Together We Stand

June 17, 2002
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It’s back; some rumors are just too good to let go. This one is so old it precedes the Steelcase IPO. Some very credible sources last week indicated press releases were being prepared on the merger of office furniture manufacturing world leader Steelcase and its merger with Herman Miller. Perhaps the “Nimda” computer virus from hell is to blame, chocking systems with old rumor e-mails.

Still, it is a mistake to make assumptions, so GRBJ staff made the round of calls to determine the truth. The truth, as we know it, is that no such press release is being prepared. Further, no such deal is taking place. In mentioning the rumor news to a local broker, we were especially gratified to find these professionals have not lost their sense of humor. In answer to the question, ‘Did you hear the new rumor about Steelcase?’ it was suggested that they had probably now purchased IBM.

  • This is a true story, retold by a Herman Miller spokesman and the industry newsletter OfficeSite — about one woman’s intuition that saved the lives of a Herman Miller dealer installation crew. Herman Miller counts among its clients the U.S. Department of Defense.

The install crew was working the morning of Sept. 11 in the wing of the Pentagon that had just undergone an extensive renovation. After learning of the horror in New York City, the dealer manager called her crew and told them to leave the building and meet her in a nearby parking lot. They grumbled, but she persisted.

A short time afterward they met in the selected parking lot — where 10 minutes later they stood and watched a jetliner slam into the side of the Pentagon where the installation crew had been working.

It surely ranks among the stories of fate, luck and heroism likely to continue unfolding in the days, the weeks, the months, even the years to come about the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. See page 7 for another vignette, from the staff of U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers.

  • It seemed most appropriate that the induction of the 2001 Grand Rapids Magazine Medical Hall of Fame was held last week. As the stories of hero physicians were reported from “ground zero” in New York, Grand Rapids paid tribute to those in this community who have set new national and international standards or were the pioneers of their time.

Five physicians were honored, including William Sprague, M.D., in the Physician/Humanitarian category. Sprague’s work to eradicate polio from the face of the earth is best known by his fellows in Grand Rapids Rotary, but he also has received the American Medical Society’s highest honor: the Benjamin Rush Award for Citizenship and Community Service. Sprague has immunized children in virtually every country of the world.

Noyes L. Avery Jr., M.D., FACP, now deceased, was honored as the Medical Pioneer for his establishment of the cardiac catheterization program at Blodgett in the mid-50s. Physicians inducted to the Hall of Fame for surgical innovation included both Richard A. Rasmussen, M.D., who built an early heart pump and was the first to perform open heart surgery in this area in 1958; and Alfred B. Swanson, M.D., FACS, honored for his pioneering work in orthopedic surgery and invention of silicon and metal joint implants among other innovations.

Robert H. Puite, M.D. was recognized for Medical Education, in the field of internal medicine, as well as electrocardiography, and his establishment of a clinic devoted to diagnosis and treatment of genetic muscle diseases.

George F. Vande Woude, Ph.D., was recognized for his internationally heralded work in cancer research, and who agreed to head the Van Andel Research Institute. Vande Woude has recruited some of the world’s best-recognized investigators and scientists to the VARI.

Glenes Jean Hamersma, R.N., C.S., G.N.P., was inducted in the Nursing category; Leslie E. Tassell, as a significant donor to the health professions, and X-Rite founder Ted Thompson was inducted in the Medical Business category (see Grand Rapids Business Journal, Sept. 10 issue).

Retired Judge Douglas W. Hillman quipped about current events to begin acceptance of his induction for Collaborative Programs. Hillman agreed to lead two health care commissions, the first in 1970 and the second in 1993, which resulted in the Blodgett-Butterworth merger. Hillman took charge of the two commissions at the behest of and under the auspices of the Alliance for Health.

Full profiles and portraits of each inductee are published in the October issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. The portraits are set to be hung in the Grand Rapids Public Museum Van Andel Museum Center.

  • Last but not least: it seemed appropriate this week to share an e-mail letter sent by a Grand Rapids native and former USC professor to relatives here. Many share his observations:

“The next four to five days will tell a great deal about this country and its resolve, its values and its willingness to kill innocents. War is hell. This will be hell. We should face it, and accept it as the way it was, and is going to be. History is to judge us big time this week. A judgment of history that will last for ages.

“I believe, however, in a disproportionate response to the terrorist threat. Focused and with a purpose to stopping those who would hurt us in the future. There is no reason why we should tolerate a few who are so envious, so jealous of us. That those who are incapable of seeing that because their societies cannot generate wealth that we should be to blame. They should be eliminated.”

Further observations: “We need to tighten up the INS completely. If a business ran like they run their operation, it would fail, fail. Just no hope.” About the FAA: “Security. Air traffic control. It needs to take decisive action with lots of resolve and money now. The airlines need to get their act together. I am against a financial bailout, which is going to be a front for their inefficiency and customer insensitivity. A bailout just provides them cover. No good. This is not the time to blame. Just recognize there are problems, and then just fix them. The attitude now seems to make the public suffer. I disagree. If the airlines are not imaginative enough to make flying safer and user friendly simultaneously, then get the government to do it. Now. I think Secretary of Transportation Mineta is the “weak link.” We need a Colin Powell guy in there right now. This country depends on air travel to a great, great extent. It must work, and work well.”

The stock market: “A lot of new fortunes are being made today. Savvy investors will buy at the new bottom, and ride it up. The stock market was too high, anyway. The P/E ratios now are historically too high. This event is the reality maker.

“These are the worst of times. But in the end, it may be the best of times if we awake from our collective slumber and do what must be done. We have become tentative and afraid to rock the boat. We are being politically correct in so much that truth and candor are victims, and inaction is the result.”

America’s youth: “What pleases me so much is the patriotism and commitment of young people. The firemen in New York are young people. The passengers on the one highjacked plane who apparently overwhelmed the highjackers are young people. The bravery of the widow of one of the passengers is a young woman.

“During my 30 years of teaching 20-22 year olds at UCLA and USC, I have seen a drastic decline of values other than making money — now. No commitment to anything other than self. A generation just so soulless. Nothing there, or so it seemed. But I can now see the fruits of the seeds planted by their parents who did believe in this thing called ‘America.’ Those seeds are bearing fruit.

“I have been so sad this past weekend. But I see so many brave and intelligent people who have lost loved ones that I just cannot help admire them. Sympathize and admire them. So this sadness is balanced by my optimism, and increased admiration for us as people. I have never been felt more alive than I do right now. I don’t think I have ever been prouder to be an American.

“Underneath, we have a President who thinks like Washington, Franklin and Lincoln. Do you not think that Lincoln was ‘religious’?? Read his Second Inaugural Address once; you will see. But it not enough to think like Lincoln. He needs the wisdom to act like him, too. For this we have to wait and see. And God’s grace.”

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