Royce, Stella and Charles

The Royces were frequent donors to almost all Grand Rapids arts organizations. They gave money and volunteered their time at the St. Cecilia Music Society, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Grand Rapids Ballet, Opera Grand Rapids, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, and the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Royce Auditorium at St. Cecilia Music Society was named for them in 1986.

Biographical Highlights

Charles was the son of a Grand Rapids, Michigan, business owner, and Stella was the orphaned daughter of Polish immigrants. They married in Grand Rapids in 1953. Both of them worked for the Royce Rolls Ringer Company and eventually owned the business that Charles’ parents founded. The Royce family had a tradition of loving music and supporting St. Cecilia’s Music Society. Stella shared those interests, and the couple became heavily involved in Grand Rapids visual and performing arts efforts.

Historic Roots

Stella’s name was Stanislawa Kowalczyk when she was born. Her parents, Polish immigrants who settled in Hamtramck, Michigan, both died before she was five. She was raised by the relatives of one of her teachers. In 1944, she graduated as salutatorian from Greenville High School. She attended the University of Wisconsin, then worked in several countries overseas for the United States embassy. She married Charles Royce in 1953. Charles’ parents founded the Royce Rolls Ringer Company in 1925. The business manufactured and sold rolling carts and dollies for hospitals and nursing homes. Both Charles and Stella worked for the family company and eventually owned it. They had four children.

Importance

The Royces owned a vital local business. Charles and Stella were very important boosters of the arts in Grand Rapids, especially St. Cecilia Music Center and the Grand Rapids Ballet. They supported all the arts in Grand Rapids, including music, dance, art, and theater, through volunteering and generous financial gifts.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

The Royces were frequent donors to almost all Grand Rapids arts organizations. They gave money and volunteered their time at the St. Cecilia Music Society, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Grand Rapids Ballet, Opera Grand Rapids, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, and the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Royce Auditorium at St. Cecilia Music Society was named for them in 1986. In 2001, the Royce Center for Dance was dedicated in the renovated former North Star Bus Terminal. In 2007, a major expansion of the center, supported by Peter Wege and Fred and Lena Meijer, incorporated the Peter Martin Wege Theatre and other facilities.

Key Related Ideas

Having successfully maintained a family business, the Royce’s became the owners in time. They also continued the Royce family love and support of music, dance and art through volunteerism and philanthropy.

Important People Related to the Topic

  • Fred and Lena Meijer: Fred Meijer is the second-generation owner of Meijer, Inc. Fred and Lena became major philanthropists in Grand Rapids, especially toward medical institutions and nature preserves.
  • Maria Lund Royce: Charles’ mother was a pianist and composer as well as an active supporter of St. Cecilia Musical Society.
  • Peter Wege: Peter Wege is president of the Wege Foundation and the former president of Steelcase. He has given generously as a philanthropist in Grand Rapids.

Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • Grand Rapids Art Museum: The mission of the Grand Rapids Art Museum is to provide a gathering place where people of all ages and backgrounds can enrich their lives through interaction with authentic works of art of the finest quality in a thought-provoking and creative way. In order to nourish and delight the mind and spirit, the Museum collects, conserves, educates, and interprets. http://www.artmuseumgr.org/
  • The Grand Rapids Ballet Company consists of a school and a professional dance troupe. https://grballet.com/
  • Grand Rapids Civic Theatre is the largest community theatre in Grand Rapids. Starting as Civic players in 1926, it became Grand Rapids Civic Theatre in 1935. https://www.grct.org/
  • 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.  (https://www.grsymphony.org/)
  • Opera Grand Rapids is West Michigan's resident, professional opera production company since 1967. Each production is built from the ground up in Grand Rapids, utilizing breathtaking national singers, amazing sets and costumes, our regional chorus, and the music of the Grand Rapids Symphony. https://www.operagr.org/
  • St. Cecilia Music Society was established in 1883 and promotes the appreciation, study and performance of music in order to enrich the human spirit and enhance the quality of life for the residents of West Michigan. http://scmsonline.org/Brix?pageID=1
  • Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts: Founded in 1977, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) is Michigan’s largest contemporary arts center and a dynamic, multidisciplinary laboratory for the advancement of the art of our time. https://www.uica.org/?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageId=483

Related Web Sites

Bibliography and Internet Sources

Arlinsky. Ellen. St. Cecilia Music Society: A Community Treasure. Grand River Valley History, Vol. 20, p. 23.

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