GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Peter Melvin Wege, who had a 54-year career at Steelcase Inc., a business co-founded by his father, died July 7. He was 94.
Wege was born in 1920 in Grand Rapids eight years after his father Peter Martin Wege established Metal Office Furniture along with David Hunting, according to his obituary posted at Metcalf & Jonkoff Funeral Service. The company would rise to become the world's largest manufacturer of office and contract furniture with worldwide sales of $3 billion for its fiscal 2014.
Wege joined the company in 1946 after serving in the U.S. Army Air Force as a First Lieutenant multi-engine pilot. He held many executive posts of the company that changed its name to Steelcase in 1954, including sales, research, design, and as an officer of the board of directors and the Steelcase Foundation Board. He retired as vice chairman of the Steelcase board in 2000.
In addition to his more than five-decade career at Steelcase, Wege authored two books titled Economicology, a term he coined to define the pursuit of balancing a healthy ecology with a profitable economy. Each of the books, written in 1998 and 2010, included Wege's own Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not commit abuse against the environment, but rather honor it with respect for sustaining life."
Wege's passion for environmental stewardship helped set Steelcase on course to be one of the earth's first green manufacturers. The Wege Foundation was created in 1967 to clean up the water, air, and land in West Michigan through his new Center for Environmental Study, which he founded in 1969.
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Wege also was a patron of the arts, including making a large financial donation to the Grand Rapids Art Museum. He had to tell the GRAM board of directors not to change the name to Wege Art Museum.