• Dedication of residential commons celebrates alumna’s gift

    Community gathers to honor Renee Granville-Grossman, AB’63

By Mary Abowd
Photo by Robert Kozloff
Originally published on March 3, 2015
March 9, 2015

Members of the University community gathered Feb. 25 to celebrate the dedication of the Renee Granville-Grossman Residential Commons—remembering the generosity of Granville-Grossman, AB’63, whose bequest of $44 million to the University, announced in January, is the largest in University history.

A linguistics major in the College during the early 1960s, Granville-Grossman (formerly Renee Rupert) came from a family with a strong connection to the University. Her mother, Aimee Heinick, and her four siblings all graduated from the College between 1928 and 1940, fulfilling the wish of their father, Aime Heinick, who attended during the 1910-1911 academic year.

The dedication also highlighted the University’s priority in recent decades to establish high-quality residential commons on the central campus. “The naming of this great building rightfully and properly acknowledges its importance in the history of our residential system,” said Dean of the College John W. Boyer, who addressed the gathering of more than 200 students, University officials, and trustees. “This building is of enormous historical significance precisely because it was a decisive turning point toward our current and future strategy of creating a more student-centered residential campus, where residential life becomes a critical component of the larger civic culture of our community.”

Fourth-year Christian Adames, who lives in Granville-Grossman Residential Commons, called the community “home” and said the experience of living in one of the hall’s eight houses has provided a rare intellectual environment outside the classroom.

“Renee Granville-Grossman’s gift affirms the great impact the University of Chicago can have on the world and I want to thank Renee for entrusting the University with this gift." 
— Christian Adames

“Perhaps the most unique thing about the house system is the way it encourages one’s thirst for learning in many non-traditional ways,” said Adames, a psychology major. “Being in a diverse community of extremely passionate people has exposed me to ideas and experiences I never knew existed.”

Family pride in UChicago connection

Born in 1943, Granville-Grossman grew up in Chicago’s Kenwood and South Shore neighborhoods and attended the University from 1960-63, majoring in linguistics. She spoke fluent French and, during her time in the College, studied French and Russian. Her mother, Aimee Heineck Rupert, also was an alumna, graduating from the College in 1928.

After graduation, Granville-Grossman attended Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York City and taught elementary school briefly before becoming a stockbroker. In 1981, she married British real estate developer Leonard I. Granville-Grossman, an avid art collector, and moved to London. Together they built a collection of primarily 20th-century British art. Art collecting remained her passion after her husband’s death, when she returned to New York.

Friends remember Granville-Grossman as vivacious, bright, and successful in her career. “She knew how to connect with people,” said John Gibbons, who had known Granville-Grossman since the late 1960s. Gibbons and others say she never discussed a gift to the University of Chicago. They suspect she did so because of her fondness for the institution and the fact that her mother was a graduate, as well as her mother’s four siblings, Irene Heineck, PhB’30; Camille Heineck, PhB’33; Aime Heineck Jr., SB’38; and Joffre Heineck, SB’40. “She was very proud of her family connection to the University of Chicago,” Gibbons said. “She was very proud she’d gone there.”

Gift supports UChicago Campaign

Renee Granville-Grossman’s bequest is one in a long history of significant gifts from women who had a major impact on the University from its earliest days. Founding donors included Elizabeth G. Kelly, whose generous contributions funded construction of the Classics Building as well as Kelly and Green halls, which were residential commons for women; and Helen Culver, who contributed more than $1 million in the 1890s to construct four research labs known as the Hull Biological Laboratories.

The bequest comes as the University undertakes The University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact, the most ambitious and comprehensive campaign in the University’s history, which will raise $4.5 billion to support faculty and researchers, practitioners and patients, and students and programs across the University. The campaign supports priorities in every division, school, department, and institute. Expected to conclude in 2019, the UChicago Campaign aims to engage 125,000 alumni and friends over its five-year duration.