Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D.

Distinguished Scholar in Residence for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (2018–2021)

The principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion form the bedrock of thriving communities and must be integral to the everyday practice of philanthropy. Together with businesses, governments, and communities, we are building a more just and hopeful future.” – Juan Olivarez

Dr. Olivarez fulfilled a three-year appointment as Distinguished Scholar in Residence for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy from July 2018 through June 2021.


Throughout his career, Juan Olivarez has been a passionate champion for equity and inclusion. He was the first Hispanic president of any college or university in the state of Michigan, serving as the eighth president of Grand Rapids Community College from 1999 to 2008. During his time there, he launched the Community Learning Enterprise and helped to lead the Delta Strategy, a grassroots collaborative of Grand Rapids’ organizations that sought to build a coherent and inclusive narrative for social good in West Michigan.

Dr. Olivarez later became president of Aquinas College, his alma mater, from 2011 to 2017. Between these two presidencies, he served as president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation (2008–2011), where the educational needs of the community were a top priority.

Related Articles
Tue February 2
Donors and institutions are wrestling with the roots of our collective inheritance: much of philanthropy’s corpus has its history in exploitative acts. Here, we explore some steps funders can take — and are already taking — to rebalance the scales.
Tue August 11
Dr. Olivarez reflects on the challenges facing our communities and our country, and calls for hope, optimism, and action.
Tue May 26
Although organizations and communities have been investing in inclusive growth efforts for years, Juan Olivarez describes in this article how these efforts are increasingly coming in to focus.