Business, philanthropy and community leaders in West Michigan are remembering the life and countless contributions of David Frey, trustee emeritus of the Frey Foundation, following his passing last week.
Business, philanthropy and community leaders in West Michigan are remembering the life and countless contributions of David Frey, trustee emeritus of the Frey Foundation, following his passing late last week.
“The trustees and staff of the Frey Foundation are deeply saddened by David’s passing. We have all learned a great deal from David and recognize that his ability to spark interest and progress around community projects has been and always will be a hallmark of the work that we do. We will miss David’s presence in the office,” Holly Johnson, president of the Frey Foundation, shared in a statement. “You can stand on any corner in Grand Rapids and see the vision and work of David Frey.”
David served on various boards and led significant community development efforts. As his family shared: “Much of the Grand Rapids we know today reflects his efforts to develop Grand Rapids into a great national mid-sized city. He found success leveraging public-private partnerships for the betterment of the community.”
“David Frey was a tireless advocate for our community. He believed in the strength of people who love our community,” Grand Rapids Community Foundation President Diana Sieger said in a statement to Crain’s Grand Rapids Business. “His voice will be missed, and he cared so deeply about the positive growth and development for everyone in our community. He will be missed, and his legacy will live on forever!”
David was a co-chair of Grand Action for 26 years. Grand Action is a collaborative that started in the 90s with 50 West Michigan leaders from various sectors, including business, philanthropy and the community, to explore building an arena in downtown Grand Rapids. After bringing countless economic development projects to the area, this work continues today as Grand Action 2.0, which fosters public-private partnerships and identifies transformational projects that benefit health, education, science, the arts and economic vitality for all in the community.
Last month, David was named chairman emeritus of Grand Action 2.0. He was honored by the DeVos family, the Van Andel family and Fifth Third Bank at a special reception where they celebrated his three decades of service to the community.
That’s where Frey shared a statement with MLive about the importance of partnerships in building community: “We knew that to drive growth in West Michigan, we must think boldly, plan collegially and act with a sense of urgency. We knew we had to be intentional and focused on investing in our future. That’s what Grand Action has been all about – love for this community, vision for what it can be, and a collective commitment to invest in making that happen.”
David’s leadership helped to bring Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place Convention Center, the downtown Grand Rapids Grand Valley State University Campus, a historic renovation of Meijer Majestic Civic Theatre, Michigan State University of College of Human Medicine, and the Downtown Market to Grand Rapids.
“I believe we’ve lost our city’s biggest cheerleader,” Jon Nunn, the former executive director of Grand Action who worked alongside Frey for three decades, told MLive.
Dottie Johnson, president emeritus of CMF, honored David, John and Edward Frey with the Dr. Russell G. Mawby Award for Philanthropy during CMF’s 2018 Annual Conference in Grand Rapids.
On the main stage, Johnson shared in part, “David Frey’s leadership as a co-chair of Grand Action is legendary in its success in bringing jobs, healthcare, higher education and entertainment back to the core of this city. Residents and visitors, too, marvel at the energy and vitality of this city.”
You can watch the video that was shared at the conference featuring the Frey family here.
David further supported Grand Rapids through decades of service to various boards, including the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, United Way of West Michigan, the Frey Foundation, founded by his late parents in 1974, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. He also was a long-time board member for Foremost Insurance Company, founded by his father in 1952.
“Michigan philanthropy has lost a pioneer who championed the vital role philanthropy can play in bettering communities through effective public-private partnerships. David Frey’s leadership at the Frey Foundation and in business demonstrated his passion for building vibrant communities with opportunities for all residents to thrive,” Kyle Caldwell, president and CEO of CMF, shared. “David was a champion of Michigan philanthropy and his life-long contributions will benefit the Grand Rapids region for generations.”
The Frey family will hold a celebration highlighting his life, followed by a reception, which will take place at 4:00 p.m. on June 28 at Kent Country Club, 1600 College Avenue NW in Grand Rapids.