The founding dean of the College of Management, Edwin O. Graeffe served Lawrence Tech for 40 years. He helped assure the University’s successful opening and continued to serve in a number of positions until his death.
Affectionately called “Doc” Graeffe, he was a larger-than-life figure to the students he encountered – which during his tenure was literally the entire student body. As early alumni return for campus reunions, it is invoking Graeffe’s name that most often opens a floodgate of happy memories.
Brussels-born and German-educated, Graeffe earned a doctor of law degree from the University of Tübingen and then joined the import-export business in 1920s Hong Kong. Work with Kelvinator brought him to Detroit, a faculty appointment in business and law at the University of Detroit, and an introduction to Russell Lawrence, who was then the University of Detroit dean of engineering, and his brother, George. That acquaintanceship led him to meet and soon thereafter marry Russell and George’s sister, Catherine. As supporters of Russell’s dream to launch the University in 1932, the couple contributed the bulk of their life savings to the effort.
Graeffe’s booming voice, accent, saber scars, and worldly and urbane countenance made a lasting impression on generations of students. He used his broad experiences to expose them to global culture and international business practices. Graeffe was also very involved as advisor to numerous student clubs and participated in campus events, often as the master of ceremonies or keynote speaker. He coached fencing (student Bill Osis made the 1940 Olympic team), and founded and directed the student band in 1933. He served as first dean of what is today the College of Management, 1949–54, and again in 1965–70, and also served as what is today the University’s chief academic position known as provost, 1956–64.