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Varnum Labor Attorney, Mentor Kent J. Vana Dies

January 4, 2017

Longtime Varnum labor attorney Kent J. Vana, whose commitment to excellence and whose mentoring and leadership over 40 years helped shape the culture of the firm, died on Dec. 31 at the age of 79.

In his law practice, Vana represented management interests in labor matters, focusing on planning for and acting as principal spokesman in negotiations, work stoppages, and National Labor Relations Board proceedings. In his role as a leader and mentor, he left a lasting mark on the firm and more than one generation of attorneys.

"Kent Vana was the consummate labor attorney and a tremendous mentor, generously sharing his legal and institutional knowledge," said Varnum Chair Dave Khorey. "He was widely admired and deeply respected not only within the firm and by his clients, but also by those who sat across the bargaining table from him. He was a professional with the highest standards. He made us proud to be part of the legal profession."

A graduate of University of Michigan Law School, Vana joined the law firm that later bore his name in 1962. Schmidt, Howlett, Van't Hoff, Snell & Vana merged with Varnum, Riddering, Wierengo & Christenson in 1983, creating what was then Grand Rapids' largest law firm. Vana is credited with much of the success of both firms. Among other leadership roles, he served as managing partner at Varnum from 1997 to 2000.

In addition to being a top-notch attorney and highly respected in the labor and employment field, Vana was held in the highest esteem by clients and the legal community in general. He was deeply admired by his partners at Varnum and the many attorneys whom he mentored.

Among many recognitions for legal accomplishment, Vana was listed in The Best Lawyers in America® for more than 20 years, and held an AV® Preeminent™ rating -- the highest possible -- by Martindale Hubbell. He was a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, a fellowship of the most accomplished members of the labor and employment law community.

His commitment to the legal profession included serving the Attorney Grievance Commission of the State Bar of Michigan from 2006 to 2011, including serving as Chair. He was a charter member of the American Employment Law Council. He served on the Labor Relations Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, the Committee on Law of Union Administration and Procedure of the American Bar Association, and was a member of the International Industrial Relations Research Association. He was a board member of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan from 2002 until the time of his death, also serving as Chair of the Council for several years.

Services for Mr. Vana are set for Wednesday Jan. 4 at Mayflower Congregational Church. In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the University of Michigan Law School or the Citizens Research Council. A complete obituary can be found in the Grand Rapids Press.

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