Culture
9:56 am
Tue July 8, 2014

Philanthropist and former Steelcase chairman Peter Wege dies at 94

Peter Wege.
Credit Steelcase

"Do all the good you can for as many people as you can for as long as you can."

- Peter Melvin Wege

The Former Steelcase Inc. chairman and philanthropist Peter Wege died at his home in Grand Rapids yesterday.

He was the son of Peter Martin Wege, who founded Steelcase more than a century ago. Steelcase and rival office furniture manufacturers Haworth Inc. and Herman Miller Inc. anchored the Grand Rapids area's economy for decades.

Peter Melvin Wege created his foundation in 1967. It has given away millions, much of it in his hometown.

More about Wege from his obituary:

As an only child, Peter M. Wege always made sure people knew it was his father's innovative genius that provided the wealth that he gave away to make life better for countless people in his home town and beyond.

When Peter Wege gave his largest single gift to build the new Grand Rapids Art Museum, the GRAM board asked to rename it the Wege Art Museum. Peter's response was typical. "This art museum belongs to the people of Grand Rapids, not the Wege family, and that's how the name will stay.

Peter M. Wege graduated from Brown Military Academy in San Diego in 1938 and from Lake Forest Academy in 1940. He entered the University of Michigan in 1940 where he set a freshman track record in the javelin throw that held up for half a century.

After Pearl Harbor, Wege enlisted in the Army Air Force and served his country as a First Lieutenant multi-engine pilot until 1946.

Wege joined Steelcase in 1946, working in a series of executive posts including sales, research, design, and as an officer of the Board of Directors and the Steelcase Foundation Board. He retired as Vice Chairman of the Steelcase Board in 2000.

After he retired, Wege worked full-time on the foundation.

Wege's foundation was also instrumental in funding projects aimed at restoring the Great Lakes. He once said, "Healing the Great Lakes is the most important work I have done in my lifetime."

Wege is survived by his children; Mary Goodwillie Nelson, Susan Carter, Peter Martin Wege II, Chistopher Henry Wege, Diana Wege Sherogan, Johanna Osman, Jonathan Michael Wege; 17 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Visitation is planned for Thursday and a funeral will be held Friday, both at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Grand Rapids.