Northwestern's fourth president dies

Northwestern College officials have learned that the college’s fourth president, Dr. Lars Granberg, has died. Granberg, who was president from 1966 to 1975, died on March 2 at the age of 91. 

Granberg is survived by his wife, Carol, and three daughters: the Rev. Karin Granberg-Michaelson, Barbara Joldersma and Linda Popovich. Funeral services will be held March 7 at 11 a.m. at Third Reformed Church in Holland, Mich. Visitation will be at the church from 10 to 10:45 a.m. Arrangements are under the direction of Langeland-Sterenberg Funeral Home of Holland.

Granberg became president of Northwestern College just five years after it awarded its first bachelor’s degrees, and he is credited for overseeing the school’s transformation into a liberal arts college. Under his leadership, Northwestern received full accreditation as a liberal arts college from the North Central Association in 1970 and from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education in 1971. The campus’s facilities also expanded, with the construction of Fern Smith Hall and a wing added to Van Peursem Hall.

“Lars may end up being one of the most significant presidents in Northwestern’s history because of his role in the transition from having been a junior college to becoming a four-year liberal arts college,” says Dr. Bruce Murphy, Northwestern’s president from 2001 to 2007. “He really brought the school into a new identity that all of us since then have built upon. He established a team that developed the new curriculum, including the general studies program, and he put together what we would now call a strategic plan.”

Murphy, who joined Northwestern’s history faculty in 1970, is one of dozens of longtime NWC professors hired by Granberg. “He mentored me and many other young faculty on the Reformed vision of living faith in the world, taking our faith into every part of life and culture,” says Murphy.

Dr. Ron Juffer, who joined Northwestern’s education faculty in 1967, described Granberg as “scholarly, but yet very approachable. We all respected him because of his intelligence and academic credentials but he was also very down-to-earth and comfortable to be with. He set the table for Northwestern becoming a strong liberal arts college.”

A native of Norway, Granberg grew up in Chicago and earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Wheaton College. After serving in the Army during World War II, he earned master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology at the University of Chicago.

Granberg taught psychology at Hope College from 1947 until becoming dean of students and associate professor of pastoral counseling and psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1954. He rejoined Hope in 1960 and founded the student counseling service. He was Hope’s acting vice president for academic affairs for a year before coming to Northwestern.

After his tenure as Northwestern’s president, he returned to Hope, where he was dean for the social sciences and director of interdisciplinary studies. He retired as the Peter and Emajean Cook Professor of Psychology in 1984.

Granberg wrote Marriage is for Adults Only, published by Zondervan in 1970, and co-authored Counseling, published by Baker Book House in 1971. A board member for the Council for the Advancement of Small Colleges from 1968 to 1975, he served on several committees of the Reformed Church in America, including the Commission on Christian Action, the Board of Theological Education and the Commission on Theology. He was president of the denomination’s Holland Classis in 1979.

Northwestern College bestowed an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree upon Granberg in 1975. The building housing the English department was named Granberg Hall in his honor in 1987.