Lemmen, Harvey

Harvey Lemmen was an executive at Meijer, Inc. and made a major contribution as a volunteer driver for the Red Cross. He gave to Grand Valley State University an important collection of Abraham Lincoln and Civil War books and artifacts, and donated money to Grand Rapids Public Library, the Spectrum Health Foundation, Planned Parenthood, and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

Biographical Highlights

Born in Ionia, Michigan, in 1922, Harvey Lemmen went on to earn an MBA from the University of Michigan. He went to work for Meijer, Inc. in 1949, retiring as a chief executive after thirty-eight years. After retiring, he spent hundreds of thousands of hours volunteering for the Red Cross. His success in business also allowed him to donate money to causes important to him.

Historic Roots

Harvey Lemmen was born in 1922 and raised in Ionia, Michigan. He was born with a cleft palate and had several surgeries to correct that at the University of Michigan. His father managed a lumberyard. Harvey graduated as valedictorian from his high school in 1940. He went on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan. He began his 38-year career at Meijer as an office manager in 1949, and he rose to the positions of deputy chairman and chief operating officer. He helped found the Meijer Credit Union and served on the board after his 1986 retirement.

Importance

Lemmen has made a major contribution as a volunteer driver for the Red Cross. He gave to Grand Valley State University an important collection of Abraham Lincoln and Civil War books and artifacts, and he has given significant gifts of money to several organizations.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Since retiring, Harvey has been a volunteer for the American Red Cross. He regularly drives patients to Ann Arbor and Detroit for medical treatment in his own car. Over the course of more than twenty years, he has driven over five hundred thousand miles.

In 1992, he established the Lemmen Collection on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War at Grand Valley State University. For the collection, he donated his extensive collection of books and other material that he had acquired since the 1950s. He also gave financial support to the university.

Lemmen gave money to the University of Michigan in honor of the surgeon who corrected his cleft palate.

To honor the service and community stewardship of Lemmen, as well as Earl and Donnalee Holton, Fred and Lena Meijer gave the lead gift towards the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilian, which was dedicated in 2008. Lemmen has donated money to Grand Rapids Public Library, the Spectrum Health Foundation, Planned Parenthood, and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

Key Related Ideas

Lemmen grew up on a farm during the Great Depression. He studied business in school and went on to a long and successful career at Meijer. After retiring, he dedicated himself to volunteering and philanthropy.

Important People Related to the Topic

  • Earl Holton: Also an executive at Meijer, Holton was honored along with Lemmen 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

Related Web Sites

  • Meijer, Inc.: Read news and information about the Meijer company at www.meijer.com
  • University of Michigan Health System: UMHS is an award-winning health care system made up of hospitals, health clinics, medical school, faculty group practice, and nursing school. Provides excellence in medical education, patient care, and research. http://www.med.umich.edu/1busi/sysorg.htm

Bibliography and Internet Sources

Holton, Earl. Learning to Lead: My Life and Meijer. Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s Publishing, 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