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Council of Michigan Foundations Selects Hoffius for Community Foundation Philanthropy Award

November 11, 2013

Dirk Hoffius, one of Grand Rapids' best known estate planning attorneys, received the Community Foundation Philanthropy Award presented by the Council of Michigan Foundations at their recent conference in Grand Rapids.

Hoffius, who counsels West Michigan individuals and families in estate planning matters at Varnum, was nominated by Grand Rapids Community Foundation. President Diana Sieger praised Hoffius' 22 years of service to the foundation  - including eight as a member of the board and as chair – in addition to leadership and service to numerous other community organizations.

"He has had a tremendous impact on this Foundation as well as in the community," Sieger stated.

Hoffius' exemplary record of community service began when he returned to the Grand Rapids area in 1969 following law school at the University of Virginia.  He saw an announcement for a citizens committee of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, which was to focus on the development of the river area in downtown Grand Rapids.

"You have to remember what the city looked like then," Hoffius related in his acceptance remarks: "Hard concrete edges along the river and no pedestrian considerations. We had a new City Center but it was occupied only from 8 to 5. There were few hotels, no residents, few restaurants or bars or entertainment."

When it came time to choose the chair of the committee, the consensus was that it had to be someone who lived in Grand Rapids.

"As luck would have it, there were only two of us: Fred Meijer and me," Hoffius said. "Fred said he was much too busy to be chair. I said I had just arrived and didn't feel qualified. For some reason, the group was foolish enough to insist that I had to do it."

The committee issued a position paper calling for multi-use development, high rise apartments, preservation of historic buildings, creation of a green area and "soft" edge to the river including pedestrian access, improvement of the civic center, and finding a home for the Civic Theatre.

While much – if not all – of those recommendations were eventually incorporated into the design of the downtown area, Hoffius is quick to point out that it wasn't necessarily because of the committee he chaired, "but it didn't hurt."

In subsequent years, Hoffius served on dozens of boards and committees, and he turned down many others. "I only served organizations whose issues I was passionate about," he said.

One of those passions is food, and he serves on the board of the recently-opened Downtown Market. When the market opened in September, he enthusiastically participated by giving a cooking demonstration in the incubator kitchen, accompanied by fellow attorney Marilyn Lankfer and paralegal Karen Maczuga, who work with Hoffius in Varnum's estate planning group. Hoffius and his loyal sous chefs have raised thousands of dollars in recent years by auctioning their cooking services to such charities as D.A. Blodgett/St. John's Home and Conductive Learning Center.

Hoffius is also the author of what has become a beloved cookbook both within the firm and throughout the broader Grand Rapids community, "Just Good Food for Good Friends."

Another passion is art. Hoffius has an extensive association with Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and currently serves as vice president for the foundation board. He also currently serves the Grand Rapids Art Museum Board, and formerly served as a chair of Kendall College of Art and Design. Within Varnum, he and fellow attorney Dan Molhoek along with HR Director Carroll Velie make up the firm's art committee, actively supporting Michigan artists through the purchase of works that grace the firm's five offices and which is incorporated into much of the firm's marketing materials. Hoffius and  Molhoek served as presenters of the ArtPrize 2-D juried award for several years.

The Hoffius family has deep roots in the West Michigan legal community. Hoffius is the son of the late Stuart Hoffius, who served as Kent County prosecuting attorney before being elected to circuit court judge. He was the chief circuit court judge for many years before his retirement in 1988. Hoffius' grandfather, Cornelius Hoffius, was also a Kent County prosecuting attorney who was elected circuit court judge in 1938.

Hoffius originally thought he would follow in his father's and grandfather's footsteps and become a litigator, but quickly moved to estate planning work when there was a need. "I wasn't a litigator long enough to know whether I was any good," Hoffius said, "but when I moved to estate planning, I found what I love to do."

Hoffius's legal ability is underscored by his inclusion as a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel since 1988. He has been consistently listed in The Best Lawyers in America in the area of Trusts and Estates since for the past 25 years. In 2002 -2003, he served as chair of the Probate and Estate Planning Section of the Michigan Bar Association.

Hoffius is a proud alumnus of Grand Rapids Junior College and is a past president of GRCC alumni association. He received his undergraduate degree from Colgate University and law degree from the University of Virginia Law School. He's been at Varnum since 1969, and currently has the distinction of being listed first on the firm's letterhead.

He and his wife, Victoria, reside in East Grand Rapids.

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