The Rapidian

Peter Wege - The Loss of an Environmental Hero

One of West Michigan's prominent environmental philanthropists and visionaries has passed on.
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Peter Wege -

"Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, just as long as you can."

This morning, we were saddened to learn the passing of one of West Michigan’s most forward thinking and generous people, Peter Wege.

Peter Wege founded the Wege Foundation in the 1967, which is among the nation's most dedicated and respected environmental philanthropic organizations. In addition to funding environmental issues, Mr. Wege and his family have invested in education, arts and culture, health care and human services. Mr. Wege intuitively understood that people, profit and planet are inseparably linked; a concept that can be summarized in the simple word he coined, “Economicology,” which was also the name of his 1998 book on the subject of sustainability.

Over many years, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council has been one of many beneficiaries of the Wege family’s philanthropy. Most recently, the Wege Foundation has supported the growth of WMEAC’s policy and communications capacity as well as our early collaborative work to protect Michigan’s waters from high volume horizontal fracturing or "fracking."

“Mr. Wege, a devout centrist, always encouraged WMEAC and our peer organizations to articulate the business case for our efforts and to remain thoughtfully balanced and pragmatic,” stated Rachel Hood, WMEAC’s executive director. “These values shaped a network of cross-sector partners who participate in this region’s efforts toward environmental protection, sustainable business and climate resiliency work today. Without this influence, our region would not be acknowledged as a national and international model for sustainable practices. He was visionary, pragmatic and tenacious. Peter led on the environment before it was a popular or common cause.”

Mr. Wege’s impacts can be seen all throughout West Michigan and the globe, from large capital projects like the revitalization of the Wealthy Theatre, to the significant efforts he funded to protect rainforests of Costa Rica. Among his most impactful legacies is the Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition, a network of hundreds of talented professionals from across sectors who are working diligently to protect 20% of the planet’s accessible fresh water resource. It was through the Healing Our Waters coalition that the 2008 Great Lakes Compact was signed and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was won.

“Our thoughts are with Mr. Wege’s seven children, his 11 grandchildren and the staff at the Wege Foundation who are very much a part of continuing the Wege legacy,” shared Christine Helms Maletic, WMEAC’s Board President. “We will continue to be inspired by Mr. Wege’s tenacity to work toward a balanced future for our planet. In his own words, Mr. Wege encouraged us to, ‘Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, just as long as you can.’ WMEAC is hopeful about our future to be a small part of accomplishing his vision for our planet.”

Disclosure: West Michigan Environmental Action Council has received funding from the Wege Foundation.

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