This month, the Grand Rapids public relations industry said goodbye to a longtime friend and local PR pioneer, Tamsen Vanderwier. Tamsen was instrumental in starting the PRSA chapter here in West Michigan in the mid-‘80s. She died on January 10 at age 89.
According to Tamsen’s “Life Story Obituary,” as a single mom in the 1960s, she faced challenges and met them head on.
The obituary continues with this tribute: “The day [daughter] Betsy started kindergarten, Tamsen started selling World Book Encyclopedias to support her family and won an international sales award. She was employed at Michigan Bell Telephone Company, Bowman Associates Personnel Agency, American Girl Services, and from 1969 through 1992, at Amway Corporation, where she was the first female manager.
“She specialized in Public Relations, but also was responsible for local advertising, and was a corporate speechwriter, writing for Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel, and acting as ghost writer for many books. Tamsen established the Community Relations program at Amway and took joy in working with many community agencies, including the Grand Rapids Public Museum during its initial efforts to build a new museum. She chaired the All-America City Committee of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce in 1980-81, which won the award for the city and chaired the committee from Amway which established a partnership with Sigsbee Park Elementary School in Grand Rapids.
“She retired from Amway in 1992 and founded TRV Public Relations in 1993. During her ‘retirement,’ she continued her committed relationship with Baxter Community Center and assisted In the Image and other community agencies with fundraising and other public relations services.”
Outgoing WMPRSA president, Amy LeFebre, recalls working with Tamsen in the public relations department at Amway in the late ‘80s.
“Tamsen was deeply committed to community building and engagement,” Amy says. “It was my first job out of college, and she set a tremendous example of how, as PR professionals, we could make an impact for good. I think that’s what she enjoyed about her work – she brought exuberance and joy to her job every day.”
On behalf of West Michigan PRSA, we extend our sincere condolences to Tamsen’s family and friends.