Secchia provides lead gift, Grand Action to help campaign as MSU board launches plan to change the way medicine is taught, delivered

Contact: Terry Denbow, University Relations, (517) 355-2262,; or Marsha Rappley, College of Human Medicine, (517) 353-1730,

Jan 18, 2007

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids building that will become the new home of the MSU College of Human Medicine will be named “The Secchia Center” in recognition of a gift from alumnus Ambassador Peter F. Secchia that will total $20 million toward the $40 million in private support required to complete the project.

The naming was approved today by the Michigan State University Board of Trustees. In other action, the board authorized acquisition of a site within the Michigan Street Development, a commercial medical community, for location of The Secchia Center. The site is on Michigan Street in downtown Grand Rapids across from Spectrum Health and the Van Andel Institute.

Chairman Emeritus of Universal Forest Products Inc. (Nasdaq: UFPI), Secchia began his service with UFPI in 1962, graduating from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in economics the following year. Secchia served as U.S. Ambassador to Italy from 1989 to 1993.

Today’s announcement also begins the critically important joint fund raising activities of MSU and Grand Action, a nonprofit organization of 250 community leaders that has helped construct destination facilities designed to attract people from around the world to Grand Rapids.

“The Secchia Center will bring to life a one-of-a-kind model for medical education and research in the 21st century,” said Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon. “This new approach blends key elements of a classic medical education center with MSU’s traditional strength in community-based medical education.

“Ambassador Secchia’s gift is the essential catalyst for the evolution and expansion of our College of Human Medicine for a new century,” said President Simon. “We are creating something very special here by bringing a world class university to bear on developing four-year medical education in Grand Rapids and by using this opportunity to advance the power of genomic medicine. This venture will significantly increase our activity in research, both in Grand Rapids and East Lansing.”

Simon also noted the critical role of partnerships in achieving the vision. “In Grand Rapids, we have established a unique set of relationships that will make this medical school a reality without the need for state appropriations. Yet the state will benefit, because this will raise the level of medical care in West Michigan and lead to innovations that benefit citizens throughout Michigan and beyond.”

Spectrum Health, Saint Mary’s Health System and the Van Andel Institute each have recently announced important partnerships with Michigan State University associated with land acquisition or future programs.

In pursuing its vision for becoming a model for 21st-century medical education, Michigan State University is committed to becoming:

  • An international leader in biomedical research through cross-disciplinary, cross-organizational research clusters addressing pressing national needs in cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and neurobiology
  • A lean and efficient pipeline for bringing the newest and most effective therapies from laboratory to bedside to serve populations at risk worldwide
  • A university with a medical school curriculum of the future integrating basic science, molecular, clinical and research education and experience and incorporating rigorous biomedical science training
  • A national teaching model emphasizing an effective primary–specialty care relationship in a seamless system that works to the benefit of patients and improves organization of health care
  • A vibrant and meaningful partner with outstanding Grand Rapids-area health care and life science research institutions
  • A significant economic growth engine by infusing the region and state with talented and ambitious students, faculty and staff.

The Secchia Center will include research and teaching laboratories, classrooms, offices and student areas. Michigan State’s College of Human Medicine is slated to enroll its first class of 100 first-year students in Grand Rapids in 2010, when the new facility opens, and second-year students will begin study there in 2008 in a leased facility. Once the program is at full capacity, enrollment in Grand Rapids will exceed 400 students.

“Ambassador Secchia has been a generous friend and long-time donor to Michigan State University,” said President Simon. “His volunteerism and contributions date back nearly 50 years. He currently serves as a member of the President’s Campaign Cabinet for The Campaign for MSU. He has hosted and sponsored dozens of university events and chaired several campus building projects.

“We are grateful for his continued support, particularly as we establish the new home of the College of Human Medicine and set a course for its research agenda and innovative curriculum. Peter was a pioneering proponent of the idea of housing the school in Grand Rapids.”

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to combine my commitments to the university and to the community I love,” said Secchia, “I truly believe this will have a meaningful impact that will live on for generations to come.”

Grand Action and MSU will now launch a campaign to raise the remaining $20 million from the West Michigan community to cover the development and construction costs associated with the facility.

“West Michigan understands the economic impact of generous philanthropy better than most regions of the country,” said Dick DeVos, founder and co-chairman of Grand Action. “We have already begun a number of thoughtful conversations with individuals and foundations interested in the project.”

The Secchia family tremendously values education. Joan Secchia (MSU ’64) taught in the Rockford and East Grand Rapids public schools. She recently served as president of the Grand Rapids Public Schools Student Advancement Foundation and led the drive to raise $1.7 million to restock more than 40 public school libraries. The Secchias have four children.

  • Mark, a graduate of Miami University in Ohio and China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, China.
  • Charlie, a graduate of the John Cabot University, Rome, Italy.
  • Sandy, a graduate of Notre Dame and Stanford Universities.
  • Stephanie, a graduate of the University of Vermont and New York University.

The Secchias have five grandchildren.

While at Universal Forest Products, Secchia helped open 102 manufacturing plants. In addition, he has held leadership positions on the boards of Old Kent Financial, Old Kent Bank, River City Foods, StelterPartners and the Manufactured Housing Institute. Secchia has volunteered in local, state and national political and charitable work. He has served on the library foundation boards established by two presidents, Gerald R. Ford and George H. W. Bush, and was selected by former Gov. John Engler to head a commission to reevaluate government services. His personal philanthropy and fundraising efforts have aided many Grand Rapids causes -- youths, parks, economic development, health care and cultural enrichment and education, among many others.

Secchia has earned a number of lifetime achievement awards during the last 15 years, including:

  • Michigan’s Master Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Crain’s Detroit Business, Businessman of the Year
  • Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Business Person of the Year
  • National Italian American Foundation, Special Achievement Award
  • Republic of Italy, Cavaliere di Gran Croce (The Knight of the Great Cross)
  • Michigan State University’s Broad Business School Outstanding Alumnus
  • Michigan State University’s Distinguished Alumnus
  • The Smithsonian Institute Award as a National Scholar