A family's love for MSU
Most of the early memories of Charles Stoddard (’67, Arts and Letters/ Honors College) occurred in and around the MSU campus. As a child he played in the basement of Cowles House alongside the children of legendary MSU President John Hannah. His father, Howard Stoddard, founded Michigan National Bank—the corporate sponsor of the radio broadcasts of MSU athletic events, among other initiatives. Living just blocks from campus, the family were active Spartan sports fans and took part in the rich cultural life as MSU grew into being a university. Both his father and his mother, Jennie, received honorary alumni awards.
Loyal friends of MSU
They also became loyal and steadfast friends of MSU, helping to secure corporate gifts and financing support for MSU’s growth but also contributing their own time and talents as well as financial gifts. This is a legacy being actively carried on by the family today. Oddly, Charles was the only one of their four children to become an official Spartan. As a boarding student at Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, he learned that Jan Ordway (’67, Arts and Letters), the girl who was destined to be the love of his life, was going to Michigan State. It helped motivate him to secure admission on a probationary basis, before he had fully graduated from Cranbrook. “Going to MSU was a big risk, but I felt I was ready,” Charles says. Indeed. Charles graduated with high honors and also proved himself as a leader, serving as a board member of the Associated Students of MSU and as a member of Excalibur Honorary Society. As senior class president, it was his decision to ask John Hannah to speak at commencement. He counts the experience of introducing Hannah to 25,000 people in Spartan Stadium as one of the greatest honors of his life.
Married in ’67
Charles and Jan married two weeks after graduation in June 1967, and headed to Boston where Charles earned an MBA from Harvard. He would go on to serve for 33 years in the banking industry. He and Jan, who majored and worked in art, also raised four children. The Stoddards, who currently reside in Hickory Corners, Michigan, say they think of themselves as conservative, yet they started three business enterprises, including founding the Grand Rapids based Grand Bank and Grand Angels, a venture capital organization devoted to helping entrepreneurs in West Michigan. Additionally, after recognizing one of their children had the learning disorder dyslexia, Charles and Jan helped found Lake Michigan Academy, a school for students with learning disabilities in Grand Rapids. “All the experiences we gained at MSU gave us the comfort level to take these risks,” Jan says. “There was a clear need,” explains Charles of each of their enterprises. “Sometimes even though you don’t feel that you are a risk taker, when you see a need you respond to it.” Faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Charles and Jan also have been active in the church including as mission president for three years in retirement. They are particularly proud that the Stoddard name is present in the LDS Student Living Center, across from Hubbard Hall on Hagadorn Road. It is a gathering place founded and funded by Howard Stoddard for students of MSU, Lansing Community College and Cooley Law School. Following in his parents’ footsteps, Charles and Jan as well as Charles’s siblings have remembered MSU in many ways, including a recent gift to name a sculpture terrace at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. Charles and Jan are members of the Jonathan Snyder Society at MSU. “My family has a great love for Michigan State University, I am pleased to continue that legacy,” says Charles.