About the Founders

Marvin T. Miller, Executive Director of The Laurent Institute

He is the man with the passion to lead us to build this exciting new town. With his wife, Jennifer, and a family of three boys and one daughter, the personal dream to live in a town where children can be safe and develop independence, where people know and care about their neighbors, where local politics are everyone’s business, becomes a necessity.

Thirty-four year old Marvin has come to believe that the best way to provide for his family is by doing something that will benefit thousands of people — build that town now. A native of Michigan, Marvin has also lived in Washington, D.C.; Las Vegas, NV; Austin, Texas and for the past 3 years, South Dakota. He is a man of many talents, used to both leading and influencing others.

He has been editor of his school newspaper, Telegraph Hill News, at MSSD, an owner and editor of a statewide newspaper, The Deaf Michigander, and a national newspaper, DeafNation, as well as other publications. Marvin was Creative Media Director at CSD (Communication Service for the Deaf) in Sioux Falls, S.D. He has left CSD as of January 30, 2004 to focus full time on development of Laurent, S.D. You can e-mail him at: [email protected]

M.E. Barwacz, Chief Executive Officer — The Laurent Company

The other half of the team is Marvin’s mother-in-law, M.E. Barwacz. M.E., (just say “M” or “M.E.”, that’s her legal first name) was the one who connected Marvin with the professional city planners, who told the pair that they had a great idea and yes, their vision was truly possible.

Barwacz has spent a good part of her life helping to set up programs to benefit people. Her varied background includes a couple years of factory work, 7 years of working in hospitals as a respiratory therapist, and a few years in retail management. M.E. was elected to the Grand Rapids Board of Education in 1982. The majority of her adult life she has been an investor in various areas. M.E. was a partner in both VanBar Properties, a commercial and residential management company in West Michigan, and Lily’s Inc., a florist shop located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has sat on numerous committees and boards in her hometown of Grand Rapids. A community leader, she is most proud of her role as a founding member of The West Grand Rapids Planning Committee, a group that joined three business and three neighborhood associations into one strong unit which the city recognized as unique and a model to be emulated. For many years, she played a leadership role in both her local business association and in the West Michigan Alzheimer’s Association. She helped in the city’s recent 2-year project to write a new Master Plan.

Laurent will be a walkable community where people can keep their independence, without having to drive a car. She sees Laurent as a busy, vibrant community, with a healthy local economy. It will be home to the young, the old, and the in-betweens. There will be a place for those starting careers and those ready to retire. M.E. remembers what her mother said when her parents were looking for a retirement community to move to, when they were in their 70’s, “I want to wake up in the morning and find out who got pregnant, not who died.” That is her idea of a new hometown.

E-mail: [email protected]