Donald Maine Remarkable Vision

April 18, 2002
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Editor’s Note: This is the first story in a 10-part series profiling the Business Journal’s nominees for Newsmaker of the Year.
GRAND RAPIDS – Everyone leaves a legacy, whether they intend to or not. So there isn’t anything special about leaving one, unless, of course, it’s a darn good one.

And one of the best local ones has been left by Donald Maine, the dean of business educators. Maine, who officially retired Sunday as Chancellor of Davenport University and moved into a new role as a consultant to the school, has crafted a legacy that likely will live forever.

It’s quite possible that the adjective doesn’t exist to properly describe his 23 years of hard work in turning Davenport Business College from a single-campus school with less than 100 employees and a $3 million budget into a 20-campus university with 2,000 employees and a budget of $90 million. Maybe “remarkable” comes the closest.

“Under his leadership, Davenport grew from one campus offering associate degrees to become the largest private university system in Michigan and northern Indiana with 20 campuses,” said Davenport President Barbara Mieras of Maine’s remarkable feat.

“Since he became president, Don’s vision has been to see Davenport offer bachelor’s and, eventually, a master’s degree, and all of that has become a reality,” she added. “Don has been a tremendous leader for the university and an incredible leader for the greater Grand Rapids area.”

It’s a remarkable legacy, one worthy of honoring. And that is why Donald Maine was tabbed by the Business Journal Editorial Board as one of the 10 finalists for the Newsmaker of the Year Award.

But Maine, who was forced into retirement for health reasons, isn’t being singled out as a finalist only for his accomplishments at Davenport. He also is being named for his too-numerous-to-count voluntary contributions to the business, health care and educational communities. For two decades, his leadership efforts left indelible marks on just about everyone who either worked with him, or simply came in contact with him.

Micki Benz, Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center vice president of development, can testify to the effect that Maine has on those around him. Benz, who spent the better part of a dozen years working alongside Maine at Davenport, said Maine was a rare individual on two levels.

“I think there are really two ways that Don has given to the community. The first is what he, himself, has done. And the second is what he has taught others to do because he really is a teacher, above all,” she said.

“When I worked at Davenport, I got to see his community involvement firsthand. He did a lot of leading in the community, even in downtown development,” said Benz. “Some of it was official, some of it was done unofficially.”

Just a few of the official board positions that Maine held over the years include chairing the Metropolitan Hospital Board and serving on the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Maine also was an integral part of the Grand Action Executive Committee, the Opera Grand Rapids Board and the Celebration on the Grand Board.

And he served many of those organizations at the same time.

“He then demanded that same type of activity from the people who worked with him. He wanted us to be involved,” said Benz. “He understood that the strength of our community lies in the relationship that we all have with each other. He would foster that and encourage that among the people who worked with him. He was very active in many ways that went beyond education.”

Benz said that Maine went out of his way to instill his idea of community involvement in the female and minority members of his Davenport management team, persuading both groups to have a voice in the city.

“He really pushed that,” she said.

Two more of Maine’s longtime co-workers are Roger VanderLaan, Davenport’s chief financial officer, and Robert Schmiedicke, senior financial officer for the Davenport Education System. Both have known Maine since 1971, and, not surprisingly, both described him as being quite remarkable.

“He truly has been a visionary and a compassionate leader,” said VanderLaan. “I don’t know that Donny has any enemies. He has a lot of kindness and empathy.”

“This guy is a class act,” said Schmiedicke. “Other than his skills at building the college, he is a very caring, a very concerned person. He is the kind of guy that takes care of everybody.”

The Business Journal will announce the Newsmaker of the Year at a luncheon hosted by the Grand Rapids Rotary Club on March 8. From now until then, you will get to meet all the nominees – one each week until the Newsmaker of 2000 is revealed. Of the 10, some will be chosen for making news, some for making waves and a select few for making legacies.

One last important thing about legacies: Even those who leave good ones often do so for different reasons. Some leave theirs so they will be remembered, while others leave theirs as a starting point for others to build on.

Donald Maine clearly falls into that latter, remarkable, category.

“He helped people get involved and get on board,” said Benz, “so that Davenport University would have a continuing legacy of community involvement.”

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