Vandenberg Prize and Hillman-Orr Award go to worthy recipients


Amb. (ret.) Marie Yovanovitch and Bing Goei

On June 24, the Council hosted its third annual Vandenberg Prize event at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel’s Ambassador Ballroom. A thankful crowd of over 300 persons helped the Council honor Ambassador (ret.) Marie Yovanovitch with the 2022 Vandenberg Prize, an annual award for outstanding achievement in global diplomacy. In addition, Eastern Floral CEO Bing Goei was given the 2022 Hillman-Orr Award, to a local person who demonstrates global awareness and leadership.


Ambassador Yovanovitch recently completed a 35-year career of distinction in the State Department, serving as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan and garnering numerous service honors from the department. Her recent book, Lessons from the Edge, chronicles her global exploits and serves as a timely reminder that, as Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg said many years ago, “Politics stops at the water’s edge.”


The Ambassador received the 2022 Prize from Bank of America West Michigan president Renee Tabben and Meijer co-chair Hank Meijer led a conversation with the diplomat over a range of issues—from Ukraine and Russia to making her way through a male-dominated State Department culture to driving under duress though the treacherous streets of Mogadishu, Somalia.


Bing Goei has been a champion for welcoming international persons coming toWest Michigan since his family arrived in Grand Rapids from Indonesia via The Netherlands in 1960. Michigan Governor Snyder appointed him to a novel position as Director of the Office for New Americans and he holds many titles as “first Asian American to” in community leadership positions, such as the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.


Ambassador Yovanovitch joins Ambassador (ret.) Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. and General (ret.) James Mattis. Former Secretary of Defense, as Vandenberg recipients.


The Council is grateful to the Meijer Foundation, Amway, and Bank of America for their generous support of this event that reminds West Michigan of its global history and continued call to international engagement. An archive of the program is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wlsrhq8WnLw&t=139s