June 7, 2013

Passing the Leadership Torch

As most of us are aware, practical change is needed for health and continued growth. It was with this in mind that Northwood University’s Board of Trustees elected Grand Rapids native and entrepreneur Daniel (Dan) G. DeVos as Board Chair, and Frankenmuth native and entrepreneur Albert (Al) Zehnder as Vice Chair during its annual meeting on May 17, 2013.

Dan and Al are certainly not new to Northwood but both bring the promise of renewed leadership and vigor at a very important time in Northwood’s history as we continue to expand our current degree offerings while also launching new ones. We look forward to working with both gentlemen, and the entire Board of Trustees, on taking Northwood to the next level. Their combined experience and insight as entrepreneurs and business leaders will serve the best long term interests of everyone at Northwood: alumni, faculty, and staff and, most of all, our students, the future leaders of the global, free enterprise society.

Dan succeeds Dr. J Ferron who served as Board Chair since May 2009. Dan is chairman, president and chief executive officer of DP Fox Ventures, LLC, a diversified management company with interests in real estate, transportation, and sports and entertainment. He also serves as chair of the Orlando Magic (NBA) and president and chief executive officer of the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL). In addition, Dan is chairman and chief executive officer of Georgian International, Ltd.; president and chief executive officer of Fox Motor Group; a partner in CWD Real Estate Investments; and is a member of the board of directors of Alticor, Amway’s parent company.

Dan earned his bachelor’s degree at Northwood in 1980 and was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1999. He is an Outstanding Alumni Awardee, Outstanding Business Leader and Automobile Dealer Education Awardee, and has served on Northwood’s Board of Trustees since 1997. Dan and his Pam wife live in Grand Rapids with their three children.

Al Zehnder in turn succeeds Dan in the role of Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees. As chairman and chief executive officer of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth in Frankenmuth, Michigan, he directs all strategic planning for Zehnder’s which includes their world famous flagship restaurant; their 18-hole championship golf course, The Fortress; and Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark.

Al earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Valparaiso University in 1976. He is a member of the National Restaurant Association, the Michigan Restaurant Association, the Michigan and National Golf Course Owners Association, and the World Waterpark Association. He served as a delegate to the 1987-88 Michigan Governor’s Conference on Small Business and has been a board member of the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce and served as president from 1986-87. He currently is a board member of the Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Bureau and president of the Frankenmuth school board.

Al was awarded Northwood’s Outstanding Business Leader Award in 2004 and the University vested him with an honorary doctorate degree in 2007. In addition to serving on Northwood’s Board of Trustees since 2005, he also serves on the Northwood Michigan Board of Governors. He and his wife, Karen, and four children are residents of Frankenmuth.

As you may know, under Dr. J Ferron’s leadership and watch as Board of Trustees Chair, Northwood experienced incredible growth and maturation and is well positioned as it grows into the future. Northwood’s accomplishments during Dr. Ferron’s tenure include: 

  • The highest academic standards and entrance requirements in our history
  • Terms to semesters transition
  • Implementation of our Strategic Plan and Systems Portfolio
  • Expansion and renovation of several buildings and facilities system wide
  • New degree, experiential learning, study abroad, and athletic programs
  • New Adult Degree and DeVos Graduate School program centers
  • Launch of current accreditation efforts
  • Partnerships with key community institutions  such as Cornerstone Schools and The Community House in Birmingham Michigan

Please join me in thanking Dr. J Ferron for his years of service as board chair and in congratulating Drs. Dan DeVos and Al Zehnder in taking the leadership torch from him as they assume their new roles.

Have a great weekend.


Keith A. Pretty, J.D.
President and CEO
Northwood University
4000 Whiting Drive
Midland, MI 48640