GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — You can find the name of Peter Secchia on buildings around West Michigan. Two of those are higher education buildings: the Secchia Center at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine and Grand Rapids Community College’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education.

Perhaps the largest building with the Secchia name is the Secchia Center on the Medical Mile in downtown Grand Rapids.

Secchia, a former U.S. ambassador and businessman, died Wednesday morning. He was 83.

“He led by example. Community mattered so he dedicated himself to improving the community. The struggles of others mattered, so dedicated himself to lessening it,” Dr. Norman Beauchamp, executive vice president for health sciences at Michigan State, said. “He’s a two-time Marine, MSU Spartan. He really got things done in the industry, but at his core he really cared about making the world better and he saw that education was one really important way to do that.”

An undated courtesy photo shows the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Secchia Center in Grand Rapids. (MSU)

Secchia and his wife donated a large chunk of the $90 million needed to erect the medical school building on the Medical Mile.

“What Peter allowed us to do is to double the size of MSU’s medical school from 100 students a year to 200 students a year,” Beauchamp said. “Being in place for 10 years, that’s 1000 new doctors, most of which stayed in the state.”

In addition to training the next generation of doctors and bringing jobs to Grand Rapids, the Secchia Center was also the catalyst and inspiration for the MSU medical research center further done Michigan Avenue on the Medical Mile.

“By bringing together the medical school, the research center, now the Grand Rapids Innovation Park, we’re going to bring economic growth that’s so important to people now more than ever,” Beauchamp said.

Grand Rapids Community is also reflecting on Secchia’s life, especially with the opportunities created through the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education.  

GRCC’s culinary program was renamed after Secchia and his wife Joan in 2007.

The program’s director, Chef Werner Absenger, said Secchia’s generosity and support helped transform the institute into a world-class program.

“He brought an enthusiasm for excellence,” Absenger said. “His main driving point was to really make sure that our students have all the resources they need that they can be successful in their chosen career.”

GRCC released a statement Wednesday afternoon on the opportunities Secchia helped provide for students.

Secchia was known to come up with the ideas and resources that helped the program excel to the next level.

“Peter Secchia called the then (GRCC) president and said, ‘Hey, how come you don’t have a brewing program?’” Absenger said. 

With Secchia’s support, GRCC launched Fountain Hill Brewery, the college’s craft brewing program.

Peter’s Pub, part of Fountain Hill Brewery, was named in Secchia’s honor.

As with so many of Secchia’s contributions, Absenger said the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education will continue to serve its students and the West Michigan Community for years to come.

“We are creating top-notch graduates and eventually chefs for the industry,” Absenger said.