Planned Gift: Harvey Lemmen

Truth be told, luck really has nothing to do with Harvey Lemmen and his success.  He is a member of the greatest generation and he epitomizes many of the qualities that have made his generation so remarkable.  He is a team player, a loyal and hard worker, an achiever, a leader and a survivor—traits that served him well as he left the rural community of Ionia to eventually become the Deputy Chairman and COO of the Meijer Corporation.      

Harvey was born in Ionia in 1922.  While his family was of simple means, his parents were devoted members of the community.  His father, a member of the school board, and his mother, a homemaker, stressed the importance of a good education.  Harvey listened and learned earnestly and in 1940 graduated valedictorian of his class.  His success in high school helped him earn a scholarship to the University of Michigan.

“I had never been away from home and I remember feeling a little home sick at the University,” said Harvey who majored in accounting.  “Many of my fellow students had a lot of fun at school, but I was always a serious student.  I had to be in order to maintain my scholarship.”  By 1944, Harvey earned his degree.  He briefly entered the working world and returned to his alma mater in 1945 to earn an MBA.  

He became office manager of Meijer in 1949.  “It sounds impressive, but there were only about 12 employees.  We worked in a small office in Greenville with old wooden floors.  There were only a few Meijer groceries at that time,” Harvey said.

Though some of the early days of his career were filled with the trials and tribulations of a new business, Harvey believed in the entrepreneurial spirit he saw in Fred Meijer.  He moved with the corporation to Grand Rapids in 1952 and over the course of his 38 year career he saw Meijer grow from four stores to over 170.  “Work was never stagnant; the business really had a life of its own.  It was an amazing trip,” Harvey said.

As Harvey’s career evolved so did his role as a community philanthropist.  Over the years, Harvey has generously given to a wide range of organizations.  He has shared his expansive literature collection with local universities and libraries.  He has given to local hospitals and the University of Michigan.  He is also a long time supporter of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

“I have included the Grand Rapids Community Foundation in my will because it is a permanent part of our community.  I know that my gift will benefit the people here long after I’m gone,” Harvey said.  “The thing that really matters to me is helping people.  I believe that how much you help others is the one true measure of success.”