Business and community leaders on Wednesday remembered Peter Secchia as a business leader and generous philanthropist who helped to shape West Michigan over the past several decades.
Secchia died Wednesday at his home in East Grand Rapids. He was 83.
“My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Peter F. Secchia, our beloved husband, father and grandfather, passed away this morning at the age of 83. Throughout his life, Peter was firmly committed to his family, his business, his community and his country. His presence in all will be deeply missed,” his wife, Joan Secchia, said in a statement.
The Secchia family plans a private remembrance service and asked that any memorial contributions go to the Kent County Parks Foundation – Millennium Park, the Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center, or the Peter F. Secchia Endowed Scholarship at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.
Secchia was instrumental in the efforts more than a decade ago to bring MSU’s medical school to Grand Rapids. The medical school’s downtown headquarters is named The Secchia Center in recognition of him.
“Grand Rapids has lost an icon in the passing of Peter Secchia. More than a business leader, community leader and philanthropist, Peter was a giant in our community,” The Right Place Inc. CEO Birgit Klohs said in a statement.
“Peter’s love for this city and its economic success was second only to his love of Michigan State University, for which the community will remain indebted to him for his leadership in bringing MSU’s College of Human Medicine to the Medical Mile. There are countless new opportunities our region has experienced in the health sciences due to his efforts in strengthening MSU’s relationship with Grand Rapids,” Klohs said. “His list of accomplishments and philanthropic endeavors will leave a lasting mark on our region. I am grateful to have worked alongside Peter on several projects, and will remain grateful for the opportunity to have known him.”
A long-time MSU benefactor, Secchia and his wife once gave $5 million to complete a $30 million capital campaign for MSU’s Grand Rapids Research Center.
The Secchias joined the late Richard and Helen DeVos in 2016 for a combined gift of $15 million to launch MSU’s capital campaign on behalf of the $88 million Grand Rapids Research Center that opened two years ago. The couples previously made a $20 million combined gift to construct and name the Secchia Center on Michigan Street.
“It’s given everybody a real new view of Grand Rapids,” Peter Secchia told MiBiz last year about the medical school’s move as MSU prepared to break ground on a new medical innovation building downtown named after Doug Meijer. “It’s going to make a big difference in this city.”
Dr. Aron Sousa, interim dean at the MSU College of Human Medicine, said Secchia was an
“absolutely transformative figure.”
“He moved mountains and people and helped build his community and his university to be so much more than they would have otherwise been,” Sousa said. “We have all been transformed by working with and, more importantly, by knowing Peter Secchia. He shared his heart, devotion, and special talents to the benefit of so many. Each of us will miss him dearly.”
In a Facebook post, Dick DeVos described Secchia as a “dear friend to me, my parents and my family, and his loss will be felt throughout our community.
“Peter was a fierce patriot and adopted son of Grand Rapids, which he lovingly referred to as the center of the universe,” DeVos wrote.
Grand Valley State University President Philomena Mantella said Secchia was a long-time director at the GVSU Foundation and a generous contributor. The Secchia Family Foundation gave the lead gift for a downtown housing hall at GVSU in 2000 that was aptly named Secchia Hall.
“Peter is a Grand Valley icon who played a deeply influential role in the growth of the university over the years,” Mantella said in a statement. “His passion for education and the growth of our community has made a tremendous difference in West Michigan and he will be missed.”
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Peter and Joan Secchia also supported GVSU’s Seidman College of Business, initiated the Ambassador Secchia International Studies Scholarship for students to study business and public administration overseas, and created the Peter F. Secchia Lecture Series for business leaders to discuss trends and current issues.
“Peter’s influence on the Seidman College of Business cannot be underestimated. Generations of Grand Valley business students and alumni will benefit from his generosity and his legacy here will live on in them,” Seidman Dean Diana Lawson said.
Secchia also supported culinary programs at Grand Rapids Community College for years. GRCC is home to the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education.
“Peter Secchia understood the importance of supporting his community, and how a community college education can transform a person’s life — and, in turn, make that community stronger,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “With his support, our culinary students have become among the best in the field, working around the globe and right here in West Michigan.”