Fleis & VandenBrink (F&V) announced today the passing of co-founder Steven R. Vanden Brink. The Grand Rapids professional engineer started F&V with longtime business and personal friend Larry Fleis on Jan. 13, 1993.
“Steve and I had worked together for over four decades. He was a great partner and will be truly missed by our F&V family.” said Larry J. Fleis, chairman of the Board of Director for F&V Companies, Inc.
Steve was Sr. Vice-President of F&V until the summer of 2015 when he suffered a major stroke. He died on July 23, 2021. Prior to his stroke, F&V grew to a staff of 200 people with nine offices in Michigan and Indiana.
Steve’s wife, Therese, worked with the firm until Steve’s stroke. She survives him along with two children.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with Therese and her family,” said Fleis, who also worked with Steve at another Grand Rapids engineering firm before founding F&V.
Vanden Brink, 66, graduated from Michigan Tech with a civil engineer degree.
For decades, Steve built special relationships with many clients and engineers, inside and outside the F&V family. He was the engineer of record for a dozen municipalities through the years.
“Steve had a huge impact on my career. I will always appreciate all I learned from him both from an engineering perspective as well as a business perspective,” said Paul R. Galdes, the first engineer that Larry and Steve hired. “Steve had a tenacity for taking care of F&V clients.”
Galdes, now vice president of F&V and FVCI, said Steve was known for his red pen and providing quality reviews of other staff’s designs.
“Steve’s attitude helped create a culture at F&V of quality in our designs that resulted in a great reputation with clients,” Fleis added. “And he taught many younger staff things that aren’t taught in schools.”
John R. DeVol, F&V’s president, said Steve was a great compliment to Larry with Larry being the business minded one and Steve being the consummate engineer’s engineer with a ‘brilliant technical” mind.
“The major reason that F&V was so successful was because of the dynamic that worked between Steve and Larry, they balanced each other so perfectly,” DeVol said. “Sometimes Steve didn’t have a lot to say but when he spoke, it was very meaningful, very intelligent.”
Aaron Catlin, former group manager, worked with Steve on various projects for 46 years.
“Steve became my mentor and my boss,” Catlin said. “He taught me how to be a good designer, writer, project manager, and how to lead by example.”
Catlin said Steve’s nickname was red and not because of the color of his hair back in the early days.
“Maybe it was for his liberal use of the red pen!” Catlin noted. “Steve and I worked on hundreds of projects together as teammates, but most importantly, Steve became a friend.
“Someone to trust, someone to look up to … you know, 46 years is a long time. I won’t forget him.”
F&V is an employee-owned multi-disciplined civil engineering and architecture firm and a one-stop shop for infrastructure planning, design and construction. It has more than 250 employees. It is headquartered in Grand Rapids with eight other offices throughout Michigan and Indiana.
F&V was named among the Best & Brightest Companies to Work for in the nation in 2020 and Best & Brightest Companies to Work for in West Michigan eight of the last nine years. F&V was also named a Zweig Group Hot Growth Firm — one of the 100-fastest-growing firms in the U.S – for the last five years.