By Sean Chase
Peter Secchia, a Michigan State University Graduate, former Ambassador to Italy, and Grand Rapids Community College benefactor died Wednesday, Oct. 21, in his East Grand Rapids home. He was 83.
Secchia leaves a legacy of supporting the advancement of educational institutions throughout Michigan, especially in Grand Rapids, with a MSU College of Human Medicine building bearing his name. In 2011, the softball stadium in East Lansing was also renamed Secchia Stadium, and revamped because of a generous donation from Secchia.
His love of education and a great meal drove him to support the GRCC Culinary program, which, in 2007, was renamed in honor of Secchia and his wife, Joan. Secchia’s donations played a vital role in the success of the internationally acclaimed program.
“Peter Secchia understood the importance of supporting his community, and how a community college education can transform a person’s life – and, in turn, make that community stronger,” GRCC President Bill Pink stated in a press release. “With his support, our culinary students have become among the best in the field, working around the globe and right here in West Michigan.”
In 2012, GRCC added on to the Culinary Education facilities, building the Pietro and Regina Amphitheater in honor of Secchia’s grandparents. Another building on campus bearing his name, Peter’s Pub, which was created in 2016, to further bolster the prominence of Grand Rapids in the craft beer industry.
“This is a tremendous loss for West Michigan,” stated Chef Werner Absenger, Secchia Institute director in a press release. “In large part, the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education is a world-class culinary school because of Mr. Secchia’s generosity and contagious drive for excellence. Mr. Secchia always wanted to make sure our students had the tools necessary to become successful hospitality industry leaders. His spirit and drive for excellence will be sorely missed. Our most heartfelt sympathy goes to Mr. Secchia’s family and friends.”
Bolstering the education system wasn’t Secchia’s only mission in the community. When he decided that Grand Rapids should have a park that rivaled any in the world, Millennium Park was born.
Secchia is survived by his wife of 56 years, Joan Secchia, his children, and their families.