in Your State: Michigan.

unitedformedicalresearch.org/nih-in-yourstate/

Funding Acknowledgements

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institutes of Health under award numbers: 1 P50CA254897;

2

1R01HG012444; and 5 R35GM142779. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily

represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health

3

Research reported in this publication was supported by funds from Emory University as part of an Aligning Science Across

Parkinson’s Collaborative Research Network award.

4

Research reported in this publication was supported by funds from Yale University as part of an Aligning Science Across

Parkinson’s Collaborative Research Network award.

6

Scott B. Rothbart, Ph.D., is supported by a Research Scholar Grant, RSG-21-031-01-DMC, from the American Cancer Society.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the granting

organizations.


RESEARCH

VAI scientists recognized

as top of their fields

It’s no secret that VAI

scientists are among the

world’s best. This year,

five of our investigators

were honored with

inclusion on the Clarivate

Highly Cited Researchers

List, a distinction marking

them as leaders in

their fields.

The annual list identifies

scientists from around the

world who demonstrate

significant influence in

their area of study through

the publication of multiple

highly cited papers during

the last decade. Citations,

or references, to a

scientist’s published work

by other researchers is

universally considered to

be a measure of influence

and impact in the scientific

community. Only about

1 in 1,000 scientists in the

world make this elite list,

according to Clarivate.

Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)

Chief Scientific Officer

Director, VAI Cancer Center

Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.

Deputy Chief Scientific Officer

Director, VAI Parkinson’s Disease Center

Read more online at bit.ly/

vaihrc21

Russell Jones, Ph.D.

Chair, Department of Metabolism and Nutritional

Programming

Peter Laird, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Epigenetics

X. Edward Zhou, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scientist, Li Lab

Department of Structural Biology

8 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


Research highlights

Looking for the latest from VAI’s scientists? Here’s a snapshot of

advances from the Institute’s labs.

Understanding gut inflammation may hold clues to mitigating Parkinson’s onset

Chronic inflammation in the gut may propel processes in the body that give rise

to Parkinson’s disease, according to a study by Dr. Patrik Brundin’s lab at VAI and

colleagues at Roche. The findings add to a growing list that links the gut and the

immune system to Parkinson’s, and track with several large-scale studies that

show an association between Parkinson’s and inflammatory bowel diseases, such

as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. 1

Read more at bit.ly/vaicolitis

‘Roadmaps’ of the brain reveal regions vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease

Much like a supply truck crossing the countryside, the misfolded proteins

that damage neurons in Alzheimer’s disease travel the “roads” of the brain,

sometimes stopping or even re-routing to avoid roadblocks, reports a study by

VAI’s Dr. Michael Henderson and collaborators at University of Pennsylvania.

Understanding how and why this happens could clear the way for the

development of new therapies to slow or stop disease progression. 2

Read more at bit.ly/vaitau

‘Tasty’ protein may lead to new ways to treat metabolic and immune diseases

The same taste-sensing molecule that helps you enjoy a meal from your favorite

restaurant may one day lead to improved ways to treat diabetes and other

metabolic and immune diseases. TRPM5 is a specialized protein concentrated in

the taste buds, where it helps relay messages to and from cells. It has long been

of interest to researchers due to its roles in taste perception and blood sugar

regulation. VAI scientists Dr. Wei Lü and Dr. Juan Du have published the firstever

high-resolution images of TRPM5, which reveal two areas that may serve as

targets for new medications for diseases like diabetes. These structures also may

aid in the development of low-calorie alternative sweeteners that mimic sugar. 3

Read more at bit.ly/vaitrpm5

Study sheds light on how DNA mutates in

melanoma, a deadly skin cancer

The mutations that give rise to melanoma result

from a chemical change in DNA fueled by sunlight

— not just a DNA copying error as previously

believed, reports a study by VAI’s Dr. Gerd Pfeifer.

The findings upend long-held beliefs about the

mechanisms underlying the disease, reinforce

the importance of prevention efforts and offer a

path forward for investigating the origins of other

cancer types. 4

Read more at bit.ly/vaimelanoma

An overactive sweet tooth may spell trouble for

our cellular powerplants

Although we’ve long known that eating too much

sugar can contribute to Type 2 diabetes and other

disorders, the exact way this overconsumption

sets the stage for metabolic diseases on a cellular

level has remained elusive. But now, a study led

by VAI’s Dr. Ning Wu has shown that surplus

sugar may cause our cellular powerplants —

called mitochondria — to become less efficient,

reducing their energy output. The findings

highlight the cellular implications of excessive

sugar consumption and provide an important

new model to study the initial metabolic events

that may contribute to diabetes development. 5

Read more at bit.ly/vailipids

Funding Acknowledgements

Research reported in this publication was funded by:

1

Van Andel Institute and Roche. Early work on this project was supported in part by the European Research Council.

2

Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research award no. 16879 (Henderson); the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under awards T32AG000255 (Lee),

P30AG10124 (Trojanowski) and U19AG062418 (Trojanowski);the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under award nos. P50NS053488

(Trojanowski) and R01NS099348 (Bassett); the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under award no. F30 MH118871-01 (Cornblath); and the National

Science Foundation under award nos. PHY1554488 (Bassett) and BCS1631550 (to Bassett). Bassett also acknowledges support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the ISI

Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Paul G. Allen Foundation.

3

Van Andel Institute; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award no. R56HL144929 (Lü) and R01HL153219 (Lü); a McKnight Scholar Award (Du);

a Klingenstein-Simons Scholar Award (Du); a Sloan Research Fellowship in neuroscience (Du); and a Pew Scholars in Biomedical Research Award from the Pew Charitable Trusts (Du).

4

Van Andel Institute and the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award no. R21CA228089 (Pfeifer).

5

Van Andel Institute; the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award no. R01GM120129 (Wu); and the National Institute on Aging of the

National Institutes of Health under award no. RF1AH061872 (Han).

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or other granting organizations.

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 9


RESEARCH

Newest

cohort

illustrates

growth at

Graduate

School

Van Andel Institute Graduate School

trains the biomedical research leaders

of tomorrow, a focus that dovetails with

the Institute’s overarching mission to

transform human health for generations

to come. We move ourselves — and the

world — closer to lasting breakthroughs

by welcoming a diversity of experiences,

cultures and thoughts.

Richard Cassidy

Kansas City, Kansas

Svetlana Djirackor

Nairobi, Kenya

In Fall 2021, the Graduate School’s largest

and most diverse cohort arrived —

14 students representing eight countries.

The new cohort bolsters VAI’s growing

reputation as a global destination for

doctoral students.

This array of students and perspectives

helps us to better understand the full scope

of health threats facing humanity. Every new

cohort that arrives at VAI strengthens our

organization and gives new shape to our

mission; indeed, for the last few years, each

successive cohort has grown larger and

more diverse.

