Longtime West Michigan philanthropist Esther Padnos dies

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Esther and Seymour Padnos. Courtesy Grand Valley State University

West Michigan is mourning the death of a longtime supporter of philanthropic causes in the region.

Esther Padnos died Dec. 19 at age 93, according to a Dec. 22 statement from Grand Valley State University.

Padnos was a committed supporter of education and the environment. She was preceded in death by her husband, Seymour K. Padnos.

The Padnos couple were longtime Grand Valley supporters whose generosity created a major impact on the university community and in West Michigan. Together, they played a key role in the development and expansion of Grand Valley’s sciences, mathematics and engineering programs, helping to boost the regional talent pipeline in these professions.

In 1996, to honor the couple’s commitment to creating an environment where students and faculty can reach their full potential in these fields, Grand Valley dedicated the Seymour and Esther Padnos Hall of Science on the Allendale Campus. Their generosity and leadership also were recognized with the naming of the Seymour and Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing.

“Esther’s loyal support for Grand Valley students for more than 30 years has changed the lives of thousands of students,” said GVSU President Philomena Mantella. “She will be remembered as a significant part of our history, with a legacy that will stretch far into the future. She will be missed.”

Esther Padnos was passionate about addressing the national shortage of nurses and its impact on health care in the region. In 2007, to help students overcome financial barriers to completing their degrees, she and her husband established the Esther R. Padnos Nursing Scholarship to support and inspire students in the accelerated nursing program.

“Esther’s gentle and compassionate nature, and her sincere interest in helping students and others in West Michigan, have marked her as one of the area’s philanthropic leaders. We will always remember her with gratitude,” said Arend D. Lubbers, president emeritus of GVSU.

Esther and Seymour Padnos received honorary doctorates of humane letters from Grand Valley in 1996.

In 2011, they received the Grand Steward award at the university’s annual Enrichment Dinner for their significant leadership, service and financial support of Grand Valley and its students.

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