27 Jul Amway Corp. Co-Founder Jay Van Andel Honored in Bronze
He founded an inter-national medical research institute, provided major funding for the city’s public museum and with his partner, Rich DeVos, helped revive downtown with their redevelopment of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
A 7-foot bronze statue honoring his legacy was unveiled today on the plaza in front of Van Andel Arena, the 16-year-old sports and entertainment complex that also bears his name.
“The number of people who will see it there was a big part of it,” said Peter Secchia, whose family is funding and has endowed the series of bronze statues honoring the city’s historical figures. Also, persons attending events at the arena are likely to be in an upbeat mood, he said.
“Jay Van Andel is of particular interest because he and Betty, his wife, provide the lead gift to the building of the arena, which is such an important attraction and gathering place for residents and city visitors,” said Steve Heacock, chairman of the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority.
Van Andel, who died in 2004 at age 80, also served as the chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1979-1980 and chaired the 1982 U.S.-Netherlands Bicentennial Commission. He also served as the founding chair of the Right Place economic development program.
The large bronze statue was sculpted by J. Brett Grill, the West Michigan artist who recently completed a bronze sculpture of former President Gerald R. Ford that is featured in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. A duplicate of the custom bronze sculpture was installed at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum last week.
Joe Becherer, chairman of the Community Legends project, said the Grill was a good choice for the Van Andel tribute.
“He has a gift for dealing with contemporary or near-contemporary figures,” said Becherer, curator of sculpture at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. “I think people are going to be extremely pleased with what they see on Wednesday. It’s a really, really fine work.”
The bronze monument is the third in a series of downtown sculptures that will eventually honor 25 historic figures.
In 2008, the project unveiled a statue of Lucius Lyon, one of the city’s earliest settlers. The 5-foot 6-inch statue at the corner of Monroe Avenue and Lyon Street is the only life-sized statue rendering. The remaining large statues will be 7-foot-tall and mounted on 3-foot bases.
In 2010, the project unveiled a custom bronze statue of Noahquageshik, or Chief Noonday, the Native American tribal chief who was instrumental in the settlement of Michigan. The 7-foot statue was placed on the campus of Grand Valley State University.
Future subjects will include the Most Rev. Frederick Baraga, an early Catholic missionary to Grand Rapids; Stanley Ketchel, a Polish-born boxer who grew up in Grand Rapids and began world middle-weight champion, Helen Claytor, a civil rights leader and first African-American to become national president of the YWCA and Lyman S. Parks, the first African-American mayor of Grand Rapids.