Hauenstein, Ralph W.

Hauenstein was assigned to the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 and eventually became chief of intelligence for the European Theater of Operations in World War II. He attained the rank of Colonel and worked on the staff of General Dwight Eisenhower. He is the philanthropist responsible for the Ralph W. Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University, the Hauenstein Neurosciences Center at Saint Mary's Health Care, and the Grace Hauenstein Library at Aquinas College. He has also supported the Guardian Angels Home, the Salvation Army, the renovation of Civic Theatre, and many other local causes.

Biographical Highlights

Ralph Hauenstein lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from the age of twelve. He graduated from Central High School in 1931 and began his career at the Grand Rapids Press. Joining the army in 1935, he worked first with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and then entered army intelligence. He worked his way into the position of chief of intelligence for the European Theater of Operations in World War II. After the war, he found success in business, which he was able to convert to philanthropy on a major scale in Grand Rapids.

Historic Roots

Hauenstein was born February 20, 1912, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The family moved to Grand Rapids when Ralph was twelve and his father worked for Michigan Bell. Ralph graduated from Central High School in 1931 and married Grace Byrnes the following year. The couple eventually had three children. Hauenstein worked for The Grand Rapids Press from 1933 to 1937, and became city editor of the Grand Rapids Herald in 1937. He joined the army in 1935 and was assigned to the Civilian Conservation Corps. In 1940, he returned to active duty with the army and eventually became chief of intelligence for the European Theater of Operations in World War II. He attained the rank of Colonel and worked on the staff of General Dwight Eisenhower. After the war, he helped recruit people for what would become the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Upon leaving the military, Hauenstein became president of Tri-Continental Trading Co. in New York. He owned several companies, including Werner Lehara, Inc. of Grand Rapids, which made equipment for the food industry, and which he sold in 1980 to APV Baker, Inc.

Importance

Ralph Hauenstein was a lifelong public servant. He was a boy scout as a child and joined the army at the age of twenty-two. He served as a leader in many capacities in the private and public sectors. His set up businesses and opportunities that built international relationships. He, along with his wife, Grace, contributed time and money to several key organizations in the community. He is the philanthropist responsible for the Ralph W. Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University, the Hauenstein Neurosciences Center at Saint Mary's Health Care, and the Grace Hauenstein Library at Aquinas College.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Mr. Hauenstein established an endowment in 2003 for the Ralph W. Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University. He provided the seed money for Hauenstein Neurosciences Center at Saint Mary's Health Care, which focuses on Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. (His own father died of Parkinson’s disease, and his wife died of Alzheimer’s.) The Grace Hauenstein Library at Aquinas College has as its mission to provide and develop leadership for environmental sustainability in green building and community development. Hauenstein was a founding Van Andel Institute board member, where the Cook/Hauenstein Hall is named for him. He has also supported the Guardian Angels Home, the Salvation Army, the renovation of Civic Theatre, and many other local causes. He is the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees.

Key Related Ideas

Graduating from Central High in 1931, Hauenstein went on to distinguished service during World War II. After the war, his businesses thrived and he was able to give back to his community through philanthropy to institutions that reflect his Catholic background (St. Mary’s and Aquinas College) as well as to the Hauenstein Presidential Center.

Important People Related to the Topic

  • Grace Hauenstein: Hauenstein’s wife, born Grace Byrnes, graduated from the nursing education program of Saint Mary’s Hospital and worked as a nurse for two years before marrying Ralph. Grace was an active member of Saint Stephen’s church and a partner in philanthropy with her husband throughout their marriage. She died in December of 2007.

Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • Ralph W. Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University works with the Gerald R. Ford Museum to provide education on the American presidency. Its mission is to inspire new leaders toward public service. http://www.gvsu.edu/hauenstein
  • Van Andel Institute: Van Andel Institute’s goal is to have an impact world-wide on medical science and education. http://www.vai.org/

Related Web Sites

  • Aquinas College: This link has a page dedicated to the Grace Hauenstein Library at Aquinas. http://www.aquinas.edu/library/
  • The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was part of the New Deal proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt. It was established for unemployed men during the Depression, and focused on carrying out natural resource conservation. The CCC was a form of government philanthropy that addressed a variety of needs. http://www.ccclegacy.org/
  • Saint Mary’s Hospital: The following web link gives information about the neuroscience program named for the Hauensteins. http://www.smmmc.org/about/foundation/hauenstein.shtml

Bibliography and Internet Sources

Hauenstein, Ralph W. Intelligence Was My Line: Inside Eisenhower’s Other Command. New York: Hippocrene Books, 2005. ISBN: 0781811171

Clipping file and oral history in the SOUL of Philanthropy collection in the Grand Rapids History and Special Collections of the Grand Rapids Public Library