A Letter to Ranny Riecker on 50 Years of Service

(Last year, The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation kindly included me in its invitation to recognize Margaret A. “Ranny” Riecker on 50 years of service as a trustee for the foundation. Ranny, one of five founding directors of the Mackinac Center, passed away yesterday at the age of 80. As I reread my letter to Ranny, I was again struck by a remarkable woman’s remarkable accomplishments. She truly was “a giant of informed public policy, civic service and philanthropy.” Here is the text of the letter in its entirety.)

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

May 17, 2013

Mrs. Margaret A. Riecker
The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation
1018 West Main Street
Midland, MI 48640

Dear Ranny,

I don’t know which is a more appropriate acknowledgement of your 50 years of service to The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, to congratulate you or to thank you. You deserve both.

Shortly after I arrived in Midland in 1986, my wife, Karen, and I founded Midland County Habitat for Humanity. Local volunteers and leaders helped acquaint us with the community’s deep tradition of philanthropy and voluntarism. Your name came up often. With guidance from seasoned locals, we outsiders quickly assimilated. Before we knew it we were raising support and building homes for people in need at about $30,000 each, all with private donations and volunteer labor.

That was when we knew Midland was a special place. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s clear now we never could have succeeded so well and so quickly unless others before us had created the fertile philanthropic soil into which we sowed and from which we reaped. As much as anyone I’ve ever met, you did that, Ranny.

A few years later I quit a perfectly good job at Dow to get into the “save the world” business at the Mackinac Center. Once again, I found you had gone before me, this time as cofounder and member of our critical start-up board of directors. You and John became became personal benefactors. You co-chaired our headquarters campaign which raised $2.4 million, of which the Foundation provided our very first $1 million lump-sum gift. Your guidance and wisdom were invaluable in securing many additional significant gifts, especially to support science and education.

Your confidence in us inspired many more to support our work, totaling more than 6,000 current supporters who give more than $4 million annually to study and promote policies that foster free enterprise. The fact that Michigan parents are more free than ever before to choose their children’s public school is just one example of the positive impact you’ve had on countless lives, Ranny.

When visitors tour the Mackinac Center and I show them the Riecker Board Room, I tell them some of that story. When they ask why the nation’s largest state think tank ended up in Midland, I can’t answer them without mentioning you. But much more than that, when thousands of Midlanders and millions of Michiganders appreciate the place they call home, they are appreciating at least something that you made happen.

It is a personal and professional honor to have known you these years, and a great privilege to congratulate and thank you this day. I hope you enjoy the attached photo of you speaking at the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative dedication in 2005.


Joseph G. Lehman
Mackinac Center for Public Policy