Mike (H. W.) Kooyman, a past business CEO and community leader passed away peacefully on November 25, 2019 after a short illness. He was 91 years old.
The youngest and one of seven kids, Mike Kooyman was the only member of the family born in the U.S. in 1928. His parents immigrated to the U.S. from Alkmaar Holland.
Mike grew up in farm communities east of Cleveland Ohio and as a teen, worked with his father and older brothers in landscaping. He is the only child in the family to graduate high school and the only child to go on to college. Mike received degrees from Case Western Reserve University and Ohio State University.
In 1955 he married Ruth Marie Kooyman and they purchased their first home in Willoughby Ohio.
He started his career management with Lubrizol and then with Reliance Electric with jobs in Cleveland and in the early 1970s took over as General Manager of plant operations for two Reliance Electric facilities in Athens, Georgia. During the 1970s, he expanded operations to Gainesville and Flowery Branch Georgia. During that time in Athens, he played an active role in the Athens Chamber of Commerce and worked on building industrial expansion and employment opportunities in Athens.
In 1979, Mike joined Emerson Electric Corporation and served on a corporate management team in St. Louis, then later served as CEO of Browning Manufacturing based outside in Maysville Kentucky and then subsequently as CEO of SWECO based in Cincinnati Ohio. Before he retired, he managed European operations for Emerson out of Brussels Belgian.
In 1996, Mike and Ruth retired back to Athens and both became active with the UGA Athletics Program and the UGA Quarterback Club. Mike rarely missed a UGA home and away game each year as well as the end-of-season bowl games.
Mike and Ruth’s dedication to the University of Georgia athletes is attested by the Ruth M. Kooyman room in the Rankin M. Smith Student Athletic Center and by a perpetual endowment scholarship to the UGA Men’s Basketball team. The player who now holds this scholarship is freshman, Jaykwon Walton.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Mike collected antique cars and three times drove one of the cars coast-to-coast in The Great Race featured in the past on History Channel.
In addition to his role in corporate management and support of UGA Athletics, Mike has also served in leadership roles with community organizations like United Way and served as an adjunct business professor at colleges and universities across the U.S.
Mike is survived by his daughter Holly Erev King (Kooyman), son, Mark Emil Kooyman and three grandchildren, Alethea Marie Richards, Zevid Marcus Yale Richards and Lyris Ruth Richards. Both children maintain residences in Athens.
As the family did when Ruth Kooyman passed away earlier this year, the family will not have a formal funeral, but instead a life celebration event honoring Mike in the spring.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Mike Walter Kooyman, please visit our floral store.