According to laudatory articles in the local corporate media from WOOD TV 8 and the Grand Rapids Press, Richard DeVos and Peter Secchia will receive what are being described in the media as “prestigious” awards from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Richard DeVos, founder of Amway Corporation (now Alticor) will get the Wilson Center’s award for corporate citizenship while Peter Secchia, former CEO of Universal Forest Products and former ambassador to Italy will receive the award for Public Service. Secchia is known in West Michigan for his closeness to the Bush administration and funding of Republican politicians and causes, while DeVos’ and Amway’s questionable business activities, place DeVos in the company of previous award winners including CEO Lee R. Raymond of Exxon-Mobil and CEO Joseph Neubauer of Aramark; companies that have been criticized for their environmental record and their labor record, respectively. DeVos and his family have also donated thousands of dollars to Republican causes.
The Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars was established in 1968 by Congress as a part of the Smithsonian Institute. The Center’s mission is “to commemorate the ideals and concerns of Woodrow Wilson by: providing a link between the world of ideas and the world of policy; and fostering research, study, discussion, and collaboration among a full spectrum of individuals concerned with policy and scholarship in national and world affairs,” a mission that it attains by sponsoring debate and scholarship. It obtains a third of its funding from the government, with the remainder coming from corporations and foundations including the conservative Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation. The Wilson’s Center governing board is a mix of government officials, university presidents, and representatives from corporations such as Pinnacle Financial Group and Bristol-Myers Squibb.