From all of us at the WMU Advancement Office, we hope that you and your loved ones had a happy Thanksgiving! Whether celebrating in-person or from a distance, we hope your day was filled with an abundance of gratitude.
In keeping with that spirit, we are excited share our gratitude for the legacy of a very special member of the Brown & Gold family. We are proud to announce that during the National Day of Philanthropy on Nov. 19, our very own John Everts was honored as the recipient of the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser Award by the West Michigan Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. This annual award is given to an outstanding volunteer fundraiser who demonstrates skill in coordinating and motivating groups of donors and volunteers for fundraising projects for the benefit of charitable institutions. A recording of the live-streamed award ceremony, which highlighted the stewardship of philanthropic leaders throughout Southwest Michigan, can be viewed here.
For more than fifty years, Mr. Everts has supported Bronco Athletics as a volunteer caller for the Mike Gary Athletic Fund (Gary Fund). The mission of the Gary Fund is to support the student-athletes of Western Michigan University in their pursuit of championships, academic excellence and personal growth as representatives of WMU, its alumni, fans, and community members. Each spring, the dedicated volunteers of the Bronco Athletics fundraising drive make over 2,000 phone calls to raise support for all 15 Bronco athletic programs. Thanks to the countless phone calls he has made as a volunteer fundraiser, Mr. Everts has played an instrumental role in ensuring that the fund’s mission is achieved each year. His commitment has also earned him an affectionate title as the ‘Godfather of the Gary Fund.’
“It’s a pleasure to successfully help an organization complete it’s mission,” said Mr. Everts. “The motivation and the satisfaction of seeing the younger people come in and take over, who follow in my footsteps, is a great part of the satisfaction.”
As Mr. Everts’ legacy has grown, his commitment to the Gary Fund has become a family affair. As Jared Willis, Associate Director for the Mike Gary Athletic Fund writes, “Mr. Everts is truly a pillar of strength, and his passion for Bronco Athletics has led his son (Jim) and grandson (Peter) to become Gary Fund callers as well.”
Below you will find a letter from Peter Everts, expressing gratitude for his grandfather and tales of his impact on the Kalamazoo community:
“When thinking about John Everts, my Grandfather, many incredible thoughts and memories come to mind. To begin, it has been such a privilege to have a grandfather, let alone an honor to call this one ‘mine.’ Even before I was born, John was building a foundation and reputation that the Everts family is honored to be a part of every day. My grandpa has been a patron of countless causes throughout his 90+ years in Kalamazoo. From the United States Army to Kalamazoo AMBUCS, he has not only been an advocate, but has impacted all whom he has helped as well as those he befriended. For me, I have and always will look up to my Grandpa. He has always made faith and family a priority, making sure that even family abroad knew when they were loved. He knew the strength and prosperity of his family would propel their success for generations to come. Having a stable home and a solid foundation affords you the ability to explore ways of returning the favor and supporting the community that surrounds you.
John began his work life at a young age, (as many people did back when Portage was a farm town) by picking ‘weeds’ at a celery farm, only later on his first day to find that he had picked mostly baby celery plants. He quickly found his way to a pansy farm, where we worked for several years until he was offered a job as a bank teller at American National. From there his work ethic quickly gained recognition and respect from his superiors. It did not take long at all before he found himself in one of those positions, as Senior Vice President of Business Lending and Community Relations for American National (later Old Kent, now Fifth Third). Working at the bank allowed John to get to know many people within the community. Many of those customers he worked with from the community went on to build well-known businesses that most Kalamazoo residents would recognize today.
In conclusion, not only has he dedicated his life to serving others and being a pillar of the community, he spends the remainder of his spare time showing love to his family. He has and always will be the motivation for my family’s continued growth, altruism, and philanthropy.”
Indeed, we are tremendously grateful that Mr. Everts and his family remain shining members of our Bronco community. On a day like this, we are reminded of how every contribution from our donors and volunteers makes a direct impact on the success of the WMU family. Thanks to your compassionate support, our students, staff and faculty have the opportunity to strive towards achieving new heights in their academic and professional pursuits. Whether on the field, in the classroom, or throughout the community, your generosity helps the Brown & Gold world keep spinning.
Congratulations Mr. Everts, and Go Broncos!