(Mackinac Center President Lawrence W. Reed gave the following remarks at the Sept. 30 dedication of the John and Margaret Ann Riecker Board Room at the Mackinac Center's headquarters in Midland.)
I hope everyone took note of the picture-perfect weather we arranged for you today. An old friend of mine, however, was in the habit of always saying that every day was a picture-perfect day, even in the midst of a blizzard or heat wave or a rainstorm. When people would ask how he could say such a thing on those occasions, he would reply, "That’s my way of showing appreciation for the fact that at least when it comes to the weather, God and not the government is in charge."
Thanks to all of you for coming today to help us recognize, and express our gratitude to, two remarkable people: John and Ranny Riecker.
I’d like to start by reading a letter of congratulations to John and Ranny from Congressman Dave Camp:
Today, I offer my sincerest congratulations to John and Ranny Riecker. Their lifelong commitment to high principles, both in words and in deeds, will be rightly honored by having the Mackinac Center board room dedicated in their names.
I would like to pay special tribute to my good friends for their relentless promotion of research and education throughout mid-Michigan. Their devotion and generosity continues to greatly impact the lives of Michigan citizens.
John and Ranny Riecker are not only outstanding citizens of Midland, but shining examples of the best our great state of Michigan has to offer. They have inspired many, and I know I would not be a member of Congress today without their support.
On behalf of the residents of the 4th Congressional District of Michigan, I am honored to recognize this couple and applaud the inauguration of the John and Ranny Riecker Board Room at the Mackinac Center. This tribute is well‑deserved, and I thank the Rieckers for their continued leadership in advancing public policy that enriches our families, strengthens our communities and fortifies the future of our nation.
Member of Congress
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As neighbors, community leaders, philanthropists and achievers who have risen to the ranks of the best and most respected in their professional fields, John and Ranny are well-known to all of you. But as they are not wont to boast, there may be many impressive things about them you don’t know. Let me share a few of those before I tell you why they are extra-special to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
A native of Ann Arbor, John graduated from the University of Michigan in 1952 and with distinction from the University of Michigan Law School in 1954, having served on the board of editors of the Michigan Law Review and been awarded membership in the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa. He later served as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corp (but what he did there was undoubtedly too important and top-secret for the networks to make a TV show about him). He entered the private practice of law in Midland in 1958, where he has remained active, serving as President of Riecker, Van Dam, Barker & Black; he now conducts his estate practice as John E. Riecker, P.L.L.C. of counsel with Braun Kendrick Finkbeiner.
Here’s a snapshot of John’s community involvement, past and present:
Board of Directors, Comerica Bank; and former board chairman of its predecessor, First Midland Bank & Trust;
Trustee of Delta College, Northwood University, and Hillsdale College;
Additional leadership roles with those institutions of higher education, and also with The Midland Foundation; the Michigan United Fund; the University of Michigan; the University of Michigan Law School; the University of Michigan Graduate School of Business; Central Michigan University; the Cranbrook Academy of Art; Matrix:Midland; the Michigan Historical Society; the Charlevoix County Community Foundation; the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation; the Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation; the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel; the Midland Chamber of Commerce; and St. John’s Episcopal Church of Midland.
The University of Michigan recognized his leadership in these and other endeavors by bestowing upon him its Outstanding Alumni Award.
We are immensely proud to know and to honor John Riecker.
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A native of Ann Arbor and a graduate of Carleton College, Ranny also has extensive community involvement, both past and present:
Board of Directors, MidMichigan Medical Center, including its chairmanship;
Trustee of the Council of Michigan Foundations, Carleton College, and Central Michigan University;
Additional leadership roles with those institutions of higher education, and also with the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation; the Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation; the Midland Community Center; the Midland Downtown Development Authority; Matrix:Midland; Starr Commonwealth; the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative; United Way of Midland County; the Michigan Nature Conservancy; the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan; the Girl Scouts of Mitten Bay; and the Republican National Committee.
We are immensely proud to know and to honor Ranny Riecker.
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I should note that our board room wall is not the only wall to prominently display the Riecker name. Recently, the new state-of-the-art surgery center in Midland was named for John and Ranny to recognize their many contributions to health care in Michigan.
This extensive and extraordinary roster of community activities means a great deal to us at the Mackinac Center. Our core philosophy rests upon the premise that free people in free societies can accomplish great things through their personal initiative. Indeed, when the French social commentator Alexis de Tocqueville visited a young, bustling America in the 1830s, he cited the vibrancy of this "civil society" as one of this country’s greatest assets. He was amazed that Americans were constantly forming and becoming personally involved with "associations" to advance the arts; build libraries and hospitals; and meet social needs of every kind. If something good needed to be done, it rarely occurred to our forebears to expect politicians and bureaucrats, who were distant in both space and spirit, to do it for them. "Among the laws that rule human societies," wrote Tocqueville in Democracy in America, "there is one which seems to be more precise and clear than all others. If men are to remain civilized or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve. ..."
John and Ranny Riecker personify civil society. If de Tocqueville were with us today, I could see him writing a second book on just the Rieckers — as a way to bring to life the point he made in his first.
But what makes John and Ranny extra-special to the Mackinac Center family is how indispensably helpful they have been to our organization. Indeed, they are among a tiny handful of people it’s hard to imagine the Mackinac Center’s 16-year history without.
Ranny was a member of the founding board of directors and served on that board from 1987 to 1992. With Al Ott, she co-chaired our 1997 building campaign, which made this beautiful, 23,000 square-foot structure happen. Both John and Ranny serve today on our Mid-Michigan Board of Advisors. They have given generously not only of their personal financial resources, but also of their time and advice over the years. Within hours of the tragedy that claimed the life of our senior vice president, Joe Overton, in June 2003, John called to offer assistance to us and to Joe’s wife. John and Ranny have opened doors for us, resulting in many new friends and supporters for the Mackinac Center.
Whenever I am in their presence, I learn much. My standards are raised. And I go away with greater confidence that we’re on the right track.
Finally, let me say something to Ranny as a founding board member. In our earliest years, when we had to pull ourselves up from nothing, Ranny was there. When we experienced the tough and potentially dispiriting challenges of a new organization whose future was very uncertain, Ranny didn’t waver. I didn’t have the foresight in those early days to say, "Ranny, if you stick with us, we’ll some day be the biggest and best in our business outside of Washington, D.C."
But I think Ranny must have thought that way.
Ranny and John, we honor you by naming our board room for you, but you’ve honored us even more, and we can never thank you enough.
Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.