The University of Michigan paid its highest tribute to lifelong East Grand Rapids resident Peter M. Wege by awarding him an honorary degree as a Doctor of Laws. Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University, gave the Honorary Doctorate to Peter M. Wege during the University of Michigan’s winter commencement ceremonies on December 15, 2007.
In introducing Wege to the graduating seniors and guests in Chrysler Arena, Dr. Coleman said this to the crowd:
Peter Melvin Wege has dedicated his life to improving global ecology through relentless persuasion, prodding people and organizations into undertaking initiatives and achieving results that never would have occurred without his advocacy. He has devoted over half a century of his own energy and resources to the University of Michigan and the State of Michigan.
Dr. Coleman told the audience that Wege left the University in his sophomore year to join the U.S. Army Air Corps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. “He not only defended our nation against enemy forces,”Dr. Coleman said, “but also realized we needed to protect our country against the harsh consequences of our own pollution…Mr. Wege became an early activist regarding the ecology of Michigan, incorporating the University in his motto of “Go Blue—Think Green!”
In 1967, she said, he started The Wege Foundation to honor his parents, Sophia Louise and Peter Martin Wege, principal founder of Steelcase. In citing The Wege Foundation’s support for the University, Dr. Coleman talked about his service as the first chairperson of the advisory board for the National Pollution Prevention Center in Ann Arbor, now the Center for Sustainable Systems.
Coleman described him as “a robust supporter of the University’s School of Natural Resources and Environment.” Among his gifts, he sponsors the annual Peter M. Wege Lecture on campus. Speakers for the Wege Lecture have included Nobel Laureate Al Gore, the Prime Minister of Norway, and this year William Clay Ford, Jr., Executive Chairman of Ford Motor, Inc.
According to President Coleman, Wege considers one of the Foundations “best success stories” the environmental renovation of the century-old Dana Building that houses the School of Natural Resources and Environment. In 2005, the Dana Building received a gold rating from the USGBC making it the greenest academic building in Michigan. The new Ph.D. Wege calls the “the greening of Dana” the perfect example of his motto, ‘Go Blue, Think Green.’”
President Coleman noted that Wege is finishing his second book on economicology calling it “a word he coined to promote a balance between a healthy ecology and a profitable economy.”
In presenting the Doctor of Laws diploma, Dr. Coleman concluded:
Mr. Wege, your extraordinary vision and deep-rooted commitment have made our planet a better place for future generations. You have shown us that it is not enough to be passionate about a cause, but that we need to translate our enthusiasm into action. By devoting your support to educational efforts as well as specific projects, you are ensuring that your mission will continue far into the future. You represent the best ideals of the University of Michigan, and we are proud to welcome you back in order to present you with the honorary degree.