Longtime philanthropist and businessman Peter Secchia dies at 83

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During his life, Peter Secchia chaired numerous organizations, such as The Economic Club and Youth Commonwealth, and received awards and recognition for his involvement in state government. Photo by Michael Buck

Peter Secchia has died at the age of 83.

According to spokesperson Amy LeFebre, Secchia had experienced health issues for several months and was receiving nursing care at home. He had recently contracted COVID-19, which was a contributing factor in his death. LeFebre said he was not hospitalized and died peacefully at home.

His wife, Joan Secchia, shared a statement on behalf of the Secchia family:

“My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Peter F. Secchia, our beloved husband, father and grandfather, passed away this morning at the age of 83,” she wrote in the statement. 

“Throughout his life, Peter was firmly committed to his family, his business, his community and his country. His presence in all will be deeply missed.”

Secchia, who served as U.S. ambassador to Italy from 1989 to 1993, became majority shareholder, president and CEO of Universal Forest Products in 1971, growing the company during his tenure from three employees to 12,000 and from $1 million to almost $3 billion in sales.

As an ambassador, he received numerous awards from the Republic of Italy and the U.S. State Department.

Secchia’s civic activities included past involvement and leadership roles in a variety of local and statewide charities, particularly for urban schools and young people, as well as many community events.

He chaired numerous organizations, such as The Economic Club and Youth Commonwealth, and received awards and recognition for his involvement in state government. 

Secchia was behind the MSU College of Human Medicine’s move to Grand Rapids in 2010. 

He was a 1963 graduate of MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business.

Due to current restrictions on gatherings, the family is planning a private service of remembrance. 

Memorial contributions may be directed to the Kent County Parks Foundation – Millennium Park, the Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center or the Peter F. Secchia Endowed Scholarship at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

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