Les Allen, 34
Executive Director, Neighborhood Revitalization
Les Allen takes risks in uncharted
territories. McDonalds, Churchs Chicken, Burger
King, and Quick and Clean line the streets of South
Division Avenue thanks to Allens entrepreneurial
spirit and his eagerness to improve the city.
I take risks that benefit
the normal citizenry of Grand Rapids. I do things
that most people wouldnt think about doing,
Allen said. I am helping to improve areas
that have been forgotten about.
Allen said his former company, L.H. Allen, was the
first minority-owned construction company to build
a McDonalds in Michigan. Allens other
business ventures include The Lenox Room, a downtown
club, and Spin City Laundry Center.
Les knows the inner city;
he grew up in Grand Rapids, said Sharon Evoy,
executive director of the Neighborhood Business
Specialists Program. The program is an economic
development partnership between Grand Rapids and
the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce to provide
support and services to the citys 20 neighborhood
business associations. Hes one of the
people who realizes that the inner city can be economically
Les has been able to tap into that.
With the Neighborhood Revitalization
Corp. (NRC), Allen is working to establish quality
homes for low-income residents. He builds houses
and works to rehabilitate existing homes to meet
city codes. The goal is to create safe and comfortable
places for residents to live.
My hope is to make the
NRC a well-respected and successful organization
that will last for years to come, leaving a legacy
in the nonprofit arena in the Grand Rapids community,
What you dont know about Allen: His ultimate
business goal is to purchase the Oakland Raiders.
Brigid Avery, 24
Admissions Representative, Aquinas College
After spending a college semester in inner-city
Chicago, Brigid Averys life was changed forever.
Her eyes were opened to a world different from her
own, and when she returned home to Grand Rapids,
she was determined to make a difference.
Known as a woman of character who walks the
talk and holds strong to her convictions,
Avery is on a mission to increase diversity at Aquinas
College and in the Greater Grand Rapids community.
She developed a summer program for Detroit public
high school students called Detroit Rewarding
Youth Achievement, inviting them to experience
college life at Aquinas.
I wanted to stop talking about diversity
and decided to actually do something to help Aquinas,
said Avery, who added that incoming freshmen students
of color at Aquinas increased 6 percent in the 2002-2003
Avery is involved in the Racial Justice Institute
of the Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism. She
and other members are advocating the name change
of Franklin Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Ultimately, Avery hopes to become the dean of students
at Aquinas, while also managing her own restaurant
that is friendly to those who are on
What you dont know about Avery: I confess!
I am such a mess! My car, my house, my office -
all of them are messy. I am relatively disorganized,
yet I somehow find order in the midst of my chaos.
Mark Davis, 38
Partner, Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett,
In any environmental case Mark Davis takes on,
his client is always the same: the environment.
Davis, a 1990 graduate of Vermont Law School who
also specializes in intellectual property law, began
his career in environmental law as a prosecutor
for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I
do like to go after those who fail to recognize
their responsibility for the problem, he said.
These days, he is just as likely to help corporations
achieve sound environmental standards. I think
one of my goals in representing clients is if theyre
out of compliance to get them back in compliance
and to stay in compliance. Any company who wants
to stay around in todays market needs to stay
out of environmental trouble. Davis also represents
families whose health has been impaired by negligent
In his off hours, Davis serves on the boards of
the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and
Alternatives in Motion, which furnishes wheelchairs
to people who cant afford them, and he coaches
youth travel hockey. In 1999 he worked as the chairman,
manager and treasurer for Judith Freys successful
bid for the mayoralty of East Grand Rapids. It
wasnt necessarily an interest in politics
but more an interest in community, said the
native East Grand Rapidian.
He certainly cares about his community and
gets involved, Mayor Frey affirmed.
What you dont know about Davis: I dont
like going to sleep.
Iliana Ordaz Jeffries, 37
Executive Director, Arts Council of Greater Grand
Iliana Ordaz Jeffries spent her career in arts
management pingponging from Miami to Toronto to
Boise, Idaho, before landing atop the Arts Council
of Greater Grand Rapids in January 2002. So
far, so good, she said.
Carol Black, the councils development director,
is more effusive. Its really wonderful
to see her in the role she was meant to play. It
took her very little time to understand the arts
community. She really has the potential to take
us, as the arts council, to the next level: collaborating
with other groups.
