Peter Fordney deVaux, 1944-2022
Peter Fordney deVaux, better known as Pete deVaux, died on April 29, 2022, age 77.
Born in Detroit, Michigan on August 21, 1944, he was raised in Saginaw, attending St. Stephen School and graduating from St. Andrew High School. During his early years, he worked at a variety of jobs including paper boy, dump truck driver, insurance salesman, and ‘chip puller’ at Saginaw Steering Gear.
A dedicated Wolverine, he attended the University of Michigan, as did most of his family, majoring in business. He converted his wife Paula, brought up in Ohio, to a Wolverine after meeting her in Ann Arbor in 1965 where she was beginning study for her Masters in Library Science. Shortly after graduating Pete was drafted into the Army and after basic training, was posted to the Panama Canal Zone.
The Canal Zone was a permanent posting with no risk of being sent to Vietnam, so Paula joined him and they were married on August 4, 1967. Paula worked as Post Librarian and Pete audited pay records. During his time in Panama, at his wife’s insistence, he took the Graduate Record Exam, his excellent results gaining him admittance to the University of Michigan Business School despite his rather lackluster undergraduate grades. This was a turning point in his life: he had found his niche, and graduated in 1970 with high distinction.
After an initial job at Industrial National Bank in Providence, Rhode Island, he moved to TWA in New York City, where he honed his analyst skills.
While posted briefly to Kansas City (TWA Headquarters) he had the good fortune to sit next to Jim Mortensen on a flight from New York. Mortensen, EVP of Young and Rubicam Advertising, recruited him as an assistant treasurer, and became his mentor and friend.
His over ten-year career at Y&R saw him rise from VP and Treasurer, through SVP and Controller, member of the board and CFO of the Y&R USA division, to EVP and Director of Finance, exposing him to all areas of the financial management of advertising agencies.
In 1987, he was recruited as EVP and CFO of Chiat Day Advertising in Venice, California. During his tenure, he acquired Australia’s second largest ad agency as well as a number of other companies, and profitably managed growth.
When he left Chiat Day he semi-retired into consulting with both clients and the senior management of agencies, negotiating agency/client contracts and advising on finance and operations, acquisition and divestiture, and overall strategic planning. He advised some of the major clients of the day such as IBM and Kodak.
His favorite client was Wieden and Kennedy Advertising, on whose board he served. He also served as interim CFO during the search for a new CFO. During that time he commuted between his home in Staunton, Virginia and Portland, Oregon every other week. Throughout his career, he considered himself fortunate to work with many of the greats of the ad world: Ed Ney, Lester Wunderman, Jay Chiat and Lee Clow, Shelly Lazarus, and Dan Wieden, among many others.
During Pete’s working years and after, he and Paula travelled widely, visiting at least once every continent except Antarctica. Some of their travel was business-related, but most often they went on their own, renting houses as a base and exploring the surrounding area. Their activities ranged from visiting a Charolais cattle auction in France, tandem parasailing in New Zealand, traversing narrow walkways over the awesome Iguazu Falls in Argentina, as well as enjoying two safaris in Kenya.
After retiring fully, he built a workshop to pursue his hobby of woodworking, creating many pieces of furniture using different types of wood and creative joinery. He also volunteered in the community, as a member of the Kiwanis Club of Staunton, and serving on the board of Blue Ridge Community College and the Valley Conservation Council.
He joined the board of directors of the Woodrow Wilson Museum, eventually serving three terms as Chair of the Board of Trustees and spearheading the transition of the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace into the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library. With the assistance of former head of the National Archives the Hon. Don Wilson, Congressman Bob Goodlatte and many other board members the idea came to fruition. This was his last big project, and one of which he was justly proud. “To have witnessed the great legacy of ‘The Birthplace’ reborn as an important national education resource has been a privilege and a joy,” Pete said.
Feeling that the Presidential Library was on a firm footing, he and Paula decided to undertake another adventure, and emigrated to Canada in 2006 with Paula’s mother Rosemary, whom Pete referred to fondly as his “smart-ass mother-in-law”. There they built a custom home, and lived happily, becoming dual citizens of Canada and the US. In 2014, Rosemary having passed away and Canadian taxes becoming onerous, they moved back to the US, settling in the college town of Bellingham, Washington, to be near the border and easily able to visit their many Canadian friends.
Pete served the University of Michigan Business School (now the Ross School of Business), in several capacities, as board member on the Business School Development Advisory Committee, and founding chairman of the Alumni Society Board of Governors. He and Paula established a scholarship fund at the Ross School of Business. As long-time Wolverines, Pete and Paula faithfully watched Michigan games until (a sign of age) the stress got too much, and they would record the games, watching only the ones Michigan won.
The end of Pete’s journey takes place in Michigan, where they moved in March 2022 to be close to the love and support of members of Pete’s family. There he was cared for with skill and kindness by the care givers of Primrose Retirement Community of Midland. He suffered from Cordicobasal Syndrome, a rare degenerative neurological condition that affects movement, speech, and memory. Only a month after the move, the disease took over fully. He fought hard against the “dying of the light” but at the end, and eased into a peaceful death by the wonderful people of Hospice, Pete went “gentle into that good night” with his wife and his sister Irene at his side.
He is survived by his wife of 54 years Paula (Turner) deVaux; his sister-in-law Kathie Auld; his sisters Irene deVaux Hensinger and Michele deVaux Kendall; and his nieces and nephews:
Anne Elizabeth deVaux (Kim) Lee; Arthur F. (Kristi) deVaux; Michael K. (Brenda) deVaux; Mary Hensinger (Peter) Haas; Laura Hensinger (Robert) Meushaw; Michael Hayes Hensinger; Johanna Kendall; and Jessica Subin; and 15 great nieces and nephews, and numerous friends and colleagues. Pete was preceded in death by his father and mother, Arthur Flavian and Irene Claire (Fordney) deVaux; his father- and mother-in-law Ralph and Rosemary Turner; and his brother and sister-in-law Arthur F. and Elizabeth S. deVaux. Cremation has taken place, and celebration of his life will be scheduled at a later date.
To honor his memory, in lieu of flowers, you may donate to the Peter F. and Paula T. deVaux Scholarship at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, https://donate.umich.edu/MJPWv; the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum in Staunton, VA www.woodrowwilson.org; or the charity of your choice. To sign online guestbook, visit www.cremationsocietymidmi.com Arrangements made with Cremation Society of Mid Michigan.