World Affairs Council of Western Michigan appoints new Executive Director

Grand Rapids, Michigan, October 2, 2017 – Michael Van Denend is the new executive director of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan. He succeeds Dixie Anderson, who has held the post for 22 years and is retiring later this year after a lauded career of leadership that has seen the Council grow into a major community resource of global education—for businesses, educational institutions and the general community—through a wide range of successful and highly acclaimed programming.

Van Denend, who recently completed 33 years of work as executive director of the Calvin College Alumni Association, was chosen after a three-month selection process, and his selection was confirmed unanimously at a September 20, 2017 Council board of directors meeting. His first day at the Council is today, October 2, 2017.

"We are very excited that Michael chose to join us. He brings passion, experience and new perspectives. His work leading the Calvin Alumni Association has provided him with invaluable experience in reaching out to people of all ages, backgrounds and positions, which will help the Council to continue to build on the success we have experienced under Dixie Anderson’s extraordinary leadership," said Craig Meurlin, board president of the Council and a Warner, Norcross & Judd attorney.

Van Denend said the Council position was the first that caught his attention upon leaving Calvin.

"As an admirer of the Council’s long-standing role as a facilitator of global awareness and respectful dialogue, I'm delighted to join in its important mission and vibrant work," he said. "I'm eager to work with diligence and creativity to continue the Council's strategic efforts to bring dialogue about the world to west Michigan. I'm grateful for this opportunity."

He is also grateful for the legacy of retiring director Anderson, who in 2016 was honored with a distinguished service award by the national Foreign Policy Association.

"Dixie's record in directing the region’s attention to matters of global significance is praise-worthy," he said. "She has a sterling reputation among other World Affairs Councils around the country. She also served a term as Vice Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the national World Affairs Councils of America."

Anderson assumes the title of Executive Director Emeritus. She and Van Denend will work collaboratively this fall to ensure a seamless transition. The Council will host its 68th anniversary luncheon on Wednesday, November 1, featuring His Excellency Tommy Remengesau, Jr., the President of the Republic of Palau (an archipelago of numerous islands in the South Pacific) and an alumnus of Grand Valley State University. There is also a strong schedule of other globally-astute Council programming throughout the fall season.

An Oak Park, Ill., native, Van Denend graduated from Calvin College with a bachelor's degree in English and also has a master's degree in higher education administration from Michigan State University.

The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan was founded in 1949 as a non-partisan, non-advocacy educational non-profit whose mission is to promote community awareness and understanding of the world through education and discussion about international issues and events. Its event schedule may be found at The organization is an independent Council member of the World Affairs Councils of America and is one of 100 similar councils across the country.

For further information, visit or phone 616.776.1721.