The theatre world and a few famous musicians brought us the line, “The show must go on!” And while it’s not necessarily the line’s intended meaning, this spirit may be used to describe the generosity of Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Metz Society member Lou VanderHave.
When donors become members of the Metz Society, they are in effect saying that it is important for this community, and the good work that happens here, to continue on for many years to come—with or without them, no matter what. It was with this gusto that Lou designated a gift in his estate plan to the Community Foundation that after his passing will establish the Lou VanderHave Theater Scholarship Fund.
For most of his life, Lou’s passion for theatre has driven his generosity, both in terms of volunteer time and financial support. The establishment of this scholarship will ensure the enrichment of future local actors and applause-worthy performances for generations to come.
“I manage final dress rehearsals at [Grand Rapids] Civic Theatre and I love seeing how a show comes together. If a show is done well I can see it multiple times—like Dreamgirls for instance, I saw it four times,” said Lou. “I’ve been on stage a few times for extra parts, but I prefer to be behind the scenes—ushering and working the door. It’s great to connect with all the people.”
Lou’s love affair with the visual arts started at a young age. He grew up in Grand Rapids and attended Union High School where his art teacher, Phil Hammer, inspired him to pursue a career in the arts. Hammer helped Lou land his first job designing window displays at Wurzburg Department Store in downtown Grand Rapids.
After high school, Lou earned a teaching degree from Grand Rapids Junior College, a master’s degree in media from Western Michigan University and a master’s degree in traffic safety from Michigan State University. He enjoyed a teaching career that spanned over three decades in Grand Rapids Public Schools. Over this time he taught art and driver’s education to thousands of students at South High School, Ottawa Hills High School and Creston High School. He still enjoys teaching students how to drive—logging eight hours a day on the road throughout the summer with students in Sparta.
Outside of the classroom, Lou has always volunteered for many arts and theatre organizations. Even now, after over a decade in retirement, Lou chairs a committee for Festival of the Arts, sits on the Board of Circle Theatre, ushers and is on the gala committee at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, serves on the selection committee for the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Combined Theatre Scholarship Fund, and the list goes on.
“I just can’t sit still. I can’t imagine not being active in the community” said Lou.
This trait made healing after bypass heart surgery a few years ago a real challenge. Luckily, the arts community returned Lou’s kindness and rallied around him. “While I was recuperating my friends from the theatres visited me and brought me hot meals. The theatre community truly is my extended family.
“It’s been exciting to see some of my students go on to achieve so much…It puts a smile on my face. And if I can do something to help a student get through college and pursue their dreams than I am happy to do so.”