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Couples give $15M to MSU for downtown research center

May 9, 2016
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MSU Grand Rapids Research Center
A rendering of the $88.1-million MSU Grand Rapids Research Center in downtown, which will be part of the MSU College of Human Medicine. Courtesy MSU

The Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center project in downtown has received a $15-million injection from a pair of local couples.

MSU said today that a $10-million gift from Richard DeVos and Helen DeVos and a $5-million gift from Peter Secchia and Joan Secchia will go toward construction of the $88.1-million biomedical research center, at 400 Monroe Ave. NW.

The $15-million total gift from the DeVos and Secchia families contributes a significant portion of the private fundraising goal of $40 million for the facility, set through MSU’s Empower Extraordinary campaign. The remaining cost is expected to be generated through research funding.

MSU broke ground on constructing the center last June, and it's slated to open in late 2017.

The center will be part of MSU's College of Human Medicine.

“It will be a magnet”

“Michigan State’s research enterprise is ushering in a whole new era of medical discovery, and there is no place we’d rather see that happen than Grand Rapids,” Rich DeVos said. “Helen and I are proud to be a part of it.”

Peter Secchia, a 1963 graduate of MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business, noted the potential economic impact the Big Ten research facility could have on the region.

“MSU is a proud member of the Big Ten’s Committee on Institutional Cooperation, which is responsible for more than $10 billion in funded research — far more than the Ivy League’s $4.3 billion,” Secchia said. “The center will help to tap into this network on a deeper level and expand the medical research agenda. It will be a magnet to attract business in the life sciences and growth in biotechnology. Joan and I are really excited to be a part of it.”

Green ties

Both families have previously supported the expansion of MSU’s medical presence into West Michigan.

Peter Secchia, the former U.S. ambassador to Italy, and Joan Secchia, an alum of MSU’s College of Education, were the primary donors for the Secchia Center — MSU College of Human Medicine’s headquarters in downtown Grand Rapids.

Amway co-founder Rich DeVos, who received an honorary MSU degree in 2009, and Helen DeVos also provided lead gifts to support the completion of the Secchia Center. They have also helped bring the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and the Cook-DeVos Center for Health to Grand Rapids.

“We are tremendously grateful for the ongoing generosity of the Secchia and DeVos families and their vision of a better, healthier world,” MSU President Lou Anna Simon said. “They have imagined and made a commitment to invest in the medical discoveries that are yet to come and believe this community will be a driving force in making them happen.”

MSU research center

The MSU Grand Rapids Research Center will support 44 research teams searching for answers to a variety of illnesses and critical health issues, from autism and Parkinson’s disease to Alzheimer’s disease and reproductive medicine.

So far, MSU has recruited more than a dozen research teams to work out of the center upon completion.

An evaluation commissioned from Anderson Economic Group estimated the facility will bring about 400 jobs and an increase of more than $28 million in local annual spending to the region.

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