Sofia Ievleva

Voronezh, Russia

Yanqing Liu

Shandong Province, China

The 2021 cohort includes students from

The Bahamas, China, India, Iran, Kenya,

Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. Although their

paths were different, they arrived here

united in one goal: to become the leaders

who take us into the bright future where

diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s are met

with life-changing treatment and care.

Kate Thurlow

London, United Kingdom

Xiao Wang

Yunnan Province, China

10 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


James Eapen

Cochin, India

Abigail Godec

Denver, Colorado

Thomas Goralski

Livonia, Michigan

Paige Matusiak

LaGrange Highlands, Illinois

Shantinique Miller

Nassau, The Bahamas

Christina Straham

Flint, Michigan

Riley Wedan

Savage, Minnesota

Mehrshid Faraji Zonooz

Tehran, Iran

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 11


RESEARCH

A day in the life of a VAI

Graduate School student

The life of a VAI graduate student varies greatly from year to year.

Some years are spent more in the classroom, and others in the lab.

But no matter how a student’s typical day looks, they are all working

toward careers as biomedical research leaders.

Nadia Dehghani is a third-year Ph.D. student in the labs of Dr. Rita

Guerreiro and Dr. José Brás. Nadia studies genetic contributors to

dementia. We caught up with her to get a glimpse into the life of a

VAI grad student.

What does a typical day with your thesis research look like?

Days can be vastly different from one another, or vastly different

from what was “ideally” planned! My time is generally spread across

ongoing projects at varying milestones — data generation and

troubleshooting, data analysis and write-up, and responding to peer

reviewers who offer feedback on my research.

Additional daily constants include discussing and consolidating

approaches to projects and reading newly published scientific

studies. These can be directly related to my thesis research, or may

offer a new approach for me to consider. Most days, I also engage

with a scientific seminar or a formal class; this semester,

I have enrolled in the fantastic Lab Leadership class organized by

Dr. J. Andrew Pospisilik, chair of VAI’s Department of Epigenetics.

How has the Graduate School’s unique setup benefited your

studies and research?

We are very fortunate to be led by the vision and philosophy of

Dean Dr. Steven J. Triezenberg. With our highly dedicated and

supportive Graduate School staff, we’ve cultured a stimulating and

collegial environment where graduate students are seamlessly

integrated within VAI.

Most recently, we moved into new, designated facilities on VAI’s

campus for students’ scholarly and professional development — a

result of the Graduate School’s exciting growth and recognition. As

students, developments in our research approaches are aided by

perspectives from peers and mentors; the growing diversity within

the Graduate School makes this possible and increasingly practical.

To learn more about VAI Graduate School, visit vaigs.vai.org.

(STARTING AT LEFT, GOING ACROSS) NADIA DEHGHANI

& DR. RITA GUERREIRO; LEENA KARIAPPER PRESENTING AT VAI GRADUATE SCHOOL

12 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


Graduate School

highlights

Origins of Cancer probes intersection of cancer, neuroscience

The 2021 Origins of Cancer symposium, held in July, explored the intersection of cancer

and neuroscience, an area that holds great promise for better understanding the complex

biological interactions that give rise to disease. Students and scientists joined together

for the virtual conference to discuss how the future of cancer research may combine two

discrete areas of study by exploring the common threads that unite them. This annual

event, organized and hosted by VAI Graduate School students, serves as a shining example

of collaboration — a value that is at the heart of VAI’s ethos.

Taylor Boyd joins Graduate School leadership

The Institute’s commitment to training the scientific leaders of tomorrow leapt forward in

October 2021 with the hiring of Taylor Boyd as director of assessment and professional

development. Boyd, who previously served in the Office of the Provost at Grand Valley

State University, is responsible for assessing the Graduate School’s curriculum and cocurricular

activities. He also assists VAI faculty in enhancing their teaching and mentoring

skills, as well as in monitoring the progress of student learning. Boyd will also lead the work

to sustain the Graduate School’s accreditation.

3 quick facts

about VAI

Graduate School

• The Graduate School has

graduated 34 students to date: 30

Ph.D. and four M.S. Of the

30 Ph.D. graduates:

70% have gone to postdoctoral or

research associate positions

20% have taken positions in industry

• As of September 2021, 44 students

were enrolled in our Ph.D. program.

The student body includes:

28 women

13 international students

2 students from populations

underrepresented in the biomedical

workforce (by NIH standards)

4 students enrolled in dual-degree

(M.D.-Ph.D.) programs

• In 2020, Graduate School

students and alumni contributed

24 authorships on 17 research

publications, with 12 authorships on

11 papers in 2021.

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 13


EDUCATION

From Afterschool Cohort to

Fulbright Scholar: One student’s

journey with VAI

Van Andel Institute for Education strives to foster a love of

learning in every student who walks through our doors. Whether

they join us for a field trip or attend one of VAI’s Afterschool

Cohorts, our mission is to teach them how to think and act like

a scientist.

Former Afterschool Cohort student Eli Bieri exemplifies the impact

of our work. Bieri, a passionate and curious scientist, was recently

awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue work in amphibian

conservation.

“I remember hearing toad calls when I was a little kid, in the

summertime from my backyard, and I was just innately drawn to

that noise,” Bieri said. “From then on, I spent so much free time

just wading through ponds and swamps, looking for frogs and

snakes and turtles.”

“I remember doing this project where I was testing what effect

common pesticides or herbicides would have on African Clawed

Frogs. What I really loved about that project was that I felt like the

instructor really treated me like a scientist,” Bieri said. “He was like,

‘You are scientists! You’re doing science!’ That’s the kind of thinking

that translates into a career in science, and I’m really grateful

for that.”

These days, as a Fulbright Scholar, Bieri is participating in a two-year

master’s program at the University of New South Wales in Sydney,

Australia. Working with Dr. Jodi Rowley, he studies how aggressive

wildfire suppression may negatively impact the country’s amphibian

population. Bieri and Rowley hope their research will lead to better,

more sustainable practices for both humans and amphibians

alike. Eventually, Bieri would like to work at the intersection of land

management and public policy.

“I remember hearing toad calls when I was a little kid,

in the summertime from my backyard, and I was just

innately drawn to that noise. From then on, I spent

so much free time just wading through ponds and

swamps, looking for frogs and snakes and turtles.”

— Eli Bieri

As he grew, Bieri searched for new ways to satisfy his inquisitive

nature. When a family friend received a pamphlet on VAI’s student

programs, she thought of Bieri and passed the information on to

his mother. That small decision would ultimately set Bieri on his

trajectory toward a career in science and biology.

While enrolled in Afterschool Cohort, Bieri quickly realized

he’d found a place where his curiosity could be channeled into

something productive and fun. Cohorts are designed around

hands-on investigations where students ask questions and

discover answers using scientific tools and resources. In fact, the

classrooms at VAI for Education are home to many of the same

reptiles and amphibians Bieri often searched for in his backyard.

