Snapshots of St. George's
Today we sadly report the death of one of St. George’s most inspirational and influential teachers, Mr. Richard Grosvenor, who served the school for 40 years from 1953 to 1993, most of those as Chair of the Art Department.
Mr. Grosvenor died Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. He was 89.
A celebrated painter, Mr. Grosvenor brought his many gifts as an educator, artist, creator and dreamer to hundreds of St. George’s students over the years.
When he first arrived on campus, he taught painting, allowing students often to witness him at work in the masterful style for which he would become so well known; and art history, leading students on tours of colonial architecture in Newport, a city he loved and supported with his dedication to the local arts community. In 1965 he introduced an architecture course to the curriculum, and before long his spring projects, ranging from a bridge made out of soda cans to a nearly 50-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower, became legendary.
Indeed, Mr. Grosvenor’s dynamism pervaded both his professional and personal life.
“Dick really was an amazing, modern-day Renaissance man,” said honorary trustee Francis “Skip” Branin ’65. “He stimulated countless SG students to appreciate all aspects of art, architecture and design during his 40 years on The Hilltop.”
Mr. Grosvenor built his own home with the help of his family and his students, as well as a 30-foot catamaran. And in the 1978 spring/summer Bulletin, Mr. Grosvenor described what he called one of the most exciting moments of his life outside being married or the births of his children: his first flight in an airplane he had built and called “Buttercup.”
“[After start-up] the plane moved faster and faster down the asphalt, the ‘high life canard’ bit into the air as it approached 60 mph, and it gently left the ground,” he wrote. “The next thing I knew was that I could look down on the trees, the Carlton Motel, busy East Main Road, the complex of buildings that make up the drive-in theater, the D&M tool company and the gas station. … [Later] she came in at about 70 mph across the numbers, a quick little flair, then the noise of the wheels on the runway. I’d made it!”
Mr. Grosvenor was well known not only for his many talents, but also for his kindness.
“He was one of the most welcoming, friendly and engaging people I’ve ever met,” said Mike Hansel, who knew Mr. Grosvenor as a faculty child, as a student, and as an art teacher, who served alongside Mr. Grosvenor, later succeeding him as Chair of the Art Department.
St. George’s students honored Mr. Grosvenor with three yearbook dedications. “[Mr. Grosvenor is] one of those rare men who is always ready with a smile and an encouraging word,” editors of the 1969 Lance wrote.
“It is for his friendship that we are most grateful,” editors of the 1979 Lance wrote. “… Who else can you find late at night in the architecture room willingly assisting his students? Who else is seen more often at Dunkin Donuts buying munchkins for his hungry classes? Who else can find the soothing word of encouragement for the artist of a disastrous watercolor? Finally, who else do we find behind us huffing and puffing his way through the Pie Race?”
The Class of 1993 also dedicated their yearbook to Mr. Grosvenor, along with English teacher Robin Rogers ’44, upon their retirements.
In 1999, Mr. Grosvenor’s name became a permanent fixture on the St. George’s campus when the new art center was named the William H. Drury and Richard Grosvenor Center for the Arts, honoring two of the most dedicated arts faculty in the history of the school.
A longtime Hilltop resident who raised four children, all alumni, with his wife Margot here, Mr. Grosvenor later saw nine grandchildren graduate from SG on Prize Day.
In retirement, he remained a cheerful participant in many St. George’s events and a beloved attendee of numerous Alumni Weekend celebrations.
A memorial service will be held in the St. George’s Chapel on Saturday, Oct. 14, at 2 p.m.
Meanwhile, we are collecting memories of Mr. Grosvenor and tributes on a memorial website page. We appreciate your contributions, which can be entered here.