D. J. De Pree

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Dirk Jan (D. J.) De Pree (1891 – December 10, 1990) was an American furniture designer.

Dirk Jan (D.J.) De Pree
Born 1891
Died December 10, 1990
Holland, Michigan, United States
Notable work Founding Herman Miller
Spouse(s) Nellie Miller (1914)

Early life[edit]

D. J. was born in Zeeland, Michigan in 1891. His father was a tinsmith who was active in local politics. His grandparents were Dutch Calvinists who had immigrated to Zeeland in the late 19th century.

D. J. graduated from high school in 1909 and went to work as a clerk for the Michigan Star Furniture Company in Zeeland. The company had been formed four years earlier. De Pree's job consisted of general office work, taking orders from his boss.

In 1914, D. J. married Nellie Miller, daughter of Herman Miller. That marriage produced three sons, two of whom would eventually join their father in the business. The third became a college mathematics professor.[1] He also had four daughters.


In 1923, D. J. decided to found his own business. With the help of a loan from his father-in-law he bought the Michigan Star Furniture Company. (The two purchased 51% of the stock.) He renamed the company Herman Miller in honor of his father-in-law.

Herman Miller was never active in the business. However, D. J. credits him with adopting a policy of quality through the use of the best materials and best workers.

In 1960, D. J. contracted an illness which cut short his career. He stepped down as CEO in 1961. When he recovered, there was no longer room for him as CEO. The new management team consisted of sons Hugh and Max. D. J. continued to provide input and inspiration as chairman emeritus but the sons ran the company.[2]

Spiritual Life[edit]

De Pree was a member of First Baptist Church in Zeeland], but he grew a love for the Ventura district of Holland, Michigan - hearing that there were many people meeting regularly for Bible studies in a one-room schoolhouse. In 1955, DePree became the first pastor (a lay pastor) of Ventura Baptist Church at 16240 Quincy St in Holland, MI. He pastored the church for about 11 years - equipping and encouraging church members regularly. He also helped the church see their building expand.


De Pree died on Monday December 10, 1990 at the Fountain View Retirement Village in Holland, Michigan. He was 99 years old.[3]


  1. ^ "D. J. De Pree". ANBHF. ANBHF. Retrieved 2007-01-16. 
  2. ^ Business As Unusual: The People and Principles at Herman Miller. Hugh De Pree. Birch. 1986. ISBN 0-87911-005-8. 
  3. ^ Fowler, Glenn (1990-12-13). "Obituary". GLENN FOWLER (NYT). Late Edition - Final, Section D, Page 21, Column 1, 504 words. Retrieved 2007-01-16. 

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