Charles E. Stearn of the Harvard Class of 1891 is due the credit of starting the University Club of Grand Rapids. Others had previously mentioned the possibility of such a club, but it was he, with his characteristic enthusiasm, who saw that the idea became a reality. Others shared his vision, gladly assuming their part of the responsibility in the proposed enterprise.
The first informal meeting was held in January, 1923, at the home of Lemuel S. Hillman, with representatives from Harvard, Yale, Michigan, Princeton, Amherst and Colgate. The conference ended at a late hour, the Club still in the embryonic state.
Less than a month later, the Club was actually brought into existence on the evening of February 6th, 1923. A list of potential members was informally selected by those present, limited by vote to one hundred. Dues were set at $25.
Attractive and convenient quarters were established in the Pantlind Hotel with Clay H. Hollister serving as the first president.
In the brief period of six years, the Club grew from one hundred to two hundred and fifty members and in April 1931, moved to the top of the Michigan Trust Building. The Fifth Third Center (formerly Old Kent Bank building) became its present home in the Spring of 1966.
The University Club and the Grand Rapids Athletic Club, located in the basement of the Fifth Third Center, merged its membership in the fall of 1989. This transaction resulted in boosting Club membership to its current six hundred plus members.
The Press Club joined the University Club in January of 2004. Press Club members enjoy the same privileges as Social Members.
Besides developing a congenial atmosphere and a spirit of good fellowship, the Club has established itself as a truly successful organization. The University Club is a tribute to its founders and its current membership.