By Jennifer Morrison (MI-Stories.com)
S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy
Vernis Schad grew up during the Great Depression, moving often as her father sought work. She attended Calvin College and married a man whose father owned a furniture company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Vernis volunteered for organizations that supported the Grand Rapids Public Schools her sons attended. She also became active for the cause of gender equity.
Schad was born to Peter and Edith VandenBosch in Iowa, on Nov. 8, 1925. Her family attended the Christian Reformed Church and Christian schools. Schad’s father had a variety of jobs during the Depression, and the family moved several times. She graduated from high school in California in 1943. After high school, she worked in a clerical position briefly and then returned to Michigan and attended Calvin College. In 1947, she married George Schad, Jr. whose father owned Nucraft Furniture Company. Vernis and George had two sons. The couple lived in Columbia for two years where George worked in a furniture factory. Afterward they settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Vernis earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Western Michigan University at the age of 49 in 1979.
While attending one of their son’s high school football games, Schad’s husband was invited to avoid the rain in the press box, but she was prohibited from joining him. She ultimately became a spokesperson for gender equality and became very active in supporting organizations that empower women in Grand Rapids. She promoted the Grand Rapids Public Schools on PTA and the board of education. And she worked to promote diversity in the schools and community.
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
When her children were in the Grand Rapids schools, Schad began volunteering there. She became president of the Parent-Teacher Association. She was the only woman in a group that lobbied successfully to have an area of North Park annexed to the city. This encouraged her to become politically active, and she spent twelve years, including four as president, on the Board of Education. She worked to make the schools more racially integrated and promoted gender equality for students and staff. She was co-founder of the Women’s Resource Center that assists women to develop economically self-sufficiency. She was also active with the local American Association of University Women, including serving as president. Especially interested in the AAUW’s Educational Equity Initiative, she gave a series of presentations on gender equity for adults and school children. She spearheaded a program to give gender equity training to Grand Rapids Public School teachers. She has also supported the United Way, the American Red Cross, the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council, the World Affairs Council, the Center for Environmental Study, and Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women.
Key Related Ideas
Surviving a childhood during the Great Depression, Schad eventually married and settled in Grand Rapids. She began to volunteer for the Grand Rapids Public Schools while her sons attended. She also became a spokesperson for gender equity and supported organizations that promoted women’s issues.
Important People Related to the Topic
- Helen Claytor: Claytor and Schad worked together on a committee studying segregation at the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Claytor became the first black woman president of both the Grand Rapids and the national YMCA.
Related Nonprofit Organizations
- The American Association of University Women of Michigan: With its 3,000 members in 43 branches, AAUWMI has been at the forefront of the debate over equity for women and a leader in its philanthropic giving to the Educational Foundation. http://www.aauwmi.org/
- The American Red Cross: The American Red Cross helps prepare communities for emergencies and keep people safe. http://www.redcross.org/
- Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women: Since its beginning in 1989, GROW provides business and economic training to women in transition. http://www.growbusiness.org/
- Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council: See www.ggrwhc.org for more information about efforts to research and recognize women in local history.
- Parent-Teacher Association: This national organization promotes parent participation in school. Most schools have a local PTA. The local PTA supports parents, teachers, and family events. http://www.pta.org/
- The mission of the Women’s Resource Center is to improve women’s workplace and economic opportunities. http://grwrc.org
- World Affairs Council: The World Affairs Council is a membership-based organization that creates forums for discussion of critical global issues. http://www.world-affairs.org/
Related Web Sites
- Grand Rapids Public Schools: Michigan’s third largest school district offers diverse options for families to ensure that all students are educated, self-directed and productive members of society. http://grpublicschools.org/grps1/
- Nucraft Furniture Company: Founded in 1944, Nucraft specializes in innovative office furniture design. http://www.nucraft.com/
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Bowman, Crystal. Amazing Women of West Michigan. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0802840226
Clipping file and oral history in the SOUL of Philanthropy collection in the Grand Rapids History and Special Collections of the Grand Rapids Public Library
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