“VAI had a significant impact on Eli’s natural curiosity,” said his

mother, Gail Greco-Bieri. “It was the spark that lit the fire for him to

validate the ‘whys’ he thought about, and he continues to question

today. VAI taught Eli to think like a scientist, and he’s not stopped

ever since.”

We are grateful to the Rottman Family Charitable Foundation for their

support of Afterschool Cohort.

ELI BIERI

14 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 15


EDUCATION

In-person field trips return at

Van Andel Institute for Education

In the early days of the pandemic, Van Andel Institute

for Education pivoted to offer our suite of student and

teacher programs in a virtual format. We knew that

educators, parents and kids were in uncharted territory,

and we worked swiftly to support them where they needed

us most.

At the start of the 2021–22 academic year, the Institute

returned to an in-person format for one of our most

popular offerings: field trips. With appropriate safety

protocols and masking in place, we welcomed classrooms

back to our educational labs at 216 Division Ave. As of

January 2022, there have been 23 field trips serving more

than 400 students for this academic year.

Our educational philosophy is guided by the principle that

immersive, hands-on scientific investigations are best for

creating classrooms where curiosity, creativity and critical

thinking thrive. Although we successfully offered virtual

field trips for months, and continue to do so upon request,

it was clear that all of us missed the benefits of in-person

learning.

“We are so happy to have students back in our labs,

doing experiments that get them thinking and acting like

scientists and nurturing a curiosity for the world around

us,” said Terra Tarango, director and chief education officer

of Van Andel Institute for Education. “We will always work

tirelessly to create fun, safe learning environments for

every student who walks through our doors.”

To learn more about our field trip offerings, visit vaei.org.

(STARTING AT TOP RIGHT, GOING CLOCKWISE) STUDENTS FROM

CROSSROADS CHARTER ACADEMY COLLABORATE; TWO CLASSMATES

EXAMINE THE PROPERTIES OF GLITTER; STUDENTS PREPARE TO CONDUCT

AN EXPERIMENT DURING THEIR FIELD TRIP TO VAI FOR EDUCATION;

STUDENTS WORK TOGETHER DURING FIELD TRIPS TO VAI FOR EDUCATION

16 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


Education highlights

The pandemic has brought many challenges to the classroom. Our educators worked

hard to make sure that teachers and administrators could support students to the

best of their ability with a suite of instructions, resources, projects and professional

development offerings to help create classrooms where curiosity, creativity and critical

thinking continue to thrive. Resources mentioned here can be found at vaei.org.

Better Together: A Virtual Event for K–12 Administrators

To combat learning loss, VAI hosted several networking events for K–12

administrators to help address concerns related to the pandemic. More than

350 administrators from 20 states and two continents have registered for Better

Together events.

VAI’s Admin Guides

These relevant and comprehensive guides are designed to equip administrators

with strategies for school development. This year featured “Beyond Learning

Loss: Six Ways Schools Can Thrive in the Aftermath of the Pandemic” and “7 Tips

for Successful School Improvement Planning.” The Admin Guides have been

downloaded more than 500 times.

Blue Apple Timely Topics

Our expert educators created nine free Blue Apple Timely Topics connecting to

current events, such as “Celebrating Black History Month,” “Respectful Debate”

and “Spooktacular STEAM.” In 2021, these lessons were downloaded more

than 2,800 times and were used throughout the U.S. and more than 25 other

countries.

Flex PD

VAI’s popular Flex PD is a comprehensive, affordable professional development

model that promotes tangible shifts in instruction for teachers and

administrators. Our plans are customizable to fit educators’ individual needs and

include immersive workshops, learning sessions and coaching.

NexGen Inquiry Quests

Our new NexGen Inquiry Quests are story-driven video lessons that capture

student interest by introducing them to real-world problems they can solve

with hands-on, scientific investigations. Each Quest includes three inquirybased

investigations that help students exercise critical and creative thinking,

collaboration with peers, and the application of solutions that will make the world

a better place. In one Quest, students play the role of an electrical engineer who

is troubleshooting a power outage. In another, students learn “crime scene”

forensics to locate a reptile that’s gone “missing” from VAI’s classrooms.

“Once again, thank

you for supporting

our teachers. You

(VAI) have been a

wonderful asset and

support system as

our teachers navigate

implementing projectbased

learning in our

schools.”

— Hilary B.,

Allegan Public Schools

Field Trips

Our field trips immerse students — and their teachers — in learning science

through investigation. Students conduct unique, grade-specific investigations and

participate in hands-on discovery with activities like mock fossil digs, engineering

challenges and robotics coding. After being held virtually for the 2020–21

school year, field trips returned to an in-person format with appropriate safety

precautions in fall 2021.

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 17


EVENTS

VAI Golf Outing

In September, golfers gathered at the majestic Wuskowhan

Players Club in West Olive, Michigan, for the 14th annual

VAI Golf Outing. The 2021 event featured a scramble

tournament, lunch, dinner and a brief award presentation.

For nearly 15 years, the VAI Golf Outing has brought the golf

community of West Michigan together in support of the

Institute’s biomedical research and educational programs.

Thank you to our Title Sponsor, the Veldheer, Long, Mackay &

Bernecker Group of Merrill Lynch.

(STARTING AT TOP RIGHT, GOING CLOCKWISE) CAROL VAN ANDEL; MOLLY KRAUSE, KAREN CUSTER, KELLIE CUSTER & TERRI DEBOER;

DAVID VAN ANDEL KICKS OFF THE DAY; ANN CALLAHAN & SHAWN PREMER; RYAN FORMSMA,

ERIC HELZER, CHRISTOPHER STRALKOWSKI & STAN ELENBAAS

18 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


Please note: All events followed health and safety protocols related to the

COVID-19 pandemic in place at the time of occurrence.

Couture for a Cure

Back live and in action, Couture for a Cure brought glitz, glam and

generosity together at the Institute for a 16th year. The event

featured a New York-style runway show by Leigh’s and highlighted

the Fall 2021 collection of designer Veronica Beard. Co-founders

of the eponymous brand — Veronica Miele Beard and Veronica

Swanson Beard — shared a special virtual message with the

evening’s guests, who also enjoyed a seated dinner, table service

and fabulous musical stylings from AB. Guests also learned more

about VAI’s work into ovarian cancer research. New products and

on-trend looks from Artistry appeared on the runway, and all

guests took home swag bags of exclusive gifts, treats and Artistry

products.

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor, Leigh’s, and our

Title Sponsor, Amway.

