Ralph Hauenstein

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Hauenstein in 2013

Ralph Hauenstein (born March 20, 1912)[1] is an American philanthropist and business leader. His leadership has produced institutions such as the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University, the Hauenstein Parkinsons and Neuroscience Centers at Saint Mary's Hospital, and the Grace Hauenstein Library at Aquinas College. He turned 100 in March 2012.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1912, Hauenstein moved to Grand Rapids at the age of 12 and lived in Grand Rapids ever since. One of his earliest memories—he was five or six years old—is of handing out candy to doughboys leaving their midwestern homes for the battlefields of France. As a twelve-year-old boy scout, he assisted Civil War veterans from the Grand Army of the Republic meeting in Grand Rapids. They arrived in Grand Rapids by car and by horse.[3]

World War II leadership[edit]

Hauenstein's public service began in 1934. That year, at the age of 22, he sensed that war would break out in Europe and inevitably involve the United States. The next year, Hauenstein was commissioned in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and became commander of an all-African-American Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Michigan.

After two and one-half years on active duty, Hauenstein returned to civilian life and became city editor of the Grand Rapids Herald. In December 1940, one year before the attack on Pearl Harbor, he returned to active duty. During the Second World War, he rose to the rank of colonel and served under General Dwight D. Eisenhower as chief of the Intelligence Branch in the Army's European theater of operations. In 1945 he was among the first Americans into liberated Paris, war-torn Germany, and Nazi concentration camps. The destruction convinced him to work for better international relations and peaceful solutions to conflict.[4]

Post-war leadership and service[edit]

After the war, Hauenstein saw opportunities to build bridges between the United States and a Europe devastated by war. He went into international trade and partnered with European enterprises to provide goods and services to consumers in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere where democracies were struggling. He underwrote a modern bakery in Haiti, providing jobs for hundreds of workers and thousands of individual distributors at a difficult time in that nation's history. He also set up a school in Florida that taught people from developing countries how to run a fully automated bakery and provide good jobs in their local economy.[5]

However, Hauenstein's leadership and service went beyond the private sector. During the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, Mr. Hauenstein served as a consultant on the President's Advisory Commission. He also served as an auditor at the Second Vatican Council in Rome, and was part of the team that supervised the first free elections in Russia with the Jamestown Foundation in 1996.


Hauenstein has contributed to numerous charitable causes. His philanthropic efforts can be seen in higher education institutions in the West Michigan area: at Grand Valley State University, his contribution made possible the founding of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, whose mission is to inspire a new generation of leaders devoted to public service. The Grace Hauenstein Library is a prominent fixture on the Grand Rapids campus of Aquinas College.

Hauenstein's philanthropy extends into the field of medicine. In December 2003, Hauenstein contributed $2 million to Saint Mary’s Health Care to jump start a $15 million campaign to create a comprehensive Neurosciences Center on the campus. From this initial donation—and efforts to raise more money—the Saint Mary’s Hauenstein Parkinson’s Center is a leader in the fight against this debilitating disease.[6] Hauenstein was also one of three board members who established the Van Andel Institute for Medical Research in Grand Rapids, Michigan and is, as of 2012, one of its trustees.

In 2013, Hauenstein donated $1 million to The Hauenstein Center in celebration of the 10th anniversary.[7]

Leadership positions[edit]

  • Colonel-United States Army
  • Trustee-Van Andel Research Institute
  • Trustee-Gerald R. Ford Foundation
  • Trustee-Jamestown Foundation
  • Founder-Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies
  • Founder-Hauenstein Parkinson's Center
  • President/Chairman-Werner Lehara Corporation


Hauenstein, along with Donald Markle, authored a book about his role in the Allied efforts during World War II. Intelligence Was My Line: Inside Eisenhower's Other Command was published in 2005 by Hippocrene Books.


  1. ^ "Ford honored with Hauenstein Fellowship award". Grand Valley State University. Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  2. ^ "Ralph Hauenstein". Ralph Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. Grand Valley State University. 2012-03-20. Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  3. ^ "Ralph Hauenstein: A Life of Leadership" The Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies
  4. ^ "Intelligence was my Line: Inside Eisenhower's Other Command" (New York: Hippocrene Books, 2005)
  5. ^ "Ralph Hauenstein honored for lifetime of military and intelligence service" EducationNews.org 24 April 2006
  6. ^ "Saint Mary’s to Develop New Neurosciences Center on Campus" Saint Mary's Health Care Latest News Releases
  7. ^ Nichols, Mike. "Philanthropist donates $1M to university for leadership". Grand Rapids Business Journal. Retrieved 9 December 2013. 

External links[edit]