In 2003, Ken ’85 and Kathy Kemper ’84 were happily serving as missionaries in Tanzania, Africa.
“We viewed mission work as our life’s calling. It was very fulfilling,” President Kemper says. “We raised our kids in Africa, and my youngest daughter is still in Africa working as a missionary.”
But then a new mission appeared on the western horizon: Grace Christian University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. On February 1, 2023, Grace celebrated President Kemper’s 20th year of service, making him the longest-serving current college president in West Michigan. Only two other Michigan colleges boast longer-serving current presidents.
Kemper was not new to Grace—both Ken and Kathy graduated from then Grace Bible College—and Kemper’s father, Bruce Kemper, served as president just prior to Ken taking the helm. As a student, Ken was a standout basketball player for the Grace Christian University Tigers and was inducted into the Tigers’ Hall of Fame in 2010.
Initially, Kemper was only helping Grace find potential candidates to succeed his father.
“To my surprise, I was told that I was on their ‘short list’ of candidates. It wasn’t something we were considering–I was a missionary, not an educator,” Kemper says. “When the offer came, we prayerfully considered it and felt that the Lord was asking us to make Grace our next mission.”
Under his tenure, Grace Bible College grew from 145 students to more than 1,000 students on campus and online, added graduate studies, became Grace Christian University, and in 2022, opened the Grace Townhomes residence hall.
“Ken has taught, trained, and equipped courageous ambassadors for Christ,” Board Chairperson Gretchen Johnson ’01 says. “Because of Ken’s leadership and vision, our graduates are equipped to serve the needs of church and society.”
“One of the things I’m proudest of is the dynamic and high-functioning Board of Directors here at Grace,” President Kemper says. “We’ve built an active, vibrant culture. The Board knows and understands our mission to change the world through higher education.”
Grace Christian University has been a part of the Wyoming, Michigan community since the early 1960s. Mayor Ken Vanderwood says the city celebrates this anniversary, too.
“We’re so thankful for the partnership President Kemper encourages with the City of Wyoming, its staff, and residents. The city wishes him a happy anniversary and looks forward to continuing our partnership for years to come.”
President Kemper plans on continuing this mission.
“Our goal at Grace Christian is commitment to preparing the leaders of tomorrow to be courageous ambassadors for Christ…educationally, socially, physically, and spiritually in their life and work endeavors post-college. I’m excited to carry on this important work.”
Photography by Darrell Goemaat