(STARTING AT TOP RIGHT, GOING CLOCKWISE) SCOTT & REBECCA WIERDA WITH DAVID & CAROL VAN ANDEL; MODEL ON THE RUNWAY; MODEL SHOWING

OFF ONE OF THE NIGHT’S CHIC LOOKS; CAROL VAN ANDEL; CONSUMERS CREDIT UNION’S LYNNE JARMAN-JOHNSON (CENTER, IN BLACK & GOLD)

WITH A GREAT GROUP OF GUESTS AT THE EVENT ENTRANCE; MODEL SHOWS OFF A GLAMOROUS LOOK ON THE RUNWAY

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 19


EVENTS

Hope on the Hill Gala

As the culminating event of our 25th anniversary, the 21st

annual Hope on the Hill Gala marked a quarter century of

progress at the Institute with a night of glamour, mystery

and support of VAI’s mission. Guests broke out their best

black-tie attire to celebrate those who, for the past 25 years,

have helped make great strides at the Institute: our donors,

our community, and the scientists and educators they support.

The event included a seated dinner of delectable cuisine and

artisan cocktails, live entertainment from AB and world-class

electroviolinist Svet, and presentations from Institute leaders on

VAI’s history, breakthroughs and dreams for the future.

Thank you to our Title Sponsor, Fifth Third Private Bank.

20 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


Thank you to all donors and guests who

supported us through our virtual events in

2021, including:

• VAI Forum on Depression & Inflammation

• Carol Van Andel Angel of Excellence Virtual Dinner

& Award Presentation

• Grand Rapids Griffins VAI Purple Community Game

• Board of Governors Annual Dinner

• Around the World

• VAI Public Lecture Series

• Virtual Coffee Connection Events

While we wish we could have seen more of you in person

in 2021, we are so happy you were able to join us in some

capacity to celebrate VAI’s research and education efforts

from the last year — and the last quarter century.

(STARTING AT TOP LEFT, GOING CLOCKWISE) SENATOR MARK HUIZENGA

& KRIS HUIZENGA, BILL & MARY JACKSON, RUSTY & JENN MERCHANT &

MAUREEN WATSON-BOLGER & MATT BOLGER (FAR RIGHT);

DAVID & CAROL VAN ANDEL; JAKE KENNARD & KATE ZWIERS &

NICOLE & DAVID ZWIERS; SVET; DAVID VAN ANDEL;

ENTRYWAY TO THE EVENT; DJ AB

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 21


EVENTS

A Conversation About Pancreatic

Cancer — Hosted by

Carol Van Andel

Despite incredible advances in cancer detection and treatment,

pancreatic cancer continues to pose a particular challenge to

physicians and patients because it often lacks obvious early

symptoms. By the time the disease is found, it is typically quite

advanced, complicating treatment and leading to poorer patient

outcomes.

Thanks to new breakthroughs, there is hope. In November,

guests at A Conversation About Pancreatic Cancer — Hosted by

Carol Van Andel learned about the latest advances in pancreatic

cancer research, with a focus on promising opportunities for

early detection. Speakers included pancreatic cancer experts

Dr. Brian Haab, a VAI professor whose lab is at the forefront of

new diagnostic efforts, and Dr. J. Bradley Morrow, director of

endoscopy at Mercy Health St. Mary’s. For the past five years,

Drs. Haab and Morrow have collaborated on developing new

diagnostics for pancreatic cancer.

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor, The Howard Miller Company.

(STARTING AT TOP RIGHT, GOING CLOCKWISE) CAROL VAN ANDEL; GUESTS HEAR FROM DR. BRIAN HAAB;

DR. J. BRADLEY MORROW AND MARANDA; DR. J. BRADLEY MORROW

22 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


Gaming for Hope

In 2021, VAI hosted our inaugural Gaming for Hope, a fully

online, 24-hour gaming marathon that blended a passion for

online gaming and streaming with raising funds to support the

Institute’s work. Streamers of all ages and experience levels played

numerous games over the course of the day, including singleplayer

FIFA 21, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, League of Legends,

and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Featured streamers joined in

on the action, and giveaways and prizes were up for grabs for those

who fundraised for the Institute.

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor, Element Four.

(STARTING AT TOP LEFT, GOING CLOCKWISE) COLIN GRAHAM & DAVENPORT ESPORTS INTERN; MAE LEXI ZURITA;

COLIN GRAHAM; MIKE “POROSAURUS” NAVARRO

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 23


EVENTS

Thank you to our generous

event sponsors

To learn more about sponsoring an event, contact Sarah Rollman at

sarah.rollman@vai.org.

Winterfest Celebration

Rob & Dawn Arnoys

Steven & Amanda Barbour

Bluewater Technologies

Jerry & Suzanne Callahan

Custer Inc.

Mike & Jean Dery

Edge Natural Resources

Ernst & Young

Grand Rapids Christian Schools

HB Wealth Management

Hines Corporation

Dr. Jurgen & Becky Luders

Macatawa Bank

McShane & Bowie PLC

Mercy Health

MMS Education

Mike & Sally Murdock

Owen-Ames-Kimball Co.

P.L. Capital

Pioneer Construction

Red Glasses Movement

Rockford Construction

Sharpe

Warner Norcross + Judd LLP

Geoff & LeeAnne Widlak

Around the World

James & Shirley Balk

Jerry & Suzanne Callahan

Brian DeVries & Barbara Pugh

Caledonia Dental Group

Greenridge Realty, Inc.

Huizenga Group

John Hancock Financial Services

Lake Michigan Credit Union

Leigh’s

The Meijer Foundation

Mike & Rachel Mraz

Lee & Alexandra Perez

Lisa M. Rose & Dr. Ken Hoffman

West Michigan Woman

This list includes sponsors of 2021 signature events.

Design & Discovery

Alpine Events

Autocam Medical

Franco & Alessandra Bianchi

Bluewater Technologies

Robert & Sandra Borsos

The Brooks Family

Byrne Electrical Specialists

Cascade Engineering

Cauley Ferrari of Detroit

Cottage Home

The Currie Foundation

Randy Damstra & Julie Duisterhof

David & Carol Van Andel Family

Foundation

Dominique & Julie DeNooyer

Dunn & Laug Wealth

Mike & Barb Ellis

Ernst & Young

EV Construction

Geerlings Development

Company/Midwest Construction

Group

Jeff & Ann Harten

Matt & Jen Haworth

Heidi Huizenga

The Hilldore Group — Baird

Holland Hospital

Inontime

James Group

Jeffery Roberts Design

Kyle Geenen Group

Al & Linda Lanning

Management at Morgan Stanley

Michigan Homes & Cottages

Mike Schaap Builders, Inc.

Paul & Anne Nemschoff

Nicolai North America

Padnos

Priority Health

Progressive AE

Rowerdink Inc.

Marc & Jeanne Schupan

SeyferthPR

SIBSCO

24 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE

Spectrum Health

Craig & Wendy Spoelhof

John & Judy Spoelhof

Scott & Jan Spoelhof

Kathleen Stewart Ponitz

Kenneth & Nancy Teutsch

Visbeen Architects Inc.

Warner Norcross + Judd LLP

West Michigan Woman

Woodways International

YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids

VAI Golf Outing

Applied Imaging

Bluewater Technologies

Bouma Corporation

Consumers Credit Union

Cornerstone University

Custer Inc.

