Brent LaVigne, Rick Rey, Mely Rey and Barb Bellefeuille gather in front of the Helm with a $1 million gift from the Reys.

Timing is Everything.

When Rick Rey ’77, left his home country in 1972, he never would have imagined what his life would be like in the year 2022. He arrived in the United States for a temporary visit, but never left.

Decades later, he has had many rich life experiences. He got married and raised two daughters; he runs a successful silicone compounds mixing company, Specialty Products and Polymers Inc., in Niles, Mich.; and in 2012, Rick and his wife, Mely, started a foundation to fund education scholarships and educational activities.

“I feel so blessed. That is one reason we’ve been giving back,” he says.

The Mely and Rick Rey Foundation Inc., recently gave Bethel University a gift of $1 million. (See sidebar for details.)

“The generous gift from the Rey Foundation not only provided needed funds for student scholarships, it also, and maybe more importantly, reconnected Bethel with an alumnus who told a story of God’s faithfulness through Bethel,” says Barb Bellefeuille, Ed.D., president.

For 12-13 years, the Reys have sponsored Bethel students. They also funded the construction of a four-story building at a charity hospital in the Philippines, both he and Mely’s native country.

How Rey ended up at Bethel and eventually in a position where he can help others is all about timing, he says.

Rey’s brother worked in South Bend and returned to the Philippines to marry. He traveled back to the states ahead of his wife, so Rey accompanied her. Once in Indiana, Rey pondered his life, which didn’t have any direction, and thought he should make some changes.

So, he wrote to the U.S. Embassy, asked for a six-month extension of his visa and began applying to area colleges. He was told to return to Manila and get his student visa.

His last hope was Bethel, who said yes and did all the work to convert his visa to a student visa.  

“I guess they needed me and I needed them,” he says, of his first brush with God’s timing.

Rey had trying times as he worked nights at Village Inn Pizza Parlor and went to class, studying chemistry. By his senior year, burned out and ready to quit school, he let his visa expire and almost got deported. However, he was allowed to stay in the U.S. after marrying Mely, whom he met through his job.

After graduation, Rey got a job at Uniroyal in Mishawaka. A just-settled class-action suit required them to equally hire women and minorities. Again, good timing for him.

By 1995, he started his own company with no business knowledge or money. With a small lab mixer, he produced two-pound samples to submit to prospective customers. From his first 250-pound order, he grew the business to become one of the largest silicone suppliers in North America. This success has now allowed him to give back.

“Giving the gift [to Bethel] is not only paying back, but paying forward,” he says, adding that he hopes other students have a similar experience.

Vice President for Institutional Advancement Brent LaVigne, Ph.D., says, “The impact of this gift is both immediate and long-lasting and yet what excites me most is the spirit in which the Reys give. As we have talked it is clear that their desire is that their giving would encourage many others to invest in the lives of students at Bethel University.”

Rey mentioned the parable of the rich fool, Luke 12:16-21:18 who stored up his riches and was called foolish by God.

Rey doesn’t plan on making that mistake – he has enough.

“It is mind-boggling to see what all has been accomplished,” he says. “Bethel gave me an opportunity to stick around. [It was] almost like a life preserver being thrown to me.”

Jessica Wilker, senior senior biology/pre-veterinary medicine major, stands by Bethel’s old autoclave, which will be replaced thanks to the generosity of the Reys.

About the Gift
$1 million gift from the Mely and Rick Rey Foundation Inc. will fund the following areas:

– Increase the impact of the Mely & Rick Rey Foundation Endowment Fund (which currently supports students with financial need, international students, and chemistry majors);
– Expand international student and staff support, providing operational and personnel funding exclusively for the international student program;
– Provide funding for current Bethel scholarships, which are necessary to reduce student debt, and;
– Provide funds to replace a critical piece of chemistry lab equipment – a new autoclave.

About the autoclave, Jana McLean, Ph.D., dean of arts and sciences, says, “We’re so grateful for the donation of the autoclave because it is an essential part of a biology lab! The autoclave sterilizes the medium that we use for growing bacteria and fungi. The autoclave also allows us to clean up biohazardous waste that’s produced from our experiments. This allows us to work with all types of microbes, whether it’s teaching nursing students about antibiotic-resistance in bacteria or performing scientific research with yeast.”