Board of Directors

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors are the founding members of MSRA, with the organization since its inception in 2001.

ValerieVanHeestWheelValerie Olson van Heest, an award winning author and member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame, is a 25+ year veteran shipwreck explorer who combines her passion documenting historic shipwrecks with her creative and interpretive abilities to preserve and promote Great Lakes maritime history. Her mission is to share the stories with adults and children through public lectures, museum exhibits, articles, and books in ways to educate, entertain and inspire.

She is the recipient of four awards from the Historical Society of Michigan: a 2007 award for excellence of achievement in the collection, preservation, and promotion of state and local history, a 2008 award for her book Icebound! The Adventures of Young George Sheldon and the SS Michigan, a 2009 award for her book written with William Lafferty, Buckets and Belts: Evolution of the Great Lakes Self Unloaders, three regional awards for Lost on the Lady Elgin, and a 2009 award shared with the Heritage Museum for a collaborative special museum exhibit and public event.

Valerie has written extensively for a variety of magazines and documentary films. She has appeared on major television news networks as well as the Discovery Channel and is a regular presenter at museums, libraries, and film festivals sharing the dramatic stories of ships gone missing on the Great Lakes. Her work has been featured in the book, Voices of the Sweetwater Seas by Bill Keefe and Shipwreck Hunter by Gerry Volgenau. In addition to the books listed above, she has written Unsolved Mysteries, the Shipwreck Thomas Hume, and Lost and Found: Legendary Lake Michigan Shipwrecks. Her latest book,  Fatal Crossing, about the long-missing Northwest Airlines Flight 2501, is available at bookstores everywhere.  Visit her personal web page or the Northwest Fight 2501 commemorative web page  Email Valerie.

Craig Rich diving - 2015Craig Rich is a 45-year veteran Great Lakes master SCUBA diver, historian, and author. His books, For Those in Peril: Shipwrecks of Ottawa County, Michigan, and Through Surf and Storm: Shipwrecks of Muskegon County, Michigan are available at bookstores across the state. Craig’s research on local shipwrecks, begun in the 1980s, formed the basis for the MSRA web page as it exists today. He continues to serve as the website designer. 

A former morning radio personality and newsman, Craig provides professional narration for MSRA and other documentary films, as well as radio and TV Commercials. He also emcees the annual “Evening Beneath the Inland seas” shipwreck show in Holland, MI. He is a regular speaker for local libraries, museums, and historical societies on the subjects of shipwrecks and local history.

An avid genealogist, Craig has traced his family history from the Mayflower to the Erie Canal, to Michigan, with pioneering ancestors in the state by 1828. 

By day, he is an advertising consultant with the Grand Rapids Business Journal in Grand Rapids, Michigan and lives in Holland, Michigan with his wife of nearly 40 years, Vickie. They are the proud parents of two grown daughters, one of whom made Craig and Vickie Grandparents in 2012. He also served the city of Holland for 28 years as an elected member of the city council – twenty of those years as Mayor Pro Tem. In addition to shipwrecks, Craig is an avid genealogist, and volunteers for the annual Tulip Festival and memorial day Parade in Holland.  Visit his web site.   Email Craig.

jackJack van Heest, a mechanical engineer, manages the field operations for the annual search expedition and serves as captain of the research vessel. A diver since 1988 and a technical diver since 2007, Jack participates in the site work and shoots high definition video.

Jack also serves as editor for a number of MSRA’s documentary films and maintains the organization’s film archive. Jack has designed and maintains much of MSRA’s equipment including the group’s sidescan sonar. Jack also is developing a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) for use by the organization.  Email Jack.

10279619-smallGeoffrey Reynolds, archivist with the Joint Archives of Holland, provides access to a number of historical institutions to aid in research conducted by MSRA. He also maintains public records of all the work of MSRA. He is an author and writes regular columns on local history in the Holland Sentinel in Holland, Michigan. Geoffrey is an authority on small boats and runabouts built in West Michigan and an avid collector of them.

The Joint Archives of Holland of Holland, which opened in 1988, brings together the archival collections of Hope College with those of the Holland Museum, Western Theological Seminary and other organizations that contract for archival services. The archives is located on 10th Street in Holland, Michigan.  Email Geoffrey.

Affiliate Members

Brendon Baillod — Author, marine historian, researcher and collector of Great Lakes books.
William Lafferty PhD, a maritime historian and professor at Wright State University and partner in Lafferty van Heest and Associates.
David Trotter, side scan sonar operator and shipwreck hunter.
National Underwater Marine Agency, a non-profit organization founded by Clive Cussler.