Erhardt Construction

First National Bank

Gallagher Insurance

Grand Rapids Christian Schools

Ben & Molly Hunting

Loomis, Sayles & Company, L.P.

Macatawa Bank

Merrill Lynch — Veldheer, Long,

Mackay & Bernecker Group

Metro Health — University of

Michigan Health

Midwest Capital Advisors

Northern Jet Management

Owen-Ames-Kimball Co.

Pine Rest

Priority Health

John & Therese Rowerdink

Secrest Wardle

Sharpe

Standard Lumber

Thomas & Mary Stuit

Summit Point Roofing

US Signal

Brian & Lori Vander Baan

Dave & Beth VanPortfliet

Wells Fargo

West Michigan Woman

Couture for a Cure

Amway

Andy J. Egan Company

Bluewater Technologies

Chuck & Christine Boelkins

Cheeky Strut

Consumers Credit Union

Mimi Cummings

CWD Real Estate Investment

David & Carol Van Andel Family

Foundation

Deloitte

Brian DeVries & Barbara Pugh

Eileen DeVries Family Foundation

Eurest

First National Bank of Michigan

Gallagher

Jana Hall

Paul & Sheryl Haverkate

J.C. & Tammy Huizenga

Bill & Starr Humphries

Jandernoa Foundation

Jeffery Roberts Design

Dr. Peter & Veronica Jones

Kool Auto Group

Lake Michigan Credit Union

McAlvey Merchant & Associates

Priority Health

Rockford Construction

The Steve & Amy Van Andel

Foundation

West Michigan Woman

Greg & Meg Willit

Zip Xpress, Inc.

Hope on the Hill Gala

Advantage Commercial Real

Estate

Al & Robin Koop Foundation

Amway

Aon

Aquinas College

AssurancePlus

Autocam Medical

John & Ginny Baysore

Jeff & Meg Bennett

Betz Industries


BHS Insurance

Dave & Jill Bielema

Bluewater Technologies

Chuck & Christine Boelkins

Buist Electric

Jerry & Suzanne Callahan

Cancer & Hematology Centers of

Western Michigan, P.C.

Consumers Credit Union

Ryan & Jessica Cook

Crowe LLP

Tom & Tracy Curran

Custer Inc.

Czech Asset Management

Davenport University

David & Carol Van Andel Family

Foundation

Deloitte

Dick & Betsy DeVos Family

Foundation

The Douglas & Maria DeVos

Foundation

Eenhoorn

Pete & LeAnn Engles

Fifth Third Private Bank

Gallagher Insurance

Grand Valley State University

Martin & Peggy Greydanus

Jana Hall

Kurt & Madelon Hassberger

Hope College

Howard Miller

Huizenga Group

ICN Foundation

Jandernoa Foundation

Matt & Sarah Jones

Dr. Peter & Veronica Jones

Craig & Debra Kinney

Blake & Mary Krueger

John & Katie Kuiper

Lake Michigan Credit Union

Ray & Jeannine Lanning

Gary & Vicky Ludema

Macatawa Bank

McAlvey Merchant & Associates

Meijer

The Meijer Foundation

Merrill Lynch — The Veldheer,

Long, Mackay & Bernecker

Group

Michigan State University College

of Human Medicine

Bill & Pat Mills

New Holland Brewing Co.

Northern Jet Management

NPF Investment Advisors

Owen-Ames-Kimball Co.

Pageworks

Peter C. & Emajean Cook

Foundation

The Peter F. Secchia Family

Pioneer Construction

Pitsch Companies

Plastic Surgery Associates/Grand

Pearl Spa

Priority Health

Quality Air Service

Rockford Construction

Eve Rogus & Paul Becker

Rowerdink Inc.

Tony & Dawn Semple

Sharpe

Spectrum Health

David & Linda Spencer

Rob & Susan Stafford

Steelcase Inc.

Stephen Klotz Family Foundation

The Steve & Amy Van Andel

Foundation

Taconic

Thomas S. Fox Family

Truscott Rossman

University of Michigan Health

West

Mike & Michelle Van Dyke

Dan & Ann Van Eerden

Christian & Kara VerMeulen

Russ & Chris Visner

Warner Norcross + Judd LLP

Wells Fargo

West Michigan Woman

Williams Kitchen & Bath

Wolverine Worldwide

Jim & Jane Zwiers

A Conversation About Pancreatic

Cancer — Hosted by

Carol Van Andel

Autocam Medical

Bluewater Technologies

Gallagher Insurance

Howard Miller

Leigh’s

West Michigan Woman

Dr. Bart & Wendy Williams

Gaming for Hope

Bluewater Technologies

Element Four

Herman Miller

Mercantile Bank of Michigan

NVINT

Service Express

Varnum

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 25


VAI PURPLE COMMUNITY

VAI Purple Community

partners put in the time,

effort and talent

As one of Van Andel Institute’s core values, collaboration plays a central role in all

work done at the Institute.

Whether it’s the latest research breakthroughs in cancer and Parkinson’s,

educational innovations for K–12 and graduate students, or well-crafted plans for

signature events, we know the meaning of working together for something bigger

than us.

Our incredible community partners hold collaboration in high esteem, too. They

work directly with the grassroots fundraising program VAI Purple Community to

put their time, effort and connections to use in supporting VAI’s work. In 2021, VAI

Purple Community programs raised more than $380,000, which — like all funds

raised through VAI community and signature events — goes directly to the research

and education programs at VAI.

Here are just a few highlights from last year’s VAI Purple Community events:

• West Ottawa Public Schools put on fundraisers all year long in support of VAI.

In a typical year, each West Ottawa sports team holds a Purple Game, with the

proceeds going directly to VAI’s work. While 2021 was certainly not a normal year,

the girls’ soccer team was able to hold their Purple Game at the end of the 2020–21

school year. The players wore specially made jerseys featuring the names of people

dear to them who have been affected by cancer, Parkinson’s or another disease — a

tangible reminder of why we do the work we do here at the Institute.

• Otsego Public Schools hold a huge football game in support of VAI every other

year, thanks in large part to Holly McCaw, Otsego’s director of communications and

a 2020 recipient of the Carol Van Andel Angel of Excellence Award. In 2021, they had

to postpone their VAI Purple Community event to the spring, which required some

creativity. Out of that came the first-ever VAI Purple Community Otsego 5K, featuring

purple shirts, purple dust throws at race checkpoints and more. Organizers hosted

games throughout the week leading up to the race, and a carnival closed out

race day.

• Duncan Lake Middle School has partnered with VAI for many years for its

annual cancer walk. In 2021, the walk was held outside in the spring. Attendees

could donate to dunk a teacher, participate in a silent auction online, or purchase a

variety of popsicles, ice cream and other cool treats, with all funds going directly to

cancer research at the Institute.

To learn more about VAI Purple Community and how to start your own event, visit

purplecommunity.org.

