Professor Gayle DeBruyn Inducted into West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum Hall of Fame

Posted November 7, 2016 in Faculty, Product Design, Furniture Design, Collaborative Deisgn

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) Associate Professor Gayle DeBruyn is among the three local sustainability leaders who were recently inducted into the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum (WMSBF) Hall of Fame.

Gayle DeBruyn (credit: Gayle DeBruyn)

At the WMSBF Triple Bottom Line Bash on Oct. 12, DeBruyn was honored for her powerful and lasting contributions to sustainability efforts in West Michigan. She and her fellow inductees were chosen by a committee of past WMSBF presidents and honorees.

“Gayle is a living example of the power of design thinking. She has brought her skill as a design practitioner to the topic of sustainability. What began with Gayle’s passion for green building practices has grown into a level of thought leadership that places her at the international table of dialogue and action,” said selection committee member Jennifer Wammack, a senior design associate at Ida Design. “She is most deserving to be inducted into the WMSBF Hall of Fame.”

Also on the selection committee was Tom Newhouse, owner and operator of Thomas J. Newhouse Design, who added, “For many years Gayle has shown a deep professional commitment to sustainability and sustainable design practices in West Michigan and globally. She also has the skill and passion to transfer her considerable triple bottom line knowledge to her students. She is very deserving of the WMSBF Hall of Fame recognition."

At KCAD, DeBruyn serves as Chair of both the KCAD Collaborative Design and Furniture Design programs as well as the college’s Sustainability Officer. She also teaches classes for the MBA Certificate in Design and Innovation Management program and is the faculty advisor to the KCAD Green Council student organization. Throughout her 25-year career at KCAD, DeBruyn has made it a priority to connect the college and its mission to local, national, and international organizations working toward a more sustainable future.

“From the moment she joined the KCAD faulty, Gayle has been a catalyst for action and positive impact in so many ways, not the least of which are her tireless efforts to ensure the college remains at the forefront of the sustainability conversation here in West Michigan and beyond,” said Interim Dean of the College Ron Riksen. “She is truly deserving of this honor, and we here at KCAD are proud to work alongside her.”

Under DeBruyn’s leadership, KCAD signed the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment, a nationwide initiative of higher education institutions to address global climate issues, and strengthened its engagement with the WMSBF and the Grand Rapids Community Sustainability Partnership, two local organizations working to nurture sustainable communities and promote sustainable practices. She also helped both KCAD and KCAD’s Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) participate in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Battle of the Buildings and 2030 Districts initiatives, both aimed at nurturing the development of energy efficient buildings and urban environments. 

DeBruyn has also been instrumental in the organization and implementation of Wege Prize, a global student design competition developed by KCAD with the support of The Wege Foundation that challenges teams of students to work across disciplines and use design thinking principles to create solutions to complex social, environmental, and economic challenges. The competition earned DeBruyn a Sustainability Champion Award from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in 2014.

Wege Prize Gayle DeBruynDeBruyn with members of Spakk+, the team of students from the Netherlands who won 1st place in Wege Prize 2016

On campus, DeBruyn guided students in her Sustainability and Design class on a project that asked them to explore different ways to provide streamlined recycling and composting services to the KCAD community. She also recently helped students in the Collaborative Design program contribute to a pop-up shop of upcycled, reclaimed, and redesigned goods originally donated to Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids through KCAD’s partnership with Goodwill for ArtPrize 2016.

During ArtPrize 2013, 2014, and 2015, she spearheaded collaborative efforts to create a pop-up park outside of KCAD’s Woodbridge N. Ferris building that allowed students and other visitors to the space to understand the value of urban green spaces by bridging conversations about the importance of community, food security, and alternative transportation to the design process.

Goodwill Pop-Up Shop(above): Pop-up shop during ArtPrize Eight; (below): DeBruyn and students constructing a pop-up park duing ArtPrize 2013. 

Spark Park 2013

Outside of KCAD, DeBruyn is a past president of the WMSBF and was a key player in helping Grand Rapids be named one of five United Nations Regional Centers for Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCEs), which resulted in the United Nations Conference of the Americas being held in Grand Rapids in 2015. KCAD Collaborative Design students helped design the conference, earning KCAD another Sustainability Champion award from GVSU in the process. She continues to work with local professionals, educators, and students to help the city engage with other RCEs throughout the world.

DeBruyn is also a LEED-accredited professional in building design and construction, and is the co-owner of Lake Affect Design Studio, which provides commercial, residential, and educational/institutional interior design services with an emphasis on sustainable design strategies.

“I am incredibly humbled and honored to be inducted into the WMSBF Hall of Fame, but most of all I feel privileged to work alongside so many intelligent and passionate individuals who understand that sustainability is a collaborative endeavor,” said DeBruyn. “There’s still much work to be done, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together.”   

Learn more about KCAD’s Collaborative Design program at

Learn more about KCAD’s Furniture Design program at