Our mission overall is to make sure the community
sees art as a core value, Jeffries said, who
also prioritizes arts advocacy on a legislative
Her husband, John Peter Jeffries (Everybody
knows him as Jeep. Jeep, like the car.), serves
as executive director of Opera Grand Rapids. It
was his position with the opera company that brought
us here, she said. Its a metropolis
compared to Boise.
The thing you dont know about Jeffries: I
sing The Queen of the Night when I vacuum.
And I cant sing. So you dont want to
be within earshot.
Joe Jones, 32
Partner/Senior Consultant, Jones & Gavan,
Recognized by Woodrick Institute Director Steve
Robbins as a dynamic thinker who has the community
in mind in everything he does, Jones is making
moves in Grand Rapids. The first African American
to serve on the Kent County Aeronautics Board, Jones
deems wooing his wife Jessie and creating a family
of four as his ultimate accomplishment.
Jones, serving on a total of five local committees/boards,
is vice chairman of the Grand Rapids Urban League
and second vice president of the Grand Rapids NAACP
I want to continue to give of my time, talents
and treasures for the benefit of Grand Rapids,
said Jones, who provides public relations counsel
through Jones & Gavan. This is my home
and I want to be a part of Grand Rapids growing
into an example of what cities across America can
emulate when community, business, church, government
and philanthropy come together and work collaboratively.
Jones has hopes of becoming an ordained minister
and holding public office.
What you dont know about Jones: He is one
of nine children, five boys and four girls. Whenever
he calls his mother, she always has to guess who
shes talking to because his siblings all sound
alike. So he calls his mother Mooken Jones
to distinguish himself.
Rock Kauffman, 39
Owner of Rock Kauffmans Urbanhouse
At his Ionia Avenue emporium, Rock Kauffman is
widening the concept of retail furniture sales and
celebrating the renaissance of downtown Grand Rapids
all at the same time. A lot of design insight goes
along with the couch you buy at Rock Kauffmans
Urbanhouse because the stores on-staff interior
designers stand ready to lend their expertise.
Kauffmans envelope-stretching furniture store
has existed in the area adjacent to the Van Andel
Arena since 1996, and its owner is enjoying downtowns
new era: Weve survived the first wave,
he said. With the new convention center coming,
that will be the next wave of success downtown.
Were in a good position to help that.
Sam Cummings, president of Second Story Properties
and the developer of Ionia, said of the Urbanhouse
team: It took quite an amount of vision to
participate in what weve created around here.
Its certainly a tribute to their creativity,
vision and hard work that theyre doing so
well. At times its been a challenge for them,
and theyve risen to that challenge.
Kauffman started his career in design and related
fields at Klingmans Furniture Co. in 1983 at the
tender age of 21. In 1988, he and partner Kevin
Einfeld began BDR Builders, pioneering the design-build
concept of home construction in this area. The company
designed and built eight houses featured in the
Parade of Homes in a five-year span. Kauffman sold
his interest in BDR by 1993 and concentrated solely
on interior design.
In all his ventures, Kauffmans goal has been
to establish good design within the city. The
next five years
downtown is going to be the
place to be. Its going to be so huge that
downtown Grand Rapids isnt going to be the
same for 50 or 60 years.
What you dont know about Kauffman: Ive
been known to be caught at Target having lunch.
Liz Keegan, 26
Partner, Program Management, Community Leadership
Liz Keegan organizes dialogues on contemporary
issues. She has worked to educate and equip neighborhood
associations. She has planned fund-raisers for the
Fair Housing Center. She manages grants. Liz Keegan
makes community involvement a priority.
The connections you make are necessary for
you to feel you belong here, said Keegan,
who moved to West Michigan from Detroit.
After graduating from Aquinas College in 1998 with
a major in Spanish and a minor in Japanese, Keegan
was hired to provide administrative support for
both the colleges Community Leadership Institute
(CLI) and its Woodrick Institute for the Study of
Racism and Diversity. They split me,
is how she puts it. In January 2001, she moved full
time to the CLI.
Keegan has spent her years since graduation working
on healing racism and promoting diversity, attending
several Institutes for Healing Racism. She is a
member of the Summit on Racism: Community Action
Team and serves on the board of directors of Hispanics
Liz is one of these incredibly bright and
dedicated young leaders who is, I think, breaking
the mold or helping to break the mold of traditional
leadership. Traditional leadership is white guys.
Heres a young woman taking significant leadership
roles in the community, said CLIs lead
partner and mayoral candidate, the Rev. George Heartwell.