(STARTING AT TOP, GOING DOWN) RUNNERS RACE

ACROSS THE FINISH LINE AT VAI PURPLE COMMUNITY

OTSEGO 5K; WHEN NOT RACING, ATTENDEES COULD TRY

TO DUNK A TEACHER; A GOLF CART DECKED OUT FOR

THE OCCASION; RUNNERS WERE COVERED IN PURPLE

POWDER AT RACE CHECKPOINTS

26 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


(STARTING AT TOP LEFT,

GOING CLOCKWISE) WALKERS

DECKED OUT IN PHOTO PROPS

BEFORE THE RACE; ATTENDEE

SHIRTS FEATURED NAMES OF

LOVED ONES HONORED IN

THE WALK; WALKERS TAKE A

BREAK TO HAVE FUN HULA

HOOPING; A GROUP OF

WALKERS MOVES AROUND

THE TRACK; AN ATTENDEE

SHARING WHAT THE CANCER

WALK MEANS TO HER;

WALKERS PARTICIPATING IN

FUN AND GAMES WHEN NOT

ON THE TRACK

(STARTING AT FAR LEFT, GOING

CLOCKWISE) SPECTATORS

CHEER ON THE ATHLETES;

ATTENDEES SHOWING OFF

THEIR VAI PURPLE COMMUNITY

SWAG IN THE STANDS; A WEST

OTTAWA PLAYER LAUNCHES

THE BALL DOWN THE FIELD;

WEST OTTAWA GIRLS’ SOCCER

TEAM CELEBRATING THEIR

SUCCESSFUL FUNDRAISING

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 27


VAI PURPLE COMMUNITY

VAI Marathon Team runners back

in action at four global marathons

With marathons around the world

canceled, postponed or downsized in

2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19

pandemic, Van Andel Institute Marathon

Team runners also found themselves in

a holding pattern. They were ready and

excited to run a world-class marathon and

raise funds in support of VAI’s research and

education efforts, but many had to wait to

put all that energy to good use.

After two years of waiting and a smallerthan-usual

number of runners in the 2021

races — the number of runners allowed in

each race was capped as part of health and

safety precautions — the VAI Marathon

Team is coming back strong in 2022, with

a limited number of complimentary entries

to four races for runners fundraising on

behalf of the Institute:

• BMW Berlin Marathon: Sept. 25

• TCS London Marathon: Oct. 2

• Bank of America Chicago Marathon: Oct. 9

• TCS New York City Marathon: Nov. 6

Each year, dedicated runners train for

these world-renowned races while raising

funds for the Institute. They have each

been touched by the diseases studied by

VAI scientists (including cancer, Parkinson’s,

and Alzheimer’s and related dementias),

whether through a loved one’s diagnosis or

even their own. Each of them understands

the incredible value of the Institute’s K–12

and graduate education programs that are

training the next generation of scientific

leaders. And each of them wants to do their

part to make sure our efforts can continue

to improve health and enhance lives for

years to come.

“Running a marathon is tough, and training

for a marathon is grueling,” said former VAI

Marathon Team member McKenzie Hollern

Southerington. “But I ran for VAI because

I knew I’d be helping bring hope to people

who are fighting something much more

difficult.”

Did you know?

In 2021, six athletes ran the

New York City Marathon and

11 ran the Chicago Marathon.

Comparatively, in 2019 — the

last year these races were held

prior to COVID-19 pandemic

restrictions — nearly 40 athletes

ran these two marathons on

behalf of VAI. We look forward to

being back at it in full force for

both races (and more) this year!

Entries for the 2022 Berlin Marathon are sold out. To

learn more about the VAI Marathon Team and how

to join, visit vai.org/marathon-team/.

28 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


VAI Student

Ambassador Program

making moves

Van Andel Institute’s Student

Ambassador Program serves as

a tangible reminder of the power

and passion exuded by the younger

generations. Twenty-eight students

came together virtually at the beginning

of the 2021–22 school year to form the

program’s third cohort. These bright,

driven students meet once a month

throughout the school year to connect

with Institute scientists, educators and

staff and learn how their efforts make a

concrete difference to VAI’s work. They

also meet with Institute staff to explore

topics such as crafting a communications

plan to support a fundraiser and how to

pursue support from business sponsors.

VAI Student Ambassadors combine

everything they learn in the program

to launch a fundraiser on behalf of the

Institute, with 100% of proceeds going

directly to our research and education

programs. They also receive exclusive

mentorship from the Institute’s heart and

soul: Carol Van Andel, executive director

of The David and Carol Van Andel Family

Foundation and wife of VAI Chairman and

CEO David Van Andel.

Our current Student Ambassadors are hard

at work on their culminating fundraiser —

a movie night at Celebration Cinema on

March 5 featuring the highly anticipated film

“The Batman,” with the goal of selling out

the 330-seat movie theater.

To learn more about the Student Ambassador

Program, or if you know someone who

may be interested in applying, visit

purplecommunity.org. Applications for the

2022–23 school year will open May 1, 2022.

Upcoming Volunteer

Opportunities

Grand Rapids Griffins Purple Community Game

(March 18)

Volunteer Coffee and Catch Up

(May 6 and Nov. 4)

VAI Volunteer Celebration

(Aug. 4)

Weekly Volunteer Team

(Wednesday mornings, 9–11 a.m.)

Volunteer with VAI

Van Andel Institute Purple Community

is our grassroots fundraising program,

bolstered by dedicated volunteers

supporting VAI’s mission to improve

health and enhance the lives of current

and future generations.

We have more than 50 active

volunteers who support a variety of

VAI events each year that raise critical

funds in support of the Institute’s

groundbreaking research into diseases

like cancer and Parkinson’s, as well as

our science education programs.

VAI Purple Community volunteers

support the Institute for a multitude

of reasons. Some have been

personally impacted by the diseases

our scientists study or have a friend

or family member who has been

affected. Others want to help foster

and encourage the next generation

of scientific minds, and Van Andel

Institute for Education and Van Andel

Institute Graduate School do just that!

With an average of nearly 40

community-led events per year, there

are plenty of ways to get involved with

VAI Purple Community, including:

• Organizing and hosting an event

• Volunteering at a VAI Purple

Community event

• Corporate partnerships

• Becoming a VAI Student Ambassador

To learn more about how you can get

involved, visit purplecommunity.org or

email purplecommunity@vai.org.

Please note: Volunteer opportunities,

especially for in-person events, are

subject to change based on health and

safety recommendations at the time of

the event.

(AT LEFT) 2019 BANK OF AMERICA CHICAGO MARATHON

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 29


PHILANTHROPY

Gifts in action:

Funding new

equipment to

peer into cells

Each gift to Van Andel Institute helps our scientists move another

step closer to improving health and enhancing lives, especially with

regard to diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s and related

dementias. When these contributions come together in support of VAI’s

work, their potential impact grows larger yet.

