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Bellville Times

Dr. Ralph M Grawunder, Ed.D. (1929 - 2009)


Dr. Ralph M. Grawunder passed away at home on September 14, 2009 surrounded by his loving family.  Ralph was  a professor at San Diego State University from 1955-1991.   He had a  three  year struggle with cancer.

Ralph Grawunder was born in Bellville, but grew up in Houston, Texas and attended Rice Institute where he obtained his bachelors degree and was a star athlete, lettering in both track and basketball. ( He was one of the four members of the track team that held for a brief time the world record in the 4x440 yard relay) While at Rice he married his high school sweetheart Joyce Strasding.  He was persuaded by a mentor professor to take up studies at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he obtained his doctorate in health education.

In 1955 he was hired to teach at San Diego State College (which, in 1970, became San Diego State University) in the Division of Physical Education, Health Education and Recreation.  He taught health education classes, and was also assistant track coach.  He became the Chair of the Health Education Department in 1962.  In the early 1960s he was the lead instructor in an entirely innovative required television course, Introduction to Health Education.  At this time he was also in the forefront of the anti-smoking campaign, and was instrumental in getting the University Senate to approve the early regulations.  In 1966 he played a vital role in the planning and implementation of “Smoking Research” ,  a federally-funded experimental anti-smoking program, one of the first in San Diego.  Ralph had active roles in the Lung Association, American Heart Association  and the American Cancer Society.  He wrote a best selling text book ‘ Life and Health’ which ran into several editions.

During his years in the Health Education department (which formally separated from Physical Education in 1970 to become “ Health Science”), Ralph was always a strong supporter of the link between physical activity and health education.  He was an exercise leader for many years in the Adult Fitness Program directed by his colleague, Dr.  Fred Kasch.  After departmental reorganizations in the early 1980’s,  he returned to teach in the Physical Education department as it’s emphasis moved towards the integration of fitness and health and away from competitive sports - a direction that pleased Ralph.  Courses required of all graduates, such as “Exercise and Health”,  “Introduction to Kinesiology”,  and “Musculo-Skeletal Fitness”, were in large part developed by him.  He retired from the University in 1991 after 36 years of service.  He was an exemplary devotee of cardiovascular and muscular fitness throughout his career and long into retirement.  He was greatly admired by colleagues and students alike for his total commitment to the active lifestyle.  In his University work,  he could be counted on to address all sides of any discussion with candor, to be fearless but sensitive: he was probing in his approach to everything,  but always willing to listen and concede with grace and humor whenever his thoughts did not prevail.  He was always greatly supportive and encouraging of younger colleagues.

Apart from the accomplishments of his professional life,  Ralph was a man of wide intellectual interests.  He was a wide-ranging and eclectic reader and thinker,  always eager to venture into a deeper level of discussion.  Somehow,  he would find an opening to venture into talking about particle physics, mathematics as a tool of science, the influence of language on philosophical frameworks,  the bases of religion,  the poetic power of a T.S.  Elliot or a Dylan Thomas,  and other “heady” subjects.  Reams of poetry, delivered without a pause, flowed  easily from his lips.  In discussion, Ralph would dig and probe, always loving the journey of thinking,  and he was a wonderful companion on that journey.  As in his professional life,  he was never afraid to ask awkward questions or throw doubt on sacred “truths”.  Yet he was never in a discussion with a purpose to win, or to impress anyone.  He pursued discussion because he loved to learn and to round out his thinking,  to explore all the fascinating corners of knowledge.  Even in confronting his illness he was fascinated by an understanding of the process,  never complaining and always amazingly lucid,  composed, and brave.  That itself was remarkable testimonial to a very remarkable man.  He will be greatly missed.

Ralph had great love for his family,  taking great pride in their accomplishments and especially in their character.  He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Joyce, his three daughters, Gretchen, Robin, and Johanna, Sons - in - Law Rex, Tony, and Mark, and had great pride and enjoyment in his 3 grandchildren, Erica, Amanda, and Christopher.


Last week’s submitted obituary for Ralph Grawunder did not make mention of his Bellville connection.

His parents were Ernest Otto Grawunder and Hilda Krueger Grawunder Gross; his grandparents were Herman and Bertha Dietrick Grawunder and John and Bertha Grabow Krueger. These families are “old’ Austin County families.

Posted by Joy Neely


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