Keller, Fred P.

Fred Keller is the founder and owner of Cascade Engineering. He serves as a director of Meijer, the chairman of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, the chairman of the School to Career Progressions Board and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. He is also on the advisory team for the Delta Strategy, a community-effectiveness organization. He and his wife support the Grand Rapids Symphony.

Biographical Highlights

Fred P. Keller grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His father had a successful tool and die business (Paragon Tool and Die Company) and was a major philanthropist in Grand Rapids. Keller, Jr. earned degrees in engineering and business and started his own company, Cascade Engineering in 1973. He and his engineering business are nationally recognized leaders in sustainability.

Historic Roots

The son of Fred Meyers Keller and Bernadine Johnson, Fred P. Keller was born June 16, 1944. Graduating from East Grand Rapids High School in 1962, he proceeded to earn a bachelor of science in material science and engineering from Cornell University in 1966. He also earned a masters of science degree in business management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1971. Keller began his career as a metallurgist at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company. In 1973, he launched Cascade Engineering, a provider of plastics solutions for the automotive, industrial, and solid waste industries. He is married to noted mezzo-soprano Linn Maxwell Keller, and they have three daughters.

Importance

Keller is the founder and owner of Cascade Engineering and a nationally significant leader in the realm of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Keller is also active in other local and national businesses. He serves as a director of Meijer, the chairman of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, the chairman of the School to Career Progressions Board and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. He is also on the advisory team for the Delta Strategy, a community-effectiveness organization. He and his wife support the Grand Rapids Symphony.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Keller became broadly recognized as a leader in the sustainability movement, originally through Cascade Engineering. Sustainability is a term associated with environmental conservation, but it can also apply to social issues. Keller places enormous value on his employees and the impact they can have. He supports many environmental and community programs that benefit West Michigan. Fred Keller instituted a program at Cascade Engineering called PHASES (Providing Health, Activities, Safety & Enrichment Services) that offers innovative employee benefits such as adoption assistance. He has been a leader in welfare to work programs that develop methods of overcoming obstacles to attaining jobs and promotions. In 1998, he organized the Delta Strategy, a think tank that identifies critical community concerns and works towards solutions. He is also pioneering wind and other green energy technology in West Michigan.

Key Related Ideas

The son of Fred M. and Bernie Keller, Fred Keller Jr. has continued their tradition of philanthropy. He began his own company and used it to explore ways to bring more sustainability to his community by pursuing green energy technology and through programs that create job opportunities and make a better work environment for employees.

Important People Related to the Topic

  • Fred Keller, Sr: Keller’s father was the owner of Paragon Tool and Die Company and a major philanthropist in Grand Rapids. Keller, Sr. and his wife, Bernadine (Bernie), gave large gifts of money to Clark Retirement Community (where a nursing facility and a campus are named for them) and to Grand Valley State University (where the Fred M. Keller Engineering Laboratories Building is named for him) as well as many other community organizations. He died in 2004.

Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • Clark Retirement Community: Founded through the efforts of philanthropist and activist Emily Clark in 1874, Clark is now a thriving, ecumenical retirement community dedicated to providing a welcoming, supportive and rich environment, so residents can individually define their retirement years. http://www.clarkretirement.org/
  • Delta Strategy: The mission of the Delta Strategy is to build the capacity of the community to solve challenging and complex problems by engaging in the Delta Strategy community improvement process with people and organizations seeking change. (http://www.grcc.edu/ShowPage.cfm?PageID=3466)
  • The Grand Rapids Symphony was officially organized in 1930 and is recognized as one of America’s leading regional orchestras. Eight concert series and extensive education and community service programs provide the community with performances designed for young children through adults, featuring a diverse repertoire. The Symphony sponsors the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, and the Classical Orchestra. It also provides the orchestra for Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet Company.  (http://www.grsymphony.org)
  • The Keller Foundation (http://www.kellerfoundation.org/), initiated by Fred M. and Bernie Keller and continued by their descendants, supports innovative programs for Grand Rapids' core city youth.


Related Web Sites

  • Cascade Engineering: Read about the family of companies, sustainability, the history of the company, and the Keller Foundation. http://www.cascadeng.com/
  • Grand Valley State University: Grand Valley offers a strong liberal education, fostering critical thinking, creative problem solving, and cultural understanding. The mission is to educate students to shape their lives, their professions, and their societies. The university website is at http://www.gvsu.edu/

Bibliography and Internet Sources

Olson, Gordon. Fred M. Keller: Doing Things His Way. Allendale: Grand Valley State University, 2000.

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