In 2021, VAI received an incredible gift from the estate of the late Gasper

“Gabe” Amodeo, a long-time supporter of our work who passed away in

February 2021. Amodeo was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the

years prior to his passing, and he had a specific interest in supporting

research into this insidious disease.

Paired with a substantial gift from Richard and Paula Nelson — two

dedicated supporters of VAI who have been personally touched by

Parkinson’s disease through Richard’s own diagnosis — these funds have

allowed VAI to purchase two ZEISS Axioscan 7 microscope slide scanners

to be housed in the Institute’s Optical Imaging Core. These instruments

will help facilitate the research of many VAI scientists and collaborators,

including those focused on understanding the underpinnings of

Parkinson’s in the hopes of guiding the creation of new treatments for

this disease and others like it. They are scheduled to be delivered and

installed in March 2022.

VAI currently has a single ZEISS Axio Scan.Z1 — a previous version of the

Axioscan 7 — that is utilized nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The newest iteration of this technology digitizes specimens to create highquality,

virtual microscope slides, and will be of great use to researchers

in the Department of Neurodegenerative Science and throughout the

Institute.

Whether through new equipment or the support of a new study, the

generosity of our donors powers research and education initiatives with

the potential to change lives. Pairing gifts together allows VAI to make the

biggest impact possible with donor funds.

Remembering VAI in your estate plans helps ensure the Institute

can continue its work to improve health and enhance lives for

generations to come. For more information on ways to give,

please contact Philanthropy Directors Kate Frillmann (kate.

frillmann@vai.org) or Steve Ozinga (steve.ozinga@vai.org).

30 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


(STARTING AT LEFT)

GASPER “GABE” AMODEO;

RICHARD & PAULA NELSON

High-tech equipment at the Institute —

including tools like the Leica microscope

(pictured here) and the ZEISS Axioscan 7

microscope slide scanners (funded in part by

donor support) — enables VAI scientists to

move their research further toward improving

health and enhancing lives.

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 31


PHILANTHROPY

MEMORIALS

We appreciate your trust in us to fight disease in memory or in honor of your family and friends — with hope for a healthier tomorrow.

To make a gift in memory or in honor of a loved one, please call 616.234.5392.

Dominic Amante

Scott & Audrey Olthof

Gasper J. Amodeo

Catherine Amodeo

Cindy Catalano

Joseph & Marianne DiLorenzo

The Grand Rapids Community

Foundation

Inglenook Condominium Association

Patrick Leikert

Daniel Veneklase

William E. Anderson

David & Ardith Robinson

Allan L. Arnoys

Joanne Arnoys

Philip H. Battershall

Martin & Susan Allen

John Barrows

Evie Bowers

Joan Buchanan

Gordon & Janice Bundy

Martha Chalmers

Diane Comfort

David & Judith Devlin

Marilyn Garter

Shane & Ann Hansen

Barnaby Jacob

Jeffrey Koeze

Madelaine Lane

Gordon Lewis

Rodney & Mimi Martin

William & Ruselle Petchauer

Frank & Lynette Spies

Star Truck Rentals, Inc.

