EyeCatching Reputation

July 16, 2007
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Share the love: Last month a column published by South Boston Patriot Ledger columnist Joann Fitzpatrick was quickly and widely disseminated locally via e-mail. Fitzpatrick lauded most every aspect of Grand Rapids (including public schools) while recounting her visit as a wedding guest -- and made comparisons to Boston. But last week's report by Keith Schneider in the New York Times Real Estate section is likely to be framed in public places. (One must wonder whether they attended the same wedding, especially when regarding Fitzpatrick's need to defend her presence in the mid-states, but in the good company of guests from both coasts, and that "there was elitism to spare, but at the same time a willingness to be charmed by a place that truly seems to represent good old-fashioned American values.")

Schneider, like Fitzpatrick, made a point of the philanthropic commitment of area business executives. He reported on the "stunning array of buildings" under construction on

Michigan Street
and the city's "concentrated magnitude of the medical research, training and patient facility construction occurring on Health Hill." He also reported that New York construction executives and those in other U.S. regions said only a handful of similar medical development projects rival "Health Hill" in scope and cost. Those most notably include a 20-year $2.5 billion plan to build the "medical campus of the future" by University of Kentucky, and the Oregon Health and SciencesUniversity which opened a $160 million ResearchClinicBuilding, the first of three planned developments for Portland's new South Waterfront district.

Schneider also references

Michigan Street
's Medical Mile as an area "also called Pill Hill." Amway co-founder Rich DeVos, however, told sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine staff writer Curt Wozniak last month that he prefers his moniker: Medical Mile, as a name "that has stuck."

  • In other business: City Commissioner Roy Schmidt, whose bow from public leadership has opened the August Primary ballot to a significant number of competitors for the First Ward seat, expects this week to publicize his endorsement of former Grand Rapids Public School board member Ed Kettle. Other First Ward candidates are Walt Gutowski Jr. and Tom Postmus.
  • She rules: More than one year ago Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Janet Neff of East Grand Rapids was asked to defend herself in consideration for a vacancy on West Michigan's federal court. While Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, both Democrats (as is Neff), immediately backed her nomination, Neff's neighbor Peter Secchia groused about the fairness of the elected Democrats to "come in" to "our Republican area" to back a "liberal" judge. Neff then suddenly found herself this entire past year defending her attendance at a commitment ceremony for a same-sex couple. The story has been widely published and broadcast across the country.

The U.S. Senate last Monday confirmed Neff and two others to serve on the U.S. District Court for Michigan's Western District. Grand Rapids attorney Robert Jonker and Berrien County Circuit Judge Paul Maloney also were confirmed.

  • So far, more than 22,000 adults and kids have had a swimmingly good time at the city's pools, and largely due to the responseCity Hall received from generous members of the business community. GR Mayor George Heartwell honored those contributors with a one-of-a-kind, non-inflatable special plaque that is suitable for framing.

Heartwell credited local businessman and developer Roosevelt Tillman with organizing the drive and praised him for "strong-arming" 120 donations to it. A short list of the givers included the NationalHeritageAcademy, Universal Forest Products, the David & Carol Van Andel Foundation, the Peter Wege Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Dan & Pamella DeVos Foundation, the Frey Foundation, the Steve & Cindy Van Andel Foundation, Bob Sullivan, Peter Secchia, Glenn Steil, Sr., and Ron & Patricia Williams.

While Heartwell was handing out plaques to those who were present, Tillman sat in the mayor's chair -- and a big grin immediately began to spread across his face. That drew laughs from the crowd. Hizhonor turned and looked at Tillman, paused for a brief moment and then told him in a reassured tone, "There is a price to pay to sit in that seat."

  • Proving that nice things really do happen to good people, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land recently awarded GR City Clerk Terri Hegarty with the 2007 City Clerk of the Year Award. Hegarty beat out four others to record the state honor. The Grand Rapids native has been with the city for nearly three decades and has held the clerk's post since 1995.

Heartwell said Hegarty's longevity as the city's official document keeper, fee collector and election director was mostly due to the fact that she earned a degree in psychology from AquinasCollege, which has allowed her "to work with city commissioners all these years."

  • Philanthropist and former Steelcase executive David D. Hunting Jr., passed away last week. Hunting Jr., the son of company co-founder David D. Hunting, joined Steelcase in 1948 and retired nearly 40 years later as executive vice president of Steelcase's subsidiary operations. He served on the company's board until 2002.

Hunting, 81, will be most remembered for his community involvement. He served as chairman of BlodgettHospital, Heart of West Michigan United Way and the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. Hunting led his family's efforts on behalf of the new David D. Hunting YMCA downtown, which bears his father's name. The family's $5 million donation was the largest donation in the local chapter's history, and was instrumental in the launch of the new facility.

"He changed the face of the YMCA here forever," said Ron Nelson, executive director of the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. "That was the single most important thing that has ever happened to the YMCA in Grand Rapids. Without him, the YMCA would still be thought of today as it had been in the early days."

Hunting felt the downtown YMCA was a fitting tribute to his father, who had been raised in the urban core. Nelson also credited Hunting with bringing environmental concerns to forefront for the organization, leading to the new facility's Leadership in Energy Efficient Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.    

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