The International Joint Commission notes with regret the passing of Peter M. Wege of East Grand Rapids, Michigan, a philanthropist whose support for Great Lakes protection made a lasting impact.
Mr. Wege, who passed away July 7 at the age of 94, was an environmental visionary who understood that private charitable funds could be leveraged to prompt substantially greater government support for the Great Lakes.
In 2004, he funded an ambitious effort to launch the nongovernmental Healing Our Waters Coalition, which marshaled support for the U.S. government’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Wege’s gift helped spur the U.S. Congress to appropriate more than $1.6 billion (US) in funding over the last five years for projects that clean up Areas of Concern, renew fish and wildlife habitat, and reduce polluted runoff, among other priorities.
The former chairperson of the Steelcase Corp., a Michigan-based office furniture manufacturer, Mr. Wege created The Wege Foundation in 1967. The foundation has made generous grants to support environmental sustainability as well as the arts, health care, education and human services.
“Peter Wege leaves an amazing legacy of cleaner, healthier lakes. He inspired at least two generations of environmental and business leaders to see the possibility of Great Lakes restoration and sustainability amid a vibrant economy,” said Lana Pollack, the IJC’s U.S. Section chair.
For more on Mr. Wege, see an obituary in The Grand Rapids Press.
Peter Wege. Credit: The Wege Foundation.