Career ladder: Wolters, 57, has a bachelor's degree in sociology from Aquinas College and a master's degree in social work from Michigan State University. A longtime community volunteer, philanthropist and adviser, Wolters first went to work at the family business, Steelcase Inc., in 1982 as a clinical social worker. Two years later, she became director of Hope Network's Center for Independent Living. She returned to Steelcase in 1986 as executive director of the Steelcase Foundation and serves as foundation chairman and a trustee. Wolters' other philanthropic endeavors include the 1997 founding of the Kate and Richard Wolters Foundation.
Power metrics: Grand Rapids-based office furniture maker Steelcase Inc. was co-founded in 1912 by Wolters' grandfather, Walter Idema. It is now a publicly traded company with about 11,000 employees and approximately $3.1 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2016 that ended Feb. 29. GVSU, established in 1960, has 25,000 students.The Steelcase Foundation had assets of $97.8 million in 2014 and made more than $3.7 million in grants to nonprofit organizations with an emphasis in the arts, education and human services. President Bill Clinton appointed her to the National Council on Disability. Wolters also is a Grand Valley State University trustee.
Special skill: "I'm a good listener. I'm direct. There's rarely a situation when it's unclear where I stand."
Biggest setback: "There are so many great things to be involved in that I haven't learned to say 'no' often enough."
Why she decided to get into higher education and philanthropy: "I would say that they chose me, I didn't choose them." Deciding with her late husband to start their own family foundation was her most deliberate move into philanthropy.
"I was managing a small organization that was focused on disability advocacy and service delivery when I was asked to come work for the Steelcase Foundation. Around that same time, my alma mater, Aquinas College, asked me to be on their board. Following that, my second alma mater, MSU, asked me to sit on their Foundation Board. And, of course, my position on Grand Valley's board was at the invitation and appointment of the governor."
Advice for women on success: "Work hard. Ask questions. Do your homework. Take responsibility. I'd give that advice to anyone."
Best advice: Wolters' father, Robert Pew, had many pieces of advice that resonated with her, including this caution against boasting: "The spouting whale gets the harpoon."
Jennette SmithHere's how we produced this special section.
Jennette SmithWe view all of our honorees over the years as part of a "legacy list," some of whom should be considered as prospects for corporate and nonprofit board service.
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