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YPO Michigan West: A Rich History

In 1952, the Michigan Chapter of YPO was founded in Detroit. The chapter drew members from throughout Michigan and the Toledo, Ohio area. Al Conti was Chair for the 1952/53 year. In 1968, the Toledo members broke off to form the Maumee Valley Chapter. Michigan Chapter member Bob Vlasic served as YPO International President during 1969-70 year.

In December 1973, the Michigan Chapter of YPO in Detroit had 83 members and was reaching capacity for the chapter to function efficiently. All but nine of those members were from the Detroit area. Many potential members from West Michigan who qualified for YPO were reluctant to join when they learned that would mean hours of driving to attend meetings.

In the early 1970’s, while car pooling to YPO meetings in Detroit, Jim Anderton (Lansing), Doug Reniger (Lansing), Ray Loeschner (Olivet), and Duke Gregory (Grand Rapids) began discussing the possibility of forming a new chapter for West Michigan by breaking off from the Michigan Chapter. On February 18, 1974, Anderton, Gregory, Loeschner and Reniger met with Bob Vlasic, Don Fisher and Herb Jacob of the Michigan Chapter and Laird McGregor, Gidean Spieker and Bill Triplet of the Maumee Valley Chapter to discuss forming a new chapter.

It was decided at that meeting that the Michigan Chapter would issue a request to change its name to the Detroit Chapter and the newly formed outstate chapter would be called the Michigan Chapter. The territory served by the Detroit Chapter would include the Detroit metropolitan area, with an option to existing Ann Arbor members to stay with Detroit and/or join the new chapter.

In the future, prospective members located outside the metropolitan Detroit area would be encouraged to join the Michigan Chapter. The division of areas, however, was not to be rigid.

Meetings were held with Maumee Valley members to learn from their experience in starting a new chapter and, following their example, the process began. An official request for a new charter was submitted to YPO International Headquarters and news of the new chapter’s approval was sent to Ray Loeschner in a brief note from Laird McGregor, member of the YPO Executive Committee. It read as follows:

“Congratulations! The new Michigan Chapter was approved at the Executive Committee meeting yesterday, April 17, 1974. The necessary resolutions will soon be forthcoming. Sincerely, Laird.” Charter members were; Jim Anderton, Duke Gregory, Herb Jacob, Ray Loeschner, Doug Reniger and Bob Vlasic.
New members were recruited and individuals who applied for membership and paid their chapter dues before July 1, 1974 were considered “founding members.” They were Roger Andersen, Jim Anderton, Bill Bennet, Gary Dietrich, John Eisenhour, Don Fisher, Duke Gregory, Fred Hetherwick, Herb Jacob, Dick Kaufman, Ray Loeschner, Bruce Maguire, Rowland Nofsinger, Doug Reniger, Bud Stoddard and Bob Vlasic.
At an organizational meeting on July 1, 1974, the following officers were elected for the 1974-75 year: Doug Reniger, Chair; Ray Loeschner, Education Chair; Jim Anderton, Secretary-Treasurer; Duke Gregory, Membership Chair; Bruce Maguire and Ray Loeschner Co-Chairs of Leadership Activities; Bob Vlasic, Development Chairman; and Herb Jacob, Detroit Chapter Liaison.
The first official meeting of the new Michigan Chapter was the Formal Chapter Installion on July 11, 1974, at the University Club in East Lansing with 16 members present. In recognition of their leadership in establishing the new Chapter, each member received a 14-karat, gold-filled Cross pen with a Michigan YPO emblem and his name engraved on the pen.

On July 23, 1974, at a meeting of the Chapter officers, the following policies were established: In future years, the Education Chairman would become the Chapter Chairman. Other officers would be selected from the general membership to build a pool of experienced members who could move up to Education and Chapter Chairmen. Chapter officers would make up the Nominating Committee. Meetings would be planned to include spouses at approximately 50% of the meetings. A maximum of four guests (future members) would be invited to each meeting. Joint meetings would be scheduled each year with Detroit and/or Maumee Valley.
 Financial assistance for the fledgling chapter was provided by dual memberships from Detroit Chapter members. The initial membership goal of the Chapter was 30-40 members, with emphasis on quality, not quantity. By 1979, the Chapter grew to 38 members.

The Chapter hosted its first East Central Regional Area Conference in 1979. Jim Anderton was Area Conference Chair and Steve Fletcher was the Education Chair. The Chapter went to Kiawah Island, South Carolina with great trepidation wondering if it would break the new Chapter’s bank account. As it turned out, the Chapter did well enough to add to the bank account and sustain growth.

In 1986, the Chapter hosted its second East Central Area Conference in Hot Springs, Virginia. Bob Nissly was Area Conference Chair and he became the Chapter’s first Director on the YPO International Board.
By 1991, the Chapter grew to about 65 members. Later that year, Steve Fletcher, the Chapter’s second director of YPO International, took the lead in forming the Michigan-East Chapter with 15 other members from the Michigan Chapter. The Michigan Chapter changed its name to Michigan-West.

The Michigan-West Chapter provided seed money and joint meeting opportunities during the 1991-1992 year to help the new Michigan East Chapter grow.
In 1996, the “East Central Area” became the “East Central Region.” In 2000, Michigan-East and Detroit merged to create the Greater Detroit Chapter. Today the East Central Region includes nine chapters: Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Greater Detroit, Maumee Valley, Michigan-West, Mountain State and Pittsburgh.

In 2003, the Chapter hosted its fourth East Central Regional Conference, a Caribbean Cruise. The committee included Chairman Rob and Jorie Sligh, Education Chairman John and Banba Donnelly, Marketing and Communications Chairman Greg and Dafna Kaufman, Social & Off-Ship Chairman Joe & Val Schmieder and Doug & Kim Young, Hospitality Chairman Brad and Mary Lou Davis and Transportation Chairman Pam and Scott Hassevoort. The conference was recognized as a “Best of the Best” Conference in the world for 2003.

A West Michigan WPO (World Presidents’ Organization) Chapter was created and held its inaugural celebration on September 1, 2005. The event was held at the Tiara Yachting Center in Holland, MI. Founding officers included David Slikkers, Chair; John Donnelly, Education Chair; Doug Brant, Membership Chair Wendell Christoff, Treasurer; Chuck Cox, Forum Chair and Karen Wing, Chapter Administrator. The group began its first year with 22 former Michigan-West YPO members (49’ers). To strengthen our commitment to education, leadership and fellowship with our graduating members, Michigan-West YPO donated $10,000 to the newly formed WPO Chapter.



Founding Michigan-West member Ray Loeschner with Gordon Stauffer.



Our Founding Fathers
Charter Chapter members were Jim Anderton, Duke Gregory, Herb Jacob, Ray Loeschner, Doug Reniger and Bob Vlasic.