Rich And Famous

March 5, 2004
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What’s the difference between RichDeVos and StevenSpielberg and DonaldTrump?

Well, besides about 20 years and $100 million (according to Forbes), it all boils down to publicity.

Trump is all over NBC with “The Apprentice,” a trumped-up reality show in which The Donald fires one of 20 would-be assistants each week until one (lucky?) contestant is left and is hired as Trump’s personal aide, complete with a six-figure annual salary.

Spielberg, of course, is the “S” in SKG Dreamworks, which has produced plenty of hit movies over the past few years.

So while Trump plays on the East Coast (and in casinos), and Spielberg is part of Hollywood’s “A-list,” DeVos toils in near anonymity in Ada.

But maybe that’s changing.

Last Thursday, PatWilliams, senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, spoke to the Grand Rapids Rotary Club about his new book, “How to be Like Rich DeVos: Succeeding With Integrity in Business and Life.” Williams, who has authored several other “How to be Like” books, including one on MichaelJordan, uses a collection of stories and quotes culled from DeVos’ friends, family and close associates in GR to tell his tale of inspiration.

But wait. Isn’t Williams actually an employee of DeVos’s, since the Amway Corp. co-founder owns the hoops team?

The Donald may have “The Apprentice,” but a shrewd businessman like DeVos knows that it’s the higher-ups in an organization who are unfailingly loyal.

**Speaking of hoops, you’d better hope your rec league team already has played the Fab Five from Kent County. Because come Monday, the county netters might be in line to kick some serious behind.

County Administrator DarylDelabbio says he has settled on a replacement for departed deputy administrator AlVanderberg, and it’s none other than WaymanBritt. The former U-M basketball star and one-time Detroit Piston should be selected today to fill the vacant deputy’s position.

**Speaking of new (and old), sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine’s 40th anniversary issue should be out in a few days. Just in time to bump heads with a new weekly entertainment and nightlife publication called IndulgeGR. At least another newby has something to shoot for.

**You never know when the rich and famous will touch you.

PhilDeHaan, Calvin College’s information guru, relates an interesting story regarding a Calvin prof and his brush with greatness.

For Calvin professor LeeHardy an interest in urban design and a connection made on the Internet led to a dinner with Prince Charles.

Just another day in the life of a liberal arts professor!

Hardy says the brush with royalty has its roots in the American New Urbanist movement — an attempt on the part of a growing number of architects, urban designers, environmentalists and social justice people to retrieve and creatively apply the principles of traditional urban design.

Although a philosophy professor, Hardy became interested in this design movement a few years ago and since has taught a course at Calvin during the interim on urban design issues. He also spends a fair amount of time interacting with local planners and developers.

Via the Internet he made contact with MatthewHardy, the director of a fledgling organization called the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture, and Urbanism (INTBAU).

Says Calvin’s Hardy: “That contact soon developed into a friendship and several transatlantic visits. INTBAU operates out of The Prince’s Foundation in east London. In fact, its chief patron is His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

“This past December PrinceCharles decided to hold a dinner at Clarence House in support of INTBAU. And I found myself on the invite list. Of course, I accepted.”

Hardy notes that his trip to London was very generously sponsored by the January Series at Calvin and included a visit to Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

He arrived in London on Sunday, Dec. 14. The dinner was scheduled for the next evening.

“After unpacking my rented tux and reviewing my notes from AmyVanderbilt’s book on etiquette for formal dinners,” he says with a smile, “I tried to get a good night’s rest.”

The dinner featured about 25 guests, including a German princess, a mutual fund manager from Chicago, an heiress from Monaco, an Australian land developer, several Norwegian industrialists, a German architect and Miss Croatia. And, of cours, a U.S. philosophy professor.

Says Hardy with some understatement: “An interesting group.”

The dinner itself, says Hardy, was a somewhat surreal experience.

“I was talking to an architect from India,” he says, “now practicing in Germany, when CamillaParkerBowles suddenly appeared before me. We had a nice chat, in which, unfortunately, I spent most of my time trying to explain where Grand Rapids was. She was very down to earth, with a sly sense of humor. I then found myself being organized by some photographers. The next thing I knew, I was being introduced to Prince Charles. We talked about several encouraging developments in the urban condition of Grand Rapids, and about the New Urbanist movement in the States generally.”

Soon thereafter the dinner began — a three-course meal and three speeches, the last of which was given by the Prince.

It was, Hardy says, a fascinating speech.

“He spoke at length,” Hardy recalls, “of his concerns about the materialism and secularity of our age and about a culture that had lost touch with its spiritual center and was now spinning out of control. He referred to what’s happening in our built environment as one manifestation of this form of cultural disintegration. He also spoke of his traditional town development in Dorset (Poundbury) as his attempt to build in line with the Golden Rule. He wanted to build a place that he himself would be happy to live in, or, at least, next to.”    

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