What you dont know about Keegan: She has
a Star Wars calendar on her desk and confesses a
partiality for Han Solo. Or is it a passion? Not
so much anymore. Its admiration, she
Belen Ledezma, 33
Supervisor of Translation and Interpretation
Services, Spectrum Health
The daughter of migrant workers, Belen Ledezma
remembers translating for her Mexican grandmother
in the emergency room when she was a mere 7 years
old. Now she makes her living doing the same thing
for myriad Spanish-speaking patients at Spectrum
Ledezma, whose family settled permanently in the
Fremont area (Im a Gerber baby!)
when their house in Mexico burned down, pursued
a triple major in political science, Latin and Spanish
with a minor in history at Western Michigan University.
I stayed in school for five years because
I didnt know what to do, she confessed.
In March 2000, a friend directed Ledezma to the
job she now holds. She just thought it would
be a natural fit for me because I did translation
for Catholic Social Services.
Belen is wonderful. She is an expert in the
field of interpretation and translation services.
She really exudes a passion to patients and their
families. She has lived with a foot in two different
societies. She comes from a place of knowing rather
than just a skill shes learned, said
Kris White, Spectrum Healths director of patient
relations and translation and interpretation services.
While working her way to a masters degree
in public administration, Ledezma teaches in migrant
camps and volunteers at Gildas Club. She is
married to Hesham Sanour. I serve the Lord
by serving others, is her credo.
What you dont know about Ledezma: I
talk a lot with my hands, even when I talk on the
telephone. Its like Im guiding an airplane.
I feel like I need my hands to communicate everything
I want to say.
Jeffrey Meeuwsen, 34
Director, Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
Its a career change most wouldnt expect: from
Amway to the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
(UICA). Yet Jeffrey Meeuwsen has recently found
He began his work at the UICA on Aug. 1 and is
making strides. I think it would be to help
West Michigan to realize what a gem they have in
UICA, Meeuwsen said of his mission. Were
not only the largest contemporary multidisciplinary
arts center in Michigan, but were 25 years
old and primarily volunteer-run for all those years.
And that is extremely rare in the U.S. for that
Meeuwsen, pursuing a second degree in fine arts
from Kendall College of Art and Design, has been
affiliated with the UICA for 10 years, working on
the board and several committees.
Sarah Joseph, Kendall College director of exhibitions,
is sure that UICA has the right man for the job.
I think he has a lot of great ideas to continue
the great tradition of the UICA, to take it in new
I think hes really going
to be reaching out to the community.
Odd fact from Mr. Meeuwsen: He eats his cake by
flipping it upside down. The too-sweet frosting
sticks to the plate and he can then enjoy hassle-free
cakey-goodness from the bottom up.
Rusty Merchant, 30
Vice President of Public Policy and Government
Affairs, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
When the state divvied up its arts money, he ensured
that Kent County received its fair share. He prevented
the building of a casino in Wayland. Now hes
working to get U.S. 131 finished to the Indiana
border. Yet Rusty Merchant calls himself just
another boring white guy.
The chamber is the only organization west of Lansing
that has a full-time lobbyist in that capital every
session, and Merchant is the man. He (Rusty)
has worked to bring the Grand Rapids area chambers
advocacy to the next level in Lansing.
With Rustys help, the chamber has become one
of the major players in the state Legislature,
chamber President John Brown said.
Even his name is commerce-friendly, the lobbyist
observed. Rusty Merchant is, like, the ultimate
chamber name. The only thing better would be, like,
Merchant earned his bachelors degree from Grand
Valley State University and served as a legislative
aide to state Sen. Doug Carl. Despite his frequent
forays to the capital, he finds time to serve on
the board of his church and the Grand Rapids Township
Planning Commission. He, wife Jane and daughter
Peyton are expecting a family addition.
Its a pleasure to go to Lansing and
talk about Grand Rapids. Were a flagship city
for the Midwest. I really believe it.
What you dont know about Rusty Merchant:
I always eat my food in order and complete
one item before moving on to the next. Theres
Marci Michmerhuizen, 30
Community Administrator of Michigan State University
College of Human Medicine, Grand Rapids Medical
Education and Research Center for Health Professions
Some people have trouble keeping track of a cat.
Marci Michmerhuizen tracks the academic progress
and sundry needs of 60 third- and fourth-year Michigan
State University medical students as they complete
their clinical training in Grand Rapids hospitals
and health facilities.
