Gronseth Scholarship Helps Students Write Their Futures

Million-dollar estate gift honors a legacy, supports communication pursuits at Albion

February 11, 2015

It’s all about touching lives over generations for Harold R. Gronseth, ’52.

Harold E. Gronseth, Albion College Class of 1917
Harold E. Gronseth, class of 1917, in an Albionian yearbook portrait. After Albion and Harvard Business School, he became an accomplished automotive writer in both the business journalism and advertising fields.

For more than a quarter-century he made an impact in elementary classrooms in Traverse City’s public schools. And with an estate commitment that will increase his generosity to Albion College to more than $1 million, he will ensure a similar difference through scholarships for future Albion students planning careers in communications, professional writing, or economics and management.

But the biggest beneficiary of all may be Gronseth himself, because in his view, it’s the best way to honor his father, Harold E. Gronseth, a 1917 Albion alumnus.

Again, that generational thing.

“I knew how much he thought of his time at Albion. I just wanted to do something that would be a lasting tribute,” said Gronseth about the Harold E. Gronseth, 1917 Endowed Memorial Scholarship, which was initially established in 1990. “It’s just a very satisfying thing for me, to know that there is something permanent and beneficial that I did while I was walking around this good earth.”

To this day, Gronseth relishes the opportunity to retrace his father’s childhood and career. Harold E. Gronseth was a true self-made man much like his father, L. J. Gronseth, a shoe- and bootmaker who immigrated with his family from Norway and whose Gronseth’s Shoe Store became a Suttons Bay institution (as well as its slogan, “Put yourself in Gronseth’s Shoes”). Harold E. was one of eight siblings and paid for his own college education—working for a time, enrolling for a time, and repeating the process until he earned his degree.

After Albion, Harold E. obtained his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and launched a very successful business writing career. For many years he covered the automobile industry out of New York and Detroit for The Wall Street Journal, later moving into advertising at Campbell Ewald, one of the oldest and most esteemed agencies in Detroit, primarily working on the Chrysler account.

Harold E. passed away suddenly in 1962 after enjoying a 15-year retirement and moving his family from the Detroit area back to Suttons Bay. Harold R. finished high school up north and, like his dad, was set on Albion. He just wasn’t sure how set he was being away from home.

“I guess I was a little like Peter Pan—I never really wanted to grow up,” he chuckles. “Albion was the very first experience I had in my entire life living apart from the nest. For me, looking back, it was all about the friends that I made there and just the growing-up, maturing process. The opportunity to be on my own helped so much.”

Of course, at a small liberal arts college, a lot of learning happens outside the classroom. In Gronseth’s case, he recalls residential life, including his time in Seaton (“I was there the first year it opened; it was all brand new”) and even earlier in temporary wooden barracks quickly built to accommodate the rush of postwar students attending on the GI Bill (“It was a little bit Army-like at first”).

Now, speaking from his home in Georgia, following a career dedicated to learning, Gronseth is happy knowing he’ll be contributing to Albion student learning endeavors for years to come.

“College education has become so expensive even for middle-class families, and I would like to ease that financial burden for young people who have some of the same aspirations my parents had,” said Gronseth, who has also established a similar scholarship at his mother’s alma mater, Grinnell. “I just am so pleased personally to be able to do it, and on behalf of my parents, because they were extremely important to me.”

The power of giving manifests itself in a variety of ways and often has a lasting impact. To learn more about giving opportunities, please contact the Albion College Development Office at 517/629-0402.