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Resident Blog: Grace Koopmans

Grace Koopmans has held many titles. Educator, program director, volunteer, community leader, mother, and wife to name a few.

During the recent 2018 commencement ceremony at Pierce College, Mrs. Koopmans added honorary college degree recipient, becoming only the second person in the college’s more than 50-year history to receive an honorary degree.

The honor is reserved for those who have demonstrated the highest level of educational and humanitarian service, servant leadership, personal and professional accomplishments and entrepreneurial leadership.

Mrs. Koopmans, 98, founded the college’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program in 1969, building the entire program from the ground up.

“I was able to implement all of my ideas into this program from the beginning,” she said. “Very few educators have that opportunity so it was all very exciting.”

Nearly 50 years later, the program continues to teach the foundational ideas established by Mrs. Koopmans: an education focused on comprehensive and compassionate training on the physical, emotional, intellectual and social needs of children.

“By far the most rewarding part for me is the wonderful phone calls I still receive from parents and students,” Koopmans said. “It was hard work but very rewarding.”

Mrs. Koopmans has carried this hard-working spirit throughout her personal and professional life. A founding member of the Emerald Heights community,
Mrs. Koopmans and her husband were among the first residents to call Emerald Heights their new home.

For more than 20 years, Mrs. Koopmans and her husband invited every new resident into their home for a warm welcome. They have organized more than 20 group trips to Europe and the Panama Canal.

“I always advise people of the social benefits of moving to a retirement community,” she said. “My husband and I moved into our home in our 70’s which is considered young, but we have been able to travel and meet wonderful people all in the comfort of this community.”

To Mrs. Koopmans, the foundation for a happy life is family and friends. She spent her life involved on community boards, traveling across the world learning teaching techniques and helping to create a better future for educators to come.

During her commencement address to the Pierce College graduating class,
Mrs. Koopmans encouraged young professionals to gain a mentor and seize every opportunity presented to them.

“I would always tell my students: take advantage of every opportunity you have and use them to create your own,” Koopmans said. “If you don’t take action now and wait, nothing will have changed except your age.”  Wise words to live by!

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