Holton, Earl and Donnalee

Earl Holton held a long career at Meijer, which gave him and Donnalee the means to become major philanthropists. Their extensive volunteer careers through Butterworth Hospital guilds gave the Holtons the interest in supporting Grand Rapids medical institutions, such as the DeVos Children's Hospital. Their leadership has inspired many others to increase their philanthropy.

Biographical Highlights

Earl Holton started as a clerk in the Greenville, Michigan, Meijer store and retired as president of Meijer, Inc. His wife, Donnalee, volunteered through Butterworth Hospital guilds that raised funds to support the hospital. In close association with Fred and Lena Meijer, the Holtons have pursued a career in philanthropy that has benefited a variety of Grand Rapids organizations, especially Spectrum Health.

Historic Roots

Earl Holton was born in Manton, Michigan, on January 23, 1934. His father was a minister, and the family moved often when he was a child. Earl moved to Greenville in 1948, where he did some work for his brother’s business. Donnalee Engle graduated from high school in Cedar Springs, and the couple married in 1952. That same year, Earl walked into the Meijer store in Greenville, applied for a job, and was hired as a clerk. Three years later, he was promoted to manager of a store. He continued to work his way up, becoming president of Meijer from 1980 to 1998.

Importance

Serving on hospital guilds, boards, and task forces, both Holtons have given hours of their time to charitable causes in Grand Rapids. They have also given of their wealth and encouraged others, including Fred and Lena Meijer, to further their philanthropy. The Holtons have left their mark most notably on Grand Rapids medical institutions.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Donnalee began volunteering for Butterworth Hospital in 1969. She volunteered for hospital guilds that raise money to support the hospital. She served as president of an auxiliary guild in 1992 and as chair of the DeVos Children’s Hospital Board of Trustees in 2000. In 1990 and 1991, the first two years of Children’s Miracle Network at Butterworth Hospital, Earl and Donnalee Holton served as chairs.

In 1996, the Holtons became Founding Fellows of the Cook Institute for Research and Education. In 1998, Donnalee co-chaired, with Robert Hooker, Sr., the four-million-dollar campaign to establish the Renucci Hospitality House. Earl became a member of the DeVos Children’s Hospital Board of Trustees in 2001. He led a campaign that raised more than thirty-three million dollars for the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center.

In 1999, Meijer made a significant contribution in Donnalee’s name to the Child Life Program at DeVos Children’s Hospital to mark the occasion of Earl’s retirement as president of Meijer. The ninth-floor playroom at DeVos Children’s Hospital is named the Donnalee Holton Playroom in honor of Donnalee’s service as a leader and volunteer.

Earl has provided volunteer leadership to the United Way, the former Ferguson Hospital, Grand Valley State University, and The Right Place. Donnalee joined the board of the Grand Rapids Symphony in 1991, and the Grand Valley State University board in 1996. She is a past president of the Kent Intermediate School District board and served on the Public Education Fund board and the Michigan Educational Trust board. To honor the service and community stewardship of Harvey E. Lemmen and the Holtons, Fred and Lena Meijer gave the lead gift towards the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilian dedicated in 2008.

Key Related Ideas

Earl Holton held a long career at Meijer, which gave him and Donnalee the means to become major philanthropists. Their extensive volunteer careers through Butterworth Hospital guilds gave the Holtons the interest in supporting Grand Rapids medical institutions. Their leadership has inspired many others to increase their philanthropy.

Important People Related to the Topic

  • Harvey Lemmen: Also an executive at Meijer, Lemmen was honored along with Holton when Fred Meijer named Spectrum Health’s Cancer Center after them.
  • Fred Meijer: Fred Meijer is the second-generation owner of Meijer. Fred was Earl Holton’s employer, mentor, and friend.

Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • The Children’s Miracle Network is a non-profit organization that raises funds and generates awareness programs for more than 170 children’s hospitals. https://childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org
  • Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital: On September 1, 1993, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital opened its doors as the first children's hospital in West Michigan. http://www.devoschildrens.org/?start
  • Spectrum Health: This extensive website has pages on all of the Butterworth Guilds, their history and mission, the Renucci Hospitality House, and the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion. https://www.spectrumhealth.org

Related Web Sites

  • Meijer, Inc.: Read news and information about the Meijer company at www.meijer.com

Bibliography and Internet Sources

Holton, Earl. Learning to Lead: My Life and Meijer. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1999. ISBN: 0802846033

Clipping file and oral history in the SOUL of Philanthropy collection in the Grand Rapids History and Special Collections of the Grand Rapids Public Library