In 2006, Fred Meijer provided a major gift to Calvin to establish the Frederick Meijer Chair in Dutch Language and Culture. The first holder of the Chair was Professor Henk Aay, who was born in the Netherlands and immigrated to Canada with his parents at age 13. The current chair is Professor Herman De Vries. Through the Chair, Calvin College will embark on a thorough and scholarly exploration of the Netherlands, a country which today is seen as a model of social and economic stability. The Dutch are an innovative and impressive force in the realms of art, technology, water and land engineering and social policy. Through this gift, Frederick Meijer becomes a major contributor to the field of Netherlandic studies.
From humble beginnings
Fred began working in his father’s small Greenville, Michigan grocery store when he was 14, and he has been a major force behind the expansion of that humble enterprise into Meijer, Inc., whose 176 stores are now based in five states. Fred and his wife Lena, who once worked as a cashier in the original Greenville store, have been generous benefactors to the community of Grand Rapids, founding both the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center and the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. An avid student of Dutch History, and a regular visitor to the Netherlands—his father’s birthplace—Fred hopes that the Frederik Meijer Chair in Dutch Language and Culture will provide a thorough and fair-minded exploration of the country he loves: “The Netherlands people are a mixture of many things,” he said. “I would hope this chair brings a pure history of the Netherlands and its people with all the warts and all the variations.