Ralph Hauenstein: Philanthropist, war veteran dies

"I'm no DeVos, or Van Andel, Wege, or Meijer, but with what little I made, I'm sharing, which I'm glad to do," he said in a 2007 interview with WZZM 13.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Ralph Hauenstein passed away Sunday at the age of 103.

Hauenstein has worn several hats through the years. He was a journalist, World War II veteran, successful businessman and a philanthropist.

"I'm no DeVos, or Van Andel, Wege, or Meijer, but with what little I made, I'm sharing, which I'm glad to do," he said in a 2007 interview with WZZM 13. 

One of those donations went to Grand Valley State University, where he helped build the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University. 

"Not just writing a check, but coming to our programs, interacting with the 60 leadership fellows. He was rockstar when he would get here. They would hang on his every word," said Director Gleaves Whitney.

Hauenstein spent several years as the editor of the Grand Rapids Herald. Then, in the 1940's, the Army called him to active duty. He became President Eisenhower's Chief of Intelligence in the European Theater of Operations. 

"What that means is he was able to take an Enigma code book and take it to Bletchley Park to help British decode the Enigma," Whitney said. "That shortened the war by months. It saved a lot of lives."

After the Army, Hauenstein began another career in the food business: "He had offices on the East Coast and in GR and it was Werner-Lehara company that he founded. They were responsible for products we know."

Products like Windmill cookies, Andes mints and Goldfish crackers, which was eventually sold to Pepperidge farms: "He had made his first million by the time he was 40 years old."

Whitney says Hauenstein visited the center every week and played a big role in all of his projects, including the Neuroscience Center at St. Mary's Hospital. Hauenstein was a founding Van Andel Institute board member, where the Cook/Hauenstein Hall is named for him.

Ralph Hauenstein on Fred Meijer

Hauenstein honored at Twilight Shining Star

The Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at GVSU

Learning to Give - Ralph Hauenstein


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