Five Join JA Business Hall Of Fame

May 3, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Five business leaders will be inducted into the Junior Achievement West Michigan Business Hall of Fame for serving as an inspiration to the entire community.

The annual awards ceremony inducting new laureates will be held May 8 at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

This year’s honorees are:

Roger A. Andersen, retired president of Peninsular Investment Co. in Muskegon.

Andersen has a long history of business accomplishments and community service. After graduating from the University of Michigan and MIT with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and a master’s degree in industrial management, respectively, he went on to become president of Lakeshore Machinery & Supply Co., Lakeshore Industrial Supply Inc., Lakeshore Material Handling Inc. and Lakeshore Machinery Inc., a distributor of industrial supplies, fork lift trucks, material handling equipment and machine tools with headquarters in Muskegon and branches in Grand Rapids. He later merged the industrial supply company with MANSCO and sold it to WW Grainger; he sold the machinery and material handling companies, as well, before taking over as president of Peninsular Investment Co.

Fred P. Keller, chairman and CEO of Cascade Engineering.

Keller founded Cascade Engineering in 1973, following six years at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft as a metallurgist. He started Cascade Engineering with just two injection-molding machines and six employees. Today, its family of companies has 104 machines, including the largest injection molding machine in the United States, and more than 700 employees in 10 manufacturing facilities. The company serves the automotive, office furniture and container markets with plastic injection-molded products. Under Keller’s leadership, Cascade Engineering received Chrysler’s 1997 Role Model for Technology award and was inducted into the Grand Rapids Public Education Fund Hall of Fame. The Michigan Manufacturers Association named Keller Michigan Manufacturer of the Year for 1997, and in 1999 he was honored at the White House with the Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership.

John C. Kennedy, president and CEO of AutoCam Corp.

Kennedy graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He purchased Autocam’s assets from Autodie in 1988. At the time, Autocam had revenues of $8 million. By 2000, the company had become a global manufacturer of precision-machined components for the automotive and medical instruments industries, with $250 million in annual revenues and 2,500 employees worldwide. Forbes magazine ranked Autocam one of the best small public companies nationwide and the best small company in Michigan in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1998. Kennedy attributes the company’s success to its emphasis on continuous process improvement efforts and employee involvement.

Donald W. Maine, chancellor emeritus of Davenport University.

Maine earned an associate of arts degree in 1962 from Grand Rapids Junior College and both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Michigan State University. He completed a year of doctoral studies at the University of Michigan and attended Harvard University’s Institute of Educational Management. Maine served as Davenport’s president and chancellor for 23 years, expanding the college from one campus in Grand Rapids to more than 20 locations throughout Michigan and northern Indiana. Under his leadership, Davenport developed from a college offering only associate degree programs into a fully accredited university providing comprehensive undergraduate and graduate degree and business degree programs. In 1998 Maine received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Davenport, considered a rare bestowal for a president or chancellor.

Rita Williams, CEO of Gill Industries.

Williams began her career at Gill Industries in 1985 after five years as a licensed practical nurse at the former Saint Mary’s Hospital. She became president in 1990 and CEO in 1995. Gill Industries has since grown from $8.5 million in annual sales in 1985 to more than $100 million a year and has received numerous industry awards under her leadership. Her accomplishments include: helping to raise more than $6 million in 2000 as chair of the Tassel M-TEC Fund Drive for Grand Rapids Community College; being selected as one of Automotive News’ 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry in 2000; being honored in 2001 with the John G. Thodis Michigan Manufacturer of the year finalist award — the first ever presented to a woman. Among her accomplishments has been raising 12 children, some of whom work at Gill Industries.

William Coderre, president of Junior Achievement of Michigan Great Lakes, said the organization sends out a press release each year asking the community to nominate people for the Business Hall of Fame.

According to J.A.’s criteria, nominees must work or have worked in West Michigan and must:

  • Possess a record of outstanding business accomplishments.

  • Be recognized by his or her profession for significant contributions.

  • Adhere to high moral and ethical principles.

  • Demonstrate civic responsibility and community involvement.

  • Serve as a role model for others, particularly the community’s youth.

Once nominated, an individual’s name remains in the nominee pool whether nominated this year or 10 years ago, Coderre said. He added that the number of inductees varies from year to year.

As part of the award, portraits of the laureates will be added to the permanent West Michigan Business Hall of Fame display, housed at the Van Andel Arena. 

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