2018 Russell G. Mawby Award for Philanthropy Presented to John Frey, Edward “Ted” Frey and David Frey

Monday, October 8, 2018

For the last 30 years, three brothers - John Frey, David Frey and Ted Frey - have been helping to improve their hometowns of Charlevoix, Grand Rapids and Petoskey-Harbor Springs. As trustees of the Frey Foundation, created by their parents in 1974, they have individually and collectively demonstrated the power of philanthropy to be community builders.

Their contributions to West Michigan and Northern Michigan have been truly exceptional:

  • John and Ted worked with CMF over two years to support the planning and launch of the Petoskey Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation (PHSACF) and the Charlevoix County Community Foundation (CCCF), supporting both foundations with start-up and administrative funding from the Frey Foundation as well as guidance during those start-up years.

  • Faced with an aging park in a prominent location in downtown Grand Rapids, the brothers led efforts to commission artist Maya Lin to design the space. Her resulting “Ecliptic” at Rosa Parks Circle is the most intensely programmed park in the city and hosts an estimated 750,000 visitors annually.

  • The “Grand Action” initiative, with David as a co-chair, engaged dozens of community leaders and volunteers in West Michigan and galvanized a total of $420 million in public-private partnerships. Their efforts spearheaded development in Grand Rapids that brought jobs, healthcare, education and entertainment back to the core of the city, with growth that annually contributes millions of dollars to the local economy.

  • The brothers endowed a Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University, the first chair of its kind in the country. 

  • They supported collaboration with other families in West Michigan to fund early care and education in Michigan 25 years ago. Those philanthropic investments continue to inform community strategy. 

  • Their commitment to the permanent and ongoing role of philanthropy has led to a strategic and seamless transition at the Frey Foundation for their child – the third generation - to now be the foundation’s leaders.

  • In 2009, a landmark conservation effort to protect critical dunes along the Lake Michigan shoreline, now known as the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area, was achieved thanks in large part to the environmental passions and financial creativity of John, David and Ted.

  • The brothers have taken on leadership roles in many highly successful collaborative funding efforts in West and Northern Michigan, including building of the Arena and Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids, creation of Grand Rapids Community College’s best-in-class Early Learning Laboratory, restoration of the Boardman River, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County’s successful Building Blocks campaign and the recent transformation of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. 


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