Former Grandville HS principal dies following leukemia battle

Chris Vander Slice
An undated courtesy photo of Chris Vander Slice (Grandville Public Schools)

GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Former Grandville High School Principal Chris VanderSlice has died following a battle with leukemia.

His wife, Tonya, posted the update on his CaringBridge page Saturday:

“Today, Chris left his broken and battered body to run into the loving arms of his Savior, Jesus. I am devastated and completely heart-broken. My girls are missing their dad already. But Chris is finally free of the cancer that he suffered from for the past four years, and the paralysis that held him back for the past two years. He is no longer freezing cold all the time and weak and worn out from fevers. He is no longer painful, or sedated. He is clear minded. He is whole.

“I have little energy to write anything more at this time, but will try to give a more detailed post when I am ready. Please know that I am so very proud of him. The pain I feel is reciprocal to the love I had so undeservedly. The wounds are very deep. He ran a good race, and he never gave up.”

VanderSlice became principal of Grandville High School after serving as assistant principal for four years. He was forced to step away from work after he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014.

On Sunday, Grandville High School Principal John Philo remembered VanderSlice, one of his best friends, as a man of character with a magnetic quality. He also praised VanderSlice’s dedication to education.

“He was intense, he was very intense and in a great way,” Philo said. “Everything he did, he did full on. And the same was true for education: If there was something that a student needed, he was full on. If it was something a teacher needed, he was full on.”

Philo said VanderSlice inspired him in his own career.

“I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll throw my hat in,’ but the only reason I did was because it was him that I would be working with,” Philo said.

Philo said even though VanderSlice was in and out of the hospital after his diagnosis, he managed his duties as principal with some help. When he could no longer be in the school full time, he moved to the district office as assistant superintendent, working remotely. He did that up until just days before his death.

“I was there (visiting VanderSlice) on Friday. I just told him I’ll see him soon,” Philo said.

Grandville Public Schools released the following statement to 24 Hour News 8:

“It is with a very heavy heart I inform you that Chris Vanderslice has gone to spend eternity with his Lord and Savior. I cannot even begin to express how much Chris has meant to the students, staff, and community of Grandville. His legacy as an amazing role model for all who came into contact with him is forever etched in the hearts and minds of Bulldog nation. Counselors will be available throughout the district as needed.

“Please continue to keep Tonya, Hannah, and Elizabeth in your thoughts and prayers. Their faith and grit have been a testament to what Chris so deeply believed in.”

VanderSlice leaves behind a wife and two daughters.

Memorial services are scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Grandville High School. Loved ones may meet the family Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the high school, according to an online obituary. Donations in honor of VanderSlice can be made to the Hannah/Elizabeth VanderSlice Education Fund.


Chris VanderSlice CaringBridge page