College of
Human
Medicine

Obituaries

Peter F. Secchia

Peter F. SecchiaThe Honorable Ambassador PETER F. SECCHIA (MSU ’63, Business), philanthropist and lead champion of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, died October 21 at the age of 83.

The impact of Secchia’s life and accomplishments on behalf of the MSU College Human Medicine and the Spartan community are nothing short of astonishing. Secchia was not only a steadfast Spartan, he was the College of Human Medicine’s most philanthropic, visionary partner.

Time and time again, Secchia demonstrated outstanding philanthropic leadership —with clear evidence of that commitment to inspiring and involving others. In the early 2000s, Secchia envisioned and diligently championed Michigan State University College of Human Medicine’s presence in Grand Rapids. His vision was for MSU to be the final piece of the puzzle that could enable Grand Rapids to become a health care destination by bringing academic medicine, which would draw world-class researchers and faculty.

Peter shared that vision with Rich DeVos and, in true Secchia style, he worked tirelessly to make that vision a reality.

Together with Rich and Helen, Peter and Joan (MSU ’64 Education) announced a $20 million naming gift for the Secchia Center in 2007. With the 2010 opening of the Secchia Center, MSU’s footprint was firmly established in the Grand Rapids community. And just as Peter and Joan stepped forward with the lead gift, they stepped forward with a capstone gift of $1 million to complete the Campaign for the Secchia Center.

The $90 million, privately funded headquarters for the College of Human Medicine proved to be a successful symbol of public-private partnership, and the result of Secchia’s tenacity to move West Michigan’s economic needle. By involving partners Spectrum Health, Van Andel Institute, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, Grand Valley State University, Grand Action and The Right Place Inc., Secchia showed what can be accomplished through collaboration.

In 2016, the Secchia and DeVos families announced a combined gift of $15 million, to launch the capital campaign for the construction of the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center. Secchia played a significant leadership role during MSU’s Empower Extraordinary campaign—which raised $1.83 billion for MSU’s future—by serving on the President’s Campaign Cabinet and driving millions of dollars in philanthropic support to the University. 

Peter and Joan further demonstrated their commitment in 2019 by making an additional $5 million gift to complete the $30 million fundraising effort for the Grand Rapids Research Center. 

Today, the six-story, 162-800-square-foot facility houses biomedical research teams focused on transforming health through innovation and groundbreaking research in the areas of cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, women’s health and more and is the cornerstone of the MSU Grand Rapids Innovation Park.

In 2019, the Secchia family donated a grouping of sculptures to MSU as part of their Community Legends program, which honor three female scientists from Grand Rapids who discovered the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine. The sculptures are displayed at the Grand Rapids Research Center.

Over the past 58 years, in addition to being highly generous with their time, the Secchia family has given and committed a total of $25 million across his beloved alma mater, Michigan State University. Among a plethora of memberships and board positions, Secchia was an enthusiastic and generous supporter of Spartan Athletics and the West Michigan Spartans. He boosted numerous projects and programs across campus, including the Broad College of Business Pavilion and the College of Music. Peter rarely missed an opportunity to cheer on the Spartans, both on and off the field.

A longtime businessman and close confidante of Gerald R. Ford, Secchia served as the U.S. Ambassador to Italy, and is former CEO and chairman emeritus of Universal Forest Products, Inc.

Peter Secchia is survived by his beloved wife Joan, their four children—Stephanie, Sandy, Charles and Mark—and many grandchildren.

Michigan State University College of Human Medicine celebrates the life of our greatest champion, leader and friend. A man whose legacy lives on in countless works he has influenced across Michigan State University and the West Michigan community. From the banks of the Red Cedar to the banks of the Grand River, Peter Secchia’s deep love for his alma mater will echo on for generations to come.

P.S. THANK YOU. We’ll miss you.

Father John “Jake” P. Foglio, D.Min.

Father John (Jake) Foglio, D.Min., professor emeritus in the College of Human Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine and Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, passed away October 5, 2020. His profound legacy was the development of a culture of humanism in medical education at MSU College of Human Medicine.

A keystone in the college for decades, one of Father Jake’s greatest contribution to our college was through his work on spirituality in medicine through the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences. He was instrumental in the college’s spirituality course work and virtues curriculum.

“Father Jake was a valued mentor and colleague for so many of us,” said Aron Sousa, MD, interim dean, College of Human Medicine. “I have had the benefit of his friendship, teaching, and mentoring since I first met him as a medicine resident in 1997. We will all miss him dearly.”

A Catholic priest, Father Jake was active in ministry for more than 50 years. He obtained a Master of Divinity degree from St. John’s Provincial seminary in 1981 and a Doctor of Ministry degree from St. Mary’s University in 1985.