Peter & Joan Steketee

Jan Michel & Elisa ter Kuile

David & Garnet Vanderleek

William & Pat Waanders

Warner

Thomas Wisnom

G. Thomas & Doris Worthington

Raymond C. Becker

James & Connie Becker

Robert & Jane Boonstra

Janice Buckley

Roger & Karen Grinwis

Lisa Locatis

Philip & Marcia Mejeur

Robert & Carolyn Walton

Elizabeth Belson

Lenora Lowe

Nicole L. Beuschel

Sue & James Baar

Ernest C. Bevins

David Bevins

George W. Blasen

Robert & Paula Hampson

Thomas & Pamela Palmer

Steven & Elizabeth

Scharphorn

Kathryn Thwaites

Dale J. Bordewyk

Shirley Bordewyk & family

Robert L. Bradford

Marvin & Ruth Bradford

Patsy Jo Brinkert

Kim Maurice

Tom Brownell

Tony Brownell

Peter G. Bylsma

Carol Bylsma

Michael Calvaruso

Jeffrey & Kelli Wynsma

Richard A. Cebelak

Mike & Sue Anderson

Teresa Casey

John & Nancy DeWildt

Krin & Kevin Dreuth

John & Mary Fix

Paul & Carolyn Grady

Pauline Jones

Kellie & Kent Koth

Ron & Kathy Mysliwiec

Frank Palczewski

Linda & Steven Parks

John & Patricia Peters

Marsha Potter

Richard H Brown Foundation

Norma J. Chapman

Norma Chapman

Roger Cook

Roger & Judy Abbott

Marilyn Cramer

Helen & Ronald Van Farowe

Lawrence DeSantis

Kenneth & Arlynn Beimers

Michelle Brainard & Julie O’Brien

Ben & Gwen DeSantis

Jon & Vicki Gardner

Robert & Katie Kluting

Ed & Susan Labanowski

Christine & John Ritzenhein

Kyle Rogers & Jerry Rogers

Rodney Rothley & Mary Jensen

Dave & Kimberly Shelton

Darlene Snyder

Kathleen Sparkman

Anna Steinbrecher

Jennifer Stevens

Nate & Jeni Thomasma

Sandra & Steve Vander Molen

Todd Wawee

Robert C. DuHadway

Bill & Linda Peterson

Ron Dykstra

Christopher Chea

Melissa A. Eden

Keith & Carolyn Murphy

John S. Edison

Edith Vasu

Carla Fail

Andrew Hoeksema

Patsy R. Ferrell

Gretchen & Michael LaBell

Joyce A. Fortier

Jacqueline Kozal

William R. Foster

John Marshall

Susan Freyer

Jonathan & Julie Freyer

Gerald Goeldel

Kim Maurice

Betty & Richard Goodenough

Frieda Jaynes

Marjorie R. Haan

Jacqueline Kozal

Carol A. Haarman

Stephen Haarman

James F. Hass

Richard Hillman & Barbara

Burby Hillman

Olivia Haverkamp

Derek Jacobsen

Billie M. Janer

Andrew & Courtney Kolanowski

32 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


Gisela Kah

Greg Northrup & Birgit Klohs

Mark L. Kastner

Brenda Kastner

Nathanael Kastner

John R. Kendall

Carole DuHadway

Min Ja Kim

Dr. Chung Yul Kim

Leah E. Koldenhoven

David & Carol Van Andel

Family Foundation

James M. Kozal

Jacqueline Kozal

Steven Kruithoff

Edward & Karen Bezilla

Joann Lehman

Bernie Lehman

MaryKay Lehman

Laura Miersen

Gertrude A. Lofgren

Kim Maurice

Michelle Marie Lunn

Michelle Lunn Hope Foundation

Donald W. Maine

Kenneth & Jill Peirce

William R. McCallister

Kathryn & Richard Hansen

Robert H. McDowell

Richard Hillman & Barbara

Burby Hillman

Sandra McNeil

Joyce Snow

Eleanor Medendorp

Mark & Mary Fletcher

Jack & Marcy Medendorp

Randall L. Meredith

Donna & Ervin Miller

Mary H. Milidonis

Mike Everett

Richard L. Miller

Paul & Mary Jane Jackman

Micheline Jura

Caroline Stacy

Claudette Wandt

Barb & Gary Woodhull

Verne Miller

Jacqueline Kozal

Betty Ann Morin

J. Brooks

Jane Nichols

John Nichols

Robert D. Oberto

Carole DuHadway

Gregory D. Olson

J. Brooks

Angela N. Pasteur

David & Carol Van Andel

Family Foundation

Patty Peck

Theresa Kettlewell

Thomas M. Peck

Susan Van Dellen

Denise Picardat

Brian Picardat

Valerie J. Poppema

Mike & Lieschen Jacobs

Cindy Keson

Richard L. Pullen

Ruth Kemp

Neda L. Raterink

Gary Raterink

Rosie Ridder

Dawn & Shawn Walton

Harvey Ringerwole

Timothy Sanders

Nicole A. Robach

West Michigan Tag & Label, Inc.

Ellen K. Roberts

Florence Benson

Gerald & Betty Hecht

Eileen McKenna

James Kilduff & Shannon

Neumann Kilduff

Mel & Mary Pasch

Robert & Judy Plumer

Lucy Roberts

Douglas & Tina Rudd

Austin & Miriam Zimmerman

Daniel T. Robinson

Anonymous

Richard D. Roetman

David & Sallie Brinks

Ken A. Ross

Margaret Fondren

David L. Rossi

Anne Rossi

Fred R. Rozema

James & Jeri Kett

Roger & Susan Levering

The Rozema Family Fund

James R. Schenden

Pamela Allen

Donald & Marilyn Cory

James & Becki Hansen

Randy & Linda Lincoln

Luce Plumbing, LLC

Joanne Schenden

Kirk & Cindy Warner

James R. Schmalz

Leslie Schmalz

Teri Sivertson

Martha Elias

Robyn R. Sorrell

Kim Maurice

Heather Sturr

Eric Sturr

Randall S. Sullivan

Ryan Bassett

Mark Bryan & Juan Carlos

Carretero

Larry & Edith Young

Susan L. Suwyn

Dale & Susan Prins

Morris W. Symon

Rick & Willow Chapla

Marilyn Van Portfliet

David & Carol Van Andel

Family Foundation

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 33


PHILANTHROPY

MEMORIALS (continued)

Dr. George F. Vande Woude

David & Susan Birdsall

David & Carol Van Andel

Family Foundation

James & Gail Fahner

David Garfinkel & Janet

Westpheling & John Hibbard

Dr. Anthony Hunter

Emily Knowles Kellett

Eun Mi Koo

Michigan State University

College of Human Medicine

Michael & Pamela Murray

Ann Schoen

Bill VanDenBerge

Connor & Mallory Millar

Steven R. VandenBrink

Kim Maurice

Elizabeth F. VanderJagt

Grandville Bible Church

Lake Michigan Dental

Lois Mol

Casey Tjalsma

Steven Vanderjagt

William J. VanRegenmorter

William & Rosemary Stevenson

Katherine A. Veldink

Kim Maurice

Nina C. Veneklase

Catherine Amodeo

Rebecca M. Vogelsang

Stephen & Jennifer Czech

Katelyn M. Wallace

Walter & Nina Gorak

Maryrita Weiss

Thomas & Susan Swaney

Eric Westra

Hilary Hoekwater

David Wiersema

Kilwins

Carol L. Winton

Dave & Jody Lockwood

Nicole A. Wyble

Joseph & Sara Robach

Dan Young

Joseph & Kelley Young

William R. Zoller

Mark Miller

Maria Van Til

Bill Zollverein

Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner

& Smith Inc.

Charles Zwiers

David & Carol Van Andel

Family Foundation

TRIBUTES

Darrin Batdorff

Grandville Middle School

Raymond Becker

Priscilla Becker

Liz Sadlowski Burns

Jonathan & Beth Mast

Rachel Ducat

Michelle & Brian Retzler

Pauline Flaga

Cathy & Mike Flaga

Lee W. Formwalt

Sanders Foundation

Tom Halstead

Eugene & Barbara Gutting

David H. Kammeraad

Richard Spruit & Marisa Fahnenstiel

Sandy Kelly

Lesley Goebel

Matthew Kirkwood

Kristen Mahoney

Belinda Klein

Cassandra & Brandon Zeivel

Kathleen P. Maine

Kenneth & Jill Peirce

David M. Munn

Ann & Herbert Alvarado

Olivia Nino

Esperanza Watt

Kenneth & Jill Peirce

M. Rodrick & Kathleen Bolhous

Ronald K. Rutkowski

Nancy & Leonard Fouty

Steve Sanxter

Meghan Sanxter

Ruth Secor

Steve Secor

Nikki Stevenson Serrano

Toni Sadlowski

Louie Stein

Carolyn Stein

Todd Stevens

Kathleen Teunis

David & Carol Van Andel

Mike & Lynette Ellis

James & Gail Fahner

Judy VanEk

Beth Andringa

Char Veenstra

Karen & Brian Meidema

Richard Vokes

Carolyn Stein

Dona Whitehouse

Greg Northrup & Birgit Klohs

Karen Zylstra

Grandville Middle School

Graham Hoekstra

Sara & Scott Pedersen

Ashley K. Owen

Sheldon & Emma Weiss

Brian Toronyi

Susan Toronyi

These lists represent gifts made between Jan. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2021. The accuracy of these lists is very important to us. Please contact 616.234.5392 if an error has been made.

34 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE


VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 35


Van Andel Institute

represents a family

legacy. Founded by

Join the Jay and Betty Van Andel

Circle of Hope

A significant and growing number of individuals and households have

remembered VAI in their estate plans. These planned giving intentions

will greatly benefit the Institute’s research into diseases like cancer,

Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s and related dementias, as well as our work

to educate the next generation of scientific leaders and foster curiosity,

creativity and critical thinking in K–12 classrooms.

Jay and Betty

Van Andel, that

VAI honors those who have included the Institute in their estate plans

through the Jay and Betty Van Andel Circle of Hope. When you notify

us of your intentions, you are invited to become a member. More

information about the benefits of membership can be found at

vai.org/plannedgiving.

legacy is now

carried forward by

Chairman and CEO

David Van Andel

and his wife, Carol.

We welcome a conversation about estate giving that

makes the most sense for you while also supporting

the mission of VAI. Additional information about

estate giving can be found at vai.giftlegacy.com.

Please contact:

Kate Frillmann, Philanthropy Director

616.234.5515

Kate.Frillmann@vai.org

Steve Ozinga, Philanthropy Director

616.234.5040

Steve.Ozinga@vai.org

JAY VAN ANDEL

BETTY VAN ANDEL

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