Edward George Groenhout, 85, of Flagstaff, Arizona, passed away January 25, 2022, at home with his family and with the support of Northern Arizona Hospice.
Ed was born October 11, 1936, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Richard and Johanna Boersma Groenhout. The eldest of three boys, Ed enjoyed fishing and hunting with his father and brothers, helping his uncle deliver fresh milk to neighbors, playing baseball, and singing tenor in the church choir. After high school, Ed set his sights on pitching in minor league baseball, but it wasn’t to be, so he joined the US Air Force and boarded a bus for a base in Cut Bank, Montana. After four years of service, including two years in Japan, it was in this small western town that he fell for a raven-haired, blue-eyed beauty named Shirley Foster. Ed and Shirley eloped to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, in August 1959.
After working as a radio station manager, a picture framer, and five years as a police officer, Ed and Shirl, with two children in tow, moved to Missoula where Ed enrolled at the University of Montana in 1964 with the help of the GI Bill. As an undergraduate, he was elected to Phi Eta Sigma national freshman honor society, Phi Kappa Phi national scholastic honorary, and Sigma Delta Pi National Spanish honor society.
A leader in student government, Ed was instrumental in organizing the commissioner form of government and served as the first U of M fine arts commissioner. He was also chairman of the dean’s fine arts advisory council.
After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with high honors, Ed worked as a teaching assistant in the U of M Fine Arts Department while pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree, awarded in June of 1967. He was also the 1967 recipient of the Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Scholar Award.
In 1969, at the age of 33, Ed was appointed executive director of the Montana Arts Council (MAC), an agency created to stimulate Montana’s cultural development and to administer matching funds for that purpose from the National Endowment for the Arts. Before leaving Missoula, Ed was commissioned by the student government of Sentinel High School to paint “The Spartan,” a 9 x 4.5-foot oil painting that is on display in the school’s lobby to this day.
In 1971, Ed, Shirley, and their three children moved to Bozeman where Ed became the assistant dean of the College of Arts and Architecture at Montana State University. During his nearly 20-year tenure at MSU as assistant dean and then dean, Ed was instrumental in growing the School of Architecture, the department of film and television, and KUSM, the school’s public television station. In 1979, he was commissioned to sculpt a bust of Anna Pearl Sherrick, the founding director of MSU’s baccalaureate and master’s degree programs in nursing. The bust remains in place outside the nursing department, Sherrick Hall, as a tribute to her work.
While in Bozeman, Ed joined the Karl Mark’s Cardinals, an over-30 slow-pitch softball team. The friendships he made through this organization were some of the richest and most enduring of his life.
In 1988, the Groenhouts moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, where Ed took on the role of dean of the College of Creative and Communication Arts at Northern Arizona University. Over time, Ed became vice president of strategic initiatives and was pivotal in the development of NAU-net, a satellite and microwave television network program offering the first courses in Arizona to off-campus sites via television. Additionally, it pioneered offering a foreign language program to elementary students throughout the U.S., lower Canada, and upper Mexico.
After stepping down from university administration in 2001, for several years Ed taught color theory and charcoal classes at NAU, which were also broadcast through the distance learning program he helped create. Upon retirement, Ed bought a small boat and delighted in fishing and camping with his grandchildren, Noah and Sofie, at Lake Powell until a pneumonia event in 2012 left him dependent on oxygen 24/7.
Ed loved watching his grandchildren play sports, the Michigan Wolverines, Roger Federer, and Snickers bars. He continued to create art until just a few months before his passing.
Ed leaves behind his wife of 63 years, Shirley Foster Groenhout; brother William (Carol); children Lori Jo (Marvin) Eleazer, Edward Guy (Yvonne), Brenda (Chris) Linskey, and five grandchildren: Jonna Jerdee, Jacob Jerdee, Joel Jerdee, Noah Linskey, Sofie Linskey, and a handful of great grandchildren.
Given the pandemic, a memorial service will be held in Flagstaff during warmer weather.
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