Davenport Commencement honors graduates and Mary Free Bed CEO

Davenport University will honor 1,300 graduates at its commencement ceremony on Sunday, April 28, 2024. The ceremony will be held at Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids. Kent Riddle, the president and CEO of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital will address graduates and their families and receive an honorary doctorate. 

Riddle is being recognized for his leadership in areas as diverse as construction and medicine. He graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering, which led him to a career in commercial and industrial real estate development, building design and global mergers and acquisitions. His career took a turn after his wife suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car crash in 2002 and recovered at Mary Free Bed. He joined the board of the hospital and then took over as CEO in 2011. 

“Kent Riddle’s story is moving and exemplifies his ability to lead wherever he is,” said Davenport University president Dr. Richard J. Pappas. “I know our graduates and their guests will be inspired during the ceremony by his experiences in the businesses of real estate development and healthcare. His entrepreneurial abilities are on display as Mary Free Bed expands its footprint with a new pediatric hospital and other partnerships in the Midwest. We’re so pleased he can join us and we can honor him.”

Riddle will receive an honorary doctorate in business degree for his successful and long-term leadership. 

“I’m so thankful for this wonderful honor, yet it really reflects on all the amazing people I’ve learned from and worked alongside over the years,” Riddle said. “It’s a tribute to the power of education and what we all learn from each other. During commencement, I hope we will celebrate and inspire each graduate to leverage their education and skills to continually make a positive impact on others.”

Riddle will be addressing graduates who range in age from 18 to 68. They come from 38 states and eight other countries, including Denmark, South Africa and Slovenia. More than 50 percent of Davenport students are the first in their families to attend college. 

“Davenport University is about access and opportunity to learn and find rewarding careers,” Pappas said. “This ceremony is the culmination of a great deal of hard work and determination by our graduates. We know that and celebrate right along with them and their families.”

Commencement will begin at 2 p.m. Main entrance doors will open at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are not required for graduates or their guests. 

Family members and friends can submit a tribute or congratulatory message to their graduate. The messages will be shown during commencement. The deadline to submit a message is April 22. More information for parents and guests can be found at: https://www.davenport.edu/commencement/guests


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