Born April 15, 1937 in Englewood, NJ, Peter F. Secchia served 4 years in the United States Marine Corps (1956-59), was graduated with a Business School Degree in Economics from Michigan State University (1962) and is a resident of East Grand Rapids, Michigan. He holds honorary doctorate degrees from several universities including his alma mater.
After 40 years of service to UFPI, Mr. Secchia (Past Chairman of the Board of Universal Forest Products), a multi-billion leading manufacturer and distributor of wood and wood-composite products for the Do-It-Yourself/retail, site-built construction, industrial products, and manufactured housing industries. UFPI had more than 10,000 employees who work at more than 100 manufacturing facilities across the United States, Canada and Mexico. He is also managing partner of SIBSCO and SFLP since retiring in 2003. Honored in ’94 as Michigan’s Master Entrepreneur of the Year, he was recognized as the state’s outstanding self-made businessman. In ’95 the Economic Club of West Michigan named him “Businessman of the Year.”
As the U.S. Ambassador to Italy from June 1989 through January 1993, he was hailed for his discretion, endless work hours and ceaseless travel throughout the country, and presented with the Cavaliere di Gran Croce (The Knight of the Great Cross). This is the Republic of Italy’s highest diplomatic award given only on rare occasions for exceptional service in international affairs. He also received the U.S. Department of State “Distinguished Honor Award” for “having a major commercial impact on U.S. foreign policy.” He was the only serving U.S. Ambassador to receive this award in many years, an honor rarely accorded to non-career Ambassadors. He also received the Boys’ Towns (orphanage) of Italy “Children of the World” award (plus many others).
His civic activities include past involvement and leadership roles in a wide spectrum of local and statewide charitable organizations (especially for inner city, urban schools and young people), as well as many “one-time” community events, honoring or supporting a worthwhile project or person. He is a member and past Chairman of the Grand Rapids Economic Club, Youth Commonwealth, and the Grand Rapids Rotary. In his 1994 State of the State Address, Governor John Engler appointed him to chair “The Secchia Commission,” with the final report “Toward a User-Friendly Government” presented to the Governor on January 10, 1995. In 1999 the Governor again appointed him to chair the “Michigan Commission on Public Employees Pension and Retiree Health Benefits.” In August 2001, the National Governors Association honored Peter for his distinguished service to state government. His dream to move the MSU College of Human Medicine began in 1999. The Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, “The Secchia Center” opened in the fall of 2010.
A vigorous proponent of personal voluntarism, Mr. Secchia has a background that includes numerous political, community and charitable concerns. Once chairman of the Kent County (MI) Republican Committee and later 3rd Congressional Republican District chairman, he was elected by his party to be Michigan’s Republican National Committeeman, first in 1980 and again in 1984 and 1988. He was a Vice-Chairman of the Republican National Committee (‘84-’89) heading its 13state Midwest Region. He was host chairman of the 1985 RNC Midwest Leadership Conference in Grand Rapids (characterized by thenVice President George Bush as “the most successful political regional conference ever held”).
Ambassador Secchia was a close personal friend/advisor to former President H.W. Bush and President Gerald R. Ford. As a member of the Executive Committee of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation (overseer of the Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids and Library in Ann Arbor) and past chairman of its Endowment Committee, he chaired “Humor and the Presidency,” a threeday, celebritystudded symposium sponsored by the foundation. This was made into a 90-minute HBO special. He was also on the founding Board of Trustees of the Bush Presidential Library Foundation, and an early advisor to the James Baker Institute of Rice University on its opening. A former Trustee for John Cabot University of Rome, Italy, and Chairman of the Finance Committee for Kent County’s Millennium Park his work continues.
Ambassador Secchia is a member of the National Italian American Foundation Council of 1000. The Washington DC NIAF headquarters is named “The Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Building.” He was the founding president of the West Michigan Lodge of the Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA). He brought the 40th biennial National Convention of the OSIA to Grand Rapids in ’87 and served as its general chairman. He was named Italian/American of the Year in ’95 and, in ’97 was honored as the recipient of the prestigious National Education Leadership Award (NELA) at the national OSIA dinner in Washington, DC. He is also a recipient of the “Ellis Island Medal of Honor.”
He is an enthusiastic supporter of Michigan State University, where he met his wife, the former Joan Peterson of Midland, MI. Married in 1964, they have two daughters and two sons. Stephanie is living in NYC. She graduated from the University of Vermont, received her MBA in Finance at NYU, is married to Ken Oehler and they have two daughters, Julia & Vivienne. Sandy, a cum laude graduate of Phillips Academy, graduated in 1991 with honors from the University of Notre Dame, received her master’s degree from Stanford University, is married to Joel Aslanian, and is living in Seattle with their daughters Althea, Maggie Jane & Elsa. Charlie graduated from John Cabot University in Rome and works for SIBSCO and ATTICO Ventures, Inc. in Grand Rapids, MI. Charlie is married to Elizabeth Sierra and has two daughters, Beatrice & Lauren, and two sons, Pietro & Charles David. Mark graduated from Miami University in Ohio, earned his MBA at CEIBS of Shanghai, China, and is living in California and working in Shanghai. Mark is married to Laurie Duthie, a Doctoral Candidate at UCLA and they have one daughter, Stella.
Contact: Monica Taylor @ 616-235-0010