As community administrator, Michmerhuizen directs
the medical student program for the Medical Education
and Research Center for Health Professions (MERC).
She is adept at finding creative solutions to unusual
problems. Just one example of Ms. Michmerhuizens
style is that when we were told that most visiting
medical students expected free housing, the budget
presented a problem. Ms. Michmerhuizens solution
was to solicit volunteer free housing from the medical
staff and volunteer organizations. And now we
have a growing list of families in the Grand Rapids
area who will be sponsoring visiting medical students
who may well become the physician leaders of tomorrow
in West Michigan, said Kent Bottles, MERCs
president and CEO.
Michmerhuizen, who earned a bachelors degree
in English from Hope College in 1994 and a masters
from GVSU in education in 2000, states her mission
simply: Do the best I can. Certainly we are
aiming to become a world-renowned program for MERC
and for the state.
Holland is home for Michmerhuizen and Marshall,
her husband of a year and a half. Its
worth the commute, she said.
The thing you dont know about Michmerhuizen:
I love ketchup, salsa, French dressing and
tomato soup, but I will not eat tomatoes!
Tamber Moore, 32
Community Outreach Manager, The Delta Strategy
Tamber Moore is movin and shakin at The Delta
Strategy. She is working on initiatives to reduce
poverty in the Grand Rapids area and daily tackling
the citys toughest issues.
Moore also serves on the Minority Business Council,
helping to ensure minorities of equal business opportunities
in the area and to raise awareness of their presence.
She is devoted to helping adults and children become
more culturally aware.
I am passionate about healing racism because
I am multiracial, Moore said. My father
was born in the Philippines and my mother is Polish.
I have had the opportunity to see the world through
several sets of eyes.
Moore worked in television production for six years
and served as a media relations consultant for the
opening of the Van Andel Institute and the S-Curve.
Tamber is a dynamic, passionate woman,
said Deb Bloom, Womens Resource Center business
and community liaison. She strikes me as a
strong woman with a great passion for what she does.
She is young
and someone who will continue
to have a growing impact in Grand Rapids.
This is only the beginning for Tamber Moore. She
looks forward to seeing the results of The Delta
Strategy, the Healing Racism Institute and
all of the Institutes working together in Grand
What you really need to know about Moore: She loves
Michigan basketball: Go Blue!
Mark Peters, 38
President/CEO, Butterball Farms Inc.
Whether it is his connections at The Potters House
Christian School, his work at In the Image (an organization
that gives away clothes, furniture and housewares
to people in need) or his desire to help his own
employees flourish at Butterball Farms Inc., Mark
Peters is enriching lives in Grand Rapids.
Peters is a very positive person. He encourages
people to reach their highest potential, Potters
House Principal John Booy said. Mark has the
ability to speak life into people, especially in
urban communities. He is very committed to the city;
he doesnt just give money, he gives his time
Peters and his human resources staff are devoting
their time to the development of Southwest Organizations
Unifying Resources for Community and Employees,
known as SOURCE. SOURCE, which is scheduled to launch
Jan. 1, consists of 10 companies working together
with businesses, nonprofits and government agencies
to provide services to its members employees.
English as a Second Language and budget classes,
Family Independence Agency caseworkers and emergency
child care will be accessible for member companies.
We want to help move people from welfare to
sustainability, to help promote people along a career
path using these businesses, Peters said.
Aside from Peters involvement in the Grand
Rapids community, he is looking to his companys
future with anticipation of a new retail endeavor
and the possibility of recycling all plastic waste
What you dont know about Peters: I had
my white truck painted like my boat. Its blue,
yellow, orange and red! It is pretty wild!
Steve Robbins, 37
Director, Woodrick Institute for the Study of
Racism and Diversity
His familys background as Asian immigrants
living sometimes uneasily in the United States equipped
Steve Robbins to lead Aquinas Colleges Woodrick
Institute for the Study of Racism and Diversity.
Born in Saigon, Vietnam, Robbins came to America
when he was 5. He graduated from Calvin College
in 1988. Five months after his marriage to wife
Donna in 1991 Robbins mother committed suicide.
From depression, Robbins explained,
and from a lot of the way she was treated
here as a Vietnamese person. Robbins followed
a short career as a news producer with graduate
school, earning a Ph.D. in communications from Michigan
State University. After four years as a marketing
consultant for a Fortune 500 company, Robbins started
looking for a more enriching means of earning a
living. I wanted my job to have life meaning,
Robbins began studying issues of diversity. I
became true to myself and realized I was an Asian
person living in the United States. When my son
was born in 1995, that was the final kick.
