Edward and Frances Frey and Frey Foundation
Powerful, intense, extremely organized and very intelligent were adjectives used to describe Edward John Frey while he was president and chairman of Union Bank in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and chairman of the board of Foremost Insurance Company. Edward was as dedicated in business as he was to his Grand Rapids community. In his personal life, he was devoted to Frances Taliaferro from the moment they met. Friends knew her as Tallie. The two became one of Grand Rapids' most complementary couples, according to Jeanne Hollebeck, Edward Frey's long-time friend and assistant.
The loving couple placed family at the top of their list of priorities as they had four children - Mary Caroline, David, Edward J., and John. Yet, the senior Freys continued to share and help those less fortunate than they.
By 1974, Edward and Frances recognized the need for a way to provide continued support for their community and specific interests (particularly, education), so they established the Frey Foundation. Since public recognition was not important to the Freys, the couple contributed most gifts with the understanding that they remained anonymous.
Many educational institutions received generous gifts to support their work, including: Aquinas College, Grand Valley State University, Culver, Emma Willard, and the University of Michigan. Outside the education arena, contributions included support of community projects such as: The John Ball Park Zoo, Planned Parenthood, United Way, St. Mark's Church, the Institute of Living, YMCA, YWCA, and Junior Achievement.
Some gifts were made because of a personal connection Edward felt to persons in need. On one occasion, he read an article in Sports Illustrated about a Catholic priest in Mexico who also became a professional wrestler for money to maintain a home for orphaned Mexican boys. Edward sent an anonymous contribution. Another article mentioned a local couple that lost everything in a house fire, and again he assisted. Later on, Edward learned of a senior at Hudsonville High School who woke before dawn to study and complete chores on his grandfather's farm so he could attend football practice in the early evening. Edward immediately set up a meeting with the coach, principal and student and arranged a two-year scholarship for the young man to attend Grand Rapids Junior College. The only conditions of the scholarship were that he maintain a high grade point average and that sports activities would not overshadow his education.
Edward and Frances Frey's genuine interest and involvement in progress and social change helped bring growth, culture, and educational opportunities to the Grand Rapids community. Edward was instrumental in having his hometown named America's #1 city. Both he and his wife, Frances, lived by morals and values that set wonderful examples of integrity for their family, their foundation, and the community of Grand Rapids.
The couple were known as genuine and good-natured. Edward Frey was described as a private, conservative and unpretentious man who loved to share good books, good stories, good jokes and good times with family and friends. Some of his favorite pastimes were golf, tennis and duck hunting with his sons and dog, Charlie. Frances was described as a bright, thoughtful, warm, enthusiastic, and gracious woman.
After they passed away (he in 1988 and she in 1989), substantial gifts were left to the foundation that have helped it continue its work to the present day. Their four children represent the Board of Trustees for the foundation and continue the legacy and family tradition of philanthropy according to their parents' mission.