Wondergem, Casey

Casey Wondergem worked for Amway and directed the fundraising for the philanthropic endeavors of the Amway founders. Wondergem and his wife, Violet, were enthusiastic supporters of the opera and the symphony. The Wondergem Playground at Baxter Community Center was named for them in 1995 in honor of their contributions and Casey's help with their fundraising efforts.

Biographical Highlights

Originally from Wisconsin, Casey Wondergem graduated from Calvin College in 1951 and entered the public relations field in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He spent most of his career at Amway. Besides working for the company, he became involved in the DeVos and Van Andel family philanthropic activities, including helping to develop DeVos Hall and the Van Andel Museum Center. Wondergem ended his career at the Van Andel Foundation and its principal project, the Van Andel Institute. He and his wife also volunteered and gave to a variety of community causes.

Historic Roots

Casey Wondergem was born Feb. 9, 1929, and graduated from high school in Cheboygan, Wisconsin. His father was in newspaper advertising. Casey received a degree in political science, history, and English from Calvin College in 1951. He served in the Air Force during the Korean War. Following his service, he briefly had his own public relations consulting business. He joined Amway in the late 1970s. He became Amway's senior public affairs counsel. He oversaw the Jay and Betty Van Andel Foundation. He then served as the Van Andel Institute Vice President of Development. He was a member of Grand Rapids' Downtown Development Authority (DDA) for twenty years beginning in 1985.

Importance

A career in public relations at Amway placed Wondergem as a key consultant to the company. He was also an important consultant for the DeVos and Van Andel family philanthropy. Casey and his wife were also active in a variety of community efforts, especially the Grand Rapids Symphony and Opera.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Through his Amway connection to the DeVos and Van Andel families, Wondergem became involved in many of their philanthropic endeavors over the years. Wondergem directed the fundraising campaign that built the Grand Center and DeVos Hall in the 1970s. He was also one of the directors of the fund drive for the Van Andel Museum Center. He served on a variety of community boards, including Butterworth Hospital, Grand Valley State University Foundation, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, and Grand Rapids Community Foundation. He initiated the Pine Rest Foundation in 1961. He and his wife were enthusiastic supporters of the opera and the symphony. The Wondergem Playground at Baxter Community Center was named for them in 1995 in honor of their contributions and Casey’s help with their fundraising efforts.

Key Related Ideas

Casey Wondergem had a career in public relations, most of it at Amway. He was centrally involved as a consultant for the company and its principal family’s philanthropy. He and his wife were also active supporters of a variety of community efforts, especially the symphony and opera. They volunteered their time, including on boards and donated money to these causes.

Important People Related to the Topic

  • Violet Wondergem: Casey’s wife for over fifty years died tragically in a 2008 car accident in Florida. She, along with her husband, was active in the Grand Rapids arts community for 30 years, leading fundraisers, organizing galas, and chairing projects for Opera Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Symphony, and the Public Museum of Grand Rapids, among others.
  • Richard DeVos, Sr. and Jay Van Andel: DeVos and Van Andel were the founders of Amway, where Wondergem spent most of his career. They were major Grand Rapids philanthropists whom Wondergem assisted in their efforts.

Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • 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 are provided to the community with performances designed for young children through adults, featuring a wide range of repertoire. http://www.grsymphony.org
  • The Pine Rest Foundation exists to provide Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services with financial resources and community support. http://www.pinerest.org/foundation/default.asp
  • The Public Museum of Grand Rapids was the first museum ever to be accredited by the American Association of Museums in 1971 and has continued to earn that accreditation in every review since. It is an education/entertainment center and West Michigan’s premier heritage museum facility. http://www.grmuseum.org/
  • Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) is an independent, world-class medical research facility that has gained worldwide recognition for research into the genetic and molecular origins of cancer and other diseases. http://www.vai.org/

Related Web Sites

  • Amway Corporation: Amway founders started in the 1950s selling vitamins, and they launched Amway’s first cleaning product in 1959. Amway grew rapidly under the leadership of Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos. Now the parent company is called Alticor. Read about the history of the business at http://www.amway.com/.
  • DeVos Performance Hall: This website at http://www.devosperformancehall.com/ provides information about Grand Rapids Symphony and other concerts at DeVos Hall.
  • DeVos Place: Find convention center information at http://www.devosplace.org/ .
  • Opera Grand Rapids is the longest running professional opera company in Michigan and serves as West and Mid-Michigan's resident opera production company. http://www.operagr.com/
  • The Baxter Community Center supports the Baxter neighborhood, which is bounded on the north and south by Wealthy and Franklin streets respectively, and on the east and west by Fuller and Eastern. http://www.baxtercommunitycenter.org/

Bibliography and Internet Sources

Cross, Wilbur and Gordon Olson. Commitment to Excellence: the Remarkable Amway Story. Elmsford, New York: Benjamin, c1986. ISBN: 0875021360

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