He resolved to work to heal racism and promote diversity.
The institute was founded in 1999 with Robbins as
its first director; it holds workshops works to
foster sensitivity in matters of race and diversity.
In 2001, Robbins founded the Multiracial Association
of Professionals (MAP) to promote a more diverse
working community in the city.
Steve is doing a wonderful job, Aquinas
College President Harry Knopke said. He is
very creative. He has a broad perspective on the
community - and not just Grand Rapids, but what
a community means. Hes very creative and passionate
about what he does.
When true understanding and communication
take place, the issues we have around racism and
exclusion will be greatly lessened, Robbins
said. The Robbinses have three sons and a daughter.
What you dont know about Robbins: He always
wears two pairs of socks because he has skinny feet.
Chrissy Rozelle, 28
Director of Administration, Camp Blodgett
She answered an ad and found her lifes work. Chrissy
Rozelle, director of administration for Camp Blodgett,
finds the money to keep the camp serving the areas
Basically, what I want to do is raise a ton
of money so that people can do the great things
theyre doing, she said.
After working as an accountant support coordinator
for a public relations firm in East Lansing, Rozelle
answered the fateful ad. Alongside her fund-raising
duties, she is working on a marketing degree at
Grand Rapids Community College.
Annette Guilfoyle, public information officer for
the city of Grand Rapids, praised Rozelles
can do, will do, its done attitude,
and her willingness to tackle new tasks.
Rozelle explained her enthusiasm: Theres
a real energy to your work when youre doing
something for other people.
What you dont know about Rozelle: I
cant type and talk at the same time.
Suzanne Schultz, 31
City Planner and Project Manager for the Grand
Rapids Master Plan
She was just trying to stay home nights. In 1999
Suzanne Schultz left her consulting gig as an urban
planner to work in the Grand Rapids Planning Department.
To get away from meetings, she said.
Upon her arrival at her new job, Schultz learned
that she would be helping to redraft the Grand Rapids
master plan, which had not been updated in almost
40 years. Over 100 neighborhood meetings and community
forums ensued. Schultz was undaunted: Even
though there were night meetings, I was only 10
minutes away from home anywhere in the city.
Schultz and her colleagues on the Plan Grand Rapids
project listened to the community as though it were
a giant committee to determine how a future Grand
Rapids would grow, build, live, navigate and prosper.
The feedback weve gotten back from the
community has been very positive, she said.
People feel that theyve been heard.
The new master plan mixes the input from specific
neighborhoods with that of hired consultants and
city officials. Schultzs job was to coordinate
the entire whirl.
Suzanne is terrific, said Bill Hoyt,
city planning director. She is forward-thinking,
organized and genuinely concerned about people and
their views. She is largely responsible for the
success of the master plan project.
Schultz earned a bachelors degree with honors
in urban and regional planning from Michigan State
University. She has worked on a study of state land
use trends and on an environmental impact statement
on U.S. 23. Its been my history at work.
I get these giant projects. She is restoring
a house in Heritage Hill, where she lives with her
chef husband, Scott, and their two children.
What you dont know about Schultz: I
sing my baby show tunes while shopping at Meijer.
We like Porgy and Bess.
Dr. Bin Tean Teh, 37
Senior Principal Investigator, Van Andel Research
Since his arrival at the Van Andel Research Institute
(VARI) in January 2000, Dr. Bin Tean Teh and his
research team have blazed a trail of discovery in
the genetics and treatment of kidney cancer. The
Malaysian-born Teh, formerly of Swedens Karolinska
Institute, has forged partnerships with 11 area
urologists from both Spectrum Health and Metropolitan
Hospital and with DeVos Childrens Hospital to study
the disease. Tehs research has identified the genes
- different for adults and for children - that cause
both hereditary and nonhereditary kidney cancer.
The research also has determined that the genetic
makeup, not the size or shape of a cancerous growth,
determines whether it will spread. Tehs team has
also fingered the targets for drug therapy in kidney
cancer, allowing physicians to more intelligently
direct their patients chemotherapy.
I work on kidney cancer because it has such
huge impact in my life, said Teh, whose father
died of the disease at age 35.
