Peter Secchia, a prominent western Michigan businessman, philanthropist and former ambassador to Italy, died Wednesday morning at the age of 83.
Secchia’s death was confirmed by family spokesperson Amy LeFebre.
“I am able to confirm that Mr. Secchia had health problems for several months and was receiving nursing care at home,” she said. “He recently contracted COVID-19, which contributed to his death. He was not hospitalized and died peacefully at home.”
Secchia began her career in 1962 with UFP Industries Inc., based in Grand Rapids, formerly known as Universal Forest Products (NASDAQ: UFPI), a commercial lumber company. In 1971, he took control of the company and served as CEO until 1989, when he was appointed US Ambassador to Italy by President George HW Bush.
Known for his philanthropy in Grand Rapids and beyond, Secchia’s name is featured on the buildings of Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, Spectrum Health, and many other places.
Secchia, an MSU graduate, has been a big booster for athletics there, including a million dollar giveaway for the Secchia Stadium softball facility in East Lansing.
In 2014, the Secchias donated $ 3 million to the university, which was intended for staffing the defensive coordinator position with the MSU football team and for major improvements to the Spartans’ men’s basketball program.
Beyond his business and philanthropic efforts, Secchia was one of the most prominent figures in Republican politics at the state and national levels. The GOP pillar has served on finance committees and in other roles for a welcoming republican candidates over the past quarter of a century.
“Throughout his life, Peter has made a strong commitment to his family, his business, his community and his country. His presence will be dearly missed by all of us,” his wife, Joan Secchia, said in a statement.
Secchia was recalled Wednesday by another Michigan alumnus and Michigan politician, former Governor John Engler.
âPeter Secchia was a very dear friend of Michelle and I. We are heartbroken by his passing,â Engler said in a statement. âPeter was one of a kind: an inspiring visionary, an energetic leader, a diplomat, a confidant of presidents, a proud Italian, a devoted Republican, a passionate Spartan and a man with a huge heart. “
Birgit Klohs, President and CEO of Grand Rapids economic development organization The Right Place Inc., said in a statement, âMore than a business leader, community leader and philanthropist, Peter was a giant in our community. â¦ Peter’s love for this city and its economic success was surpassed only by his love for Michigan State University, for which the community will be indebted to him for his leadership in bringing the MSU College of Human Medicine. at the Medical Mile. There are countless new opportunities that our region has seen in the health sciences as a result of its efforts to strengthen MSU’s relationship with Grand Rapids. “
Dick DeVos, a prominent Republican businessman and supporter who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006, said Secchia’s loss will be felt throughout the Grand Rapids community.
âPeter was a fierce patriot and adopted son of Grand Rapids, whom he lovingly called the center of the universe,â DeVos said in a statement. âI am grateful for the leadership he has provided through his engagement in our country’s political process. From his impact as Ambassador to Italy to his local efforts to make Grand Rapids a better place to live, work and play … he will be missed a lot. “
Besides his wife Joan, Secchia is survived by four children: StÃ©phanie, Sandy, Charles and Mark.
The family’s statement says that due to the pandemic’s current restrictions on gatherings, the family is planning a private service. Memorial contributions can be made to the Kent County Parks Foundation – Millennium Park, Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center, or the Peter F. Secchia Fellowship at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.