Father Jake served as an assistant professor in Michigan State University College of Human Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine from 1986 until his retirement. In 2015, Father Jake received the Lester J. Evans, MD, College of Human Medicine Distinguished Service Award and is pictured above with former dean Marsha D. Rappley, MD.

In addition, the Foglio Conference on Spirituality and Medicine was named in honor of Father Jake for his commitment to social justice, a compassionate and intense concern for the personal and spiritual well-being of students and colleagues, and a scholarly background in both theology and communication sciences. This conference institutionalizes the educational initiatives begun by Father Jake Foglio.

A true Spartan, Father Jake graduated from Michigan State University in 1951 with a degree in communications and worked at the MSU radio station WKAR. After serving with the Marines in Korea, he attended seminary and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1961. He had served at St. John’s Student Paris since 1970.

Do you wish to share a memory of Father Jake? Link to Father Jake's memory page.

Laura Sanchez

Friend and colleague Laura Sanchez died Saturday, July 18, 2020. Laura served the College of Human Medicine in the Department of Translational Neuroscience as the retention and recruitment coordinator for the PACT (Preventing Alzheimer’s with Cognitive Training) study in the Grand Rapids Research Center.

Laura always seemed to have smile on her face and was known for her way of making everyone feel welcome and comfortable. She had a massive amount of charm and could engage in conversation with pretty much any of the older adults who attended the Alzheimer study events. Her laugh could be heard across the room. 

In terms of Laura’s work ethic, if there was a job that no one else wanted she would volunteer to take it on. She accomplished her tasks with speed and thoroughness and was always eager to learn activities related to research.

“We saw in (Laura) a gem that, with proper training, could become a first-rate clinical researcher,” said David Morgan, PhD, lead investigator. “We had started training her in the tasks needed to achieve this goal. It is absolutely tragic that she was taken from us so suddenly.”

Laura was born September 9, 1986, age 33 and was a lifelong resident of the Muskegon area. She is survived by her large family, including her parents, Carlos and Anita Sanchez and her five siblings.

Memorial Contributions may be directed to the Alzheimer's Association – Grand Rapids Chapter.

David Rovner, MD

Professor Emeritus of Medicine David Rovner, MD, died of cancer on Friday, May 22, 2020. Dr. Rovner was a founding faculty member of the Department of Medicine and husband of Professor Emeritus Margaret Holmes-Rovner, PhD, from the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences.

Dr. Rovner was born in Philadelphia, September of 1930. He received his medical degree from Temple University and completed residency at the University of Michigan, where he spent several years, and ultimately became a full professor. He then moved to Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and founded the Division of Endocrinology and the Endocrinology fellowship, in the 1970s.

An expert in the renin angiotensin aldosterone field, Dr. Rovner did the early work about Primary Hyperaldosteronism, even though the syndrome became known as “Conn Syndrome.” He published many scholarly works on hyperaldosteronism and medical decision-making and served the department and college in many roles including interim chair of the Department of Medicine.

Dr. Rovner was honored with the Michigan State University Distinguished Faculty Award in 1983 and the College of Human Medicine Distinguished Faculty Award in 1984. In addition, Dr. Rovner was presented the 2010-2011 College of Human Medicine Lifetime Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award in the Department of Medicine.

In 2014, Drs. Rovner and Holmes-Rovner lead the College of Human Medicine’s history project team in the creation of a timeline video for the college’s 50th Anniversary. They were joined by more than two dozen founding faculty to tell a lively story of the College of Human Medicine’s creation.

Eugene A. Dolanski, MD

It is with great sadness we share the passing of Eugene A. Dolanski, MD, age 77, on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Dr. Dolanski was a faculty member of the College of Human Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics and Human Development.  

A pioneer in the field of neonatology, Dr. Dolanski took great pride in caring for sick and premature babies. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Sparrow Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Lansing, a center of excellence for the care of sick newborns in mid-Michigan.

Dr. Dolanski received his undergraduate degree from Wayne State University and his MD and MPH from the University of Michigan. He served as a volunteer faculty member in the College of Human Medicine from 1980 – 2000.

STEPHEN DEHORN

It is with immense sorrow that we announce the sudden passing of Stephen John DeHorn, MD, 41. Dr. DeHorn joined the Grand River Emergency Medicine Group providing emergency care to the Mercy Health System. He had a passion for teaching and was a clinical assistant professor at the College of Human Medicine. He went to medical school at Wayne State University and residency training in emergency medicine at Detroit Receiving Hospital.

After a few years at Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, NY, Dr. DeHorn moved with his family to the Grand Rapids area. As a skilled physician and talented instructor, he brought his gifts to his profession with passion and dedication.

For those that knew him well, he was a proud father and husband, and someone you could always count on to be there if you needed him, or to simply make you smile. He will be deeply missed.