Bart Williams, a VARI investigator, said Teh had
done a good job of integrating the local clinical
research community with the institute. And
since thats one of the long-term goals of
the institute, its very important.
Teh, his wife Jane and their 8-month-old son are
happy transplants to the area. My two biggest
hobbies are golfing and fishing, so I suppose I
come to the right place. We have many good friends
here, he said.
What you dont know about Teh: When he is
golfing, he thinks about work.
Dan West, 34
Design Director, Izzydesign
Dan West surely wont take all of the credit
for his success at Izzydesign. It takes a
team. Lots of people are involved with the success
of design. I am just proud to be a part of a small,
intelligent, acute group of individuals who help
bring Izzy to life.
Wests design work honors include a 2001 Best
of NeoCon Editors Choice Award and 2002 Best
of NeoCon Silver Award. He is a terrific young
designer and has played a significant role in the
design of new products for Izzy, said Izzydesign
President Chuck Saylor. I have known him for
four years, and his creative thought process as
well as his sincere commitment to this community
and to making a difference are some of the qualities
I have seen in Dan.
Previously a product designer at Haworth Inc. and
a contract designer for Steelcase Inc., West takes
great honor in working in the area he grew up in.
Being from this area, its even more
meaningful to be able to affect this community in
a positive way; I enjoy bringing more opportunities
for labor and helping the community thrive and grow
along with my friends and family.
West hopes to transition from designing furniture
to designing and constructing houses. His desire
is to build homes as simply as possible, forcing
himself to be more creative with fewer resources.
People are overloaded; they need tranquility
and trust. I want to build this into my furniture
and my homes. A home is a sanctuary. I hope to create
that for each unique individual I work for.
What you dont know about West: As a
late teen-ager I had the honor of driving Bozo in
the local parade.
James White, 38
James White, a former commercial banker, began
in 1994 to focus his business acumen on neglected
areas of this city. The kind of work Im
doing is about changing lives and changing communities,
Division Avenue was the first target for Whites
effort at resurrection. Beginning with partners
Les Allen and Stuart Ray, White planted a Burger
King at the corner of Franklin Street and Division
Avenue and followed it up in quick succession with
McDonalds and Churchs chicken franchises. In 1996,
White and Allen collaborated on the renovation of
present-day Tillman Commerce Building, 1001 S. Division
Ave. The partners are joined even on a personal
level; their wives are sisters.
Whites newest partnership, Development LLC, will
do further development in the inner city.
He is a very knowledgeable man, having worked
on the Planning Commission with the city. Hes
interested in the residential neighborhoods around
the business district, which is important. You cant
have a strong business district without strong residential
neighborhoods. We have already seen the benefits
of that caring, said Anne Marie Bessette,
development specialist with the Neighborhood Business
White serves on the board of Young Life and, with
his wife Sulari, is an active member of Messiah
Baptist Church. He pursues his business course prayerfully.
What I really love about it is to be able
to control my own destiny. The issues I deal with
- I have some say-so, he said.
What you dont know about White: He claims to be
a really ordinary guy, but his wife claims he keeps
the house at near-tropical temperatures and bundles
up even in the summer.
Meg Miller Willit, 39
Since leaving the public relations field in 1998,
Meg Miller Willit has made a second career out of
volunteering. The 39-year-old mother of a 3½-year-old,
who expects a baby this month, deftly champions
education and the arts in Grand Rapids.
I was taught at an early age that it was
our responsibility to contribute back to the world
we live in, Miller Willit said.
While sitting on the board of directors of Frederik
Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park for six years,
Miller Willit pioneered Christmas Around the World,
spending weeks crafting ornaments and trimming the
various trees of the nations. She chaired the Gardens
1999 gala for Nina Akamus daVinci-inspired horse
and the May 2001 opening of the Sculpture Park.
She now divides her time between the board of the
Grand Rapids Childrens Museum, the Grand Valley
Foundation Board of Trustees, the Young Leadership
Advisory Committee at Grand Valley State University,
the Holland-Zeeland Community Foundation and the
Grand Rapids Symphony.
I have only worked with Meg for about a year
and a half, and in that time she has proved nothing
less than a woman who gets things done, said
Theresa Thome, executive director of the Grand Rapids
The thing you dont know about Miller Willit:
Her treadmill is in constant use as a lectern for
rehearsing speeches. I dont walk on
it. Its never turned on - never. GR
Myrna Anderson is the Grand Rapids Magazine
staff writer. Lauren Befus is an intern with Grand