Loss of a pioneer

You can’t take it with you, and Frederik Meijer lived his life according to that adage, spreading his wealth far and wide to help a number of local causes, ranging from education, medicine, nature and the arts.

The Meijer, Inc. CEO, who passed away Friday morning at the age of 91, contributed funds to half a dozen projects at Grand Valley State University, helping to bring the university from a cluster college to one of Michigan’s most rapidly-growing public colleges. Meijer helped bring a number of structures to fruition, including the Richard M. DeVos Center, the Meijer Campus in Holland and the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences in downtown Grand Rapids. In the university’s earlier years, he contributed to the creation of the Eberhard Center and the Meijer Public Broadcast Center and, most recently, made significant commitments to the construction of the new L. William Seidman Center on GVSU’s Pew Campus.

“I want to leave the world in a little better shape than when I entered it,” Meijer said during his life, and he lived according to that goal. His dedication to bettering the West Michigan community is both admirable and commendable, and Meijer’s legacy is one that today’s businessmen can learn from.

In a tension-filled recession packed with unemployment, rising poverty levels, widespread discontent and Occupy protests, Meijer’s lifelong dedication to philanthropy sets an excellent example of how the wealthy and privileged can invest their financial gains to create a better community. Meijer — the 60th richest person in the U.S. at the time of his death — donated his time and money to a wide range of community projects that will have a lasting impact, even after his death.

Meijer indeed left his community and the world in “better shape,” fostering a spirit of philanthropy and setting an example that will hopefully last for years to come.

Rest in peace, Fred.