Ambassador Peter Secchia is the 2021 Hillman-Orr Award Recipient

Patrick Skinner speaking via zoom
Picture of Peter Secchia

Grand Rapids, Mich.--The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan (WACWM) has announced that the late Ambassador (ret.) Peter F. Secchia is the 2021 recipient of its annual Hillman-Orr Award.

The Hillman-Orr Award goes to a West Michigan individual or institution that mirrors the intent of the Council’s founding leaders to bring global awareness and international understanding to the West Michigan community.

Judge Douglas Hillman and business executive Edgar Orr founded the Council in 1949 inspired by the international diplomacy of then-Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg (1881-1951).

Ambassador Secchia passed away on October 21, 2020 but was made aware of the award before his death. Members of the Secchia family will receive the award in his place.

“There was no hesitation among the board of directors about this year’s Hillman-Orr Award,” said Council board president Dick Gauthier. “Peter’s service to country and skill in developing a global business that brought the world to our community is inspiring.”

Secchia served as United States Ambassador to Italy and San Marino from 1989-1993, appointed by President George H.W. Bush. In that capacity, Peter was awarded Italy’s highest public service award, the “Cavaliere della Grande Croce” (The Knight of the Great Cross). He was also granted the U.S. Department of State Distinguished Honor Award, a recognition bestowed on those who have given exceptionally outstanding service or achievements of marked national or international significance.

He joined Universal Forest Products (now UFP Industries) as a salesman in 1962, became president of the company in 1971, and chairman of the board in 1978, building the business from a $1 million enterprise in the early ‘60s to $1.6 billion by the time he retired in 2002. The company today has 140 facilities worldwide.

“The generosity of the Secchia family is well-known to West Michiganders, as his gifts fueled the rise of Michigan State University’s medical footprint in Grand Rapids, development of the treasured Millennium Park on the city’s northwest side, and many other initiatives,” said Gauthier. “And, in addition to his service as ambassador, Peter’s numerous overseas bonds brought international savvy to the region, creating opportunities for countless individuals and companies.”

The first Hillman-Orr Award, given on January 14, 2020, was to Birgit Klohs, the president and CEO of The Right Place.

The award to Ambassador Secchia will be made officially in a digital celebration event in 2021, alongside of the next recipient of the Vandenberg Prize, given annually to “a national or international leader who has been influential in developing global understanding and collaboration on the world stage.”

In 2020, the inaugural Vandenberg Prize was given to Ambassador (ret.) Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., the only American to have been ambassador to both China and Russia.

The Vandenberg Prize and the Hillman-Orr Award are supported by the generous involvement of the Meijer Foundation, the Amway Corporation and Bank of America.

More information on the Hillman-Orr Award and the Vandenberg Prize event can be found at or by calling Michael Van Denend at 616.481.9569.