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Couple gives $5M to university

November 1, 2019
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Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center
A look inside the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center. Courtesy MSU

A local couple has donated $5 million toward a university building downtown.

Peter Secchia and Joan Secchia today announced a second gift of $5 million for the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center that opened in 2017, at 400 Monroe Ave. NW.

This completes the $30 million campaign for the $88 million building, MSU said.

“Today’s generous gift frees up capital and allows MSU a tremendous opportunity to further invest in recruiting the world’s top scientists to Grand Rapids,” said Dr. Norman Beauchamp Jr., EVP or health sciences, MSU.

Peter Secchia said it was important to “close the books” on the previous project, so community leaders can now focus on the next project.

“We’re going to have a complex,” Secchia said. “We’re going to be able to compete with the best in the world.”

In 2016, Richard DeVos and Helen DeVos and Peter Secchia and Joan Secchia donated a combined gift of $15 million to launch the capital campaign for the building’s construction.

“We are immensely grateful for the ongoing generosity of the Secchias and their vision for a better, healthier world,” MSU President Dr. Samuel Stanley Jr. said.

“They made a commitment to invest in the medical discoveries that are yet to come and believe this community is a driving force in making them happen.”

Previously, the couples gave a combined $20 million to construct and name the Secchia Center, MSU College of Human Medicine’s headquarters in downtown Grand Rapids, at 15 Michigan St. NE.

Peter Secchia is a 1963 graduate of MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business and the former U.S. Ambassador to Italy, and Joan Secchia is a 1964 graduate of the MSU College of Education.

Peter Secchia became majority shareholder, president and CEO of Universal Forest Products in 1971, growing the company from three employees to 12,000, he said.

Secchia said he’d planned on giving back since the day he graduated from MSU.

“Now I help, because I was fortunate,” Secchia said.

The Secchia family also recently donated a grouping of sculptures to MSU as part of the family’s Community Legends program.

The sculptures are displayed at the Grand Rapids Research Center and honor three female scientists from Grand Rapids who discovered the whooping cough vaccine. 

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