Jack Grinold, the longtime sports information director at Northeastern, died on Friday.
He was 81.
Grinold, whose legendary presence was felt across the Boston sports and cultural landscapes, joined Northeastern in 1962 and never left. After his retirement, he continued to serve the university as associate athletic director emeritus and was widely regarded as the dean of New England sports information directors.
During his more than 50 years on Huntington Avenue, Grinold developed a wide-ranging, innovative athletic communications office. Often called “the innovator of innovators,” he shaped the careers of countless sports information professionals, including many whose careers were launched by an internship program he established.
“When I first arrived at Northeastern, Jack’s name was on a short list of people I was told I must meet,” Northeastern president Joseph E. Aoun said in a statement. “I quickly learned why. Jack had a remarkable passion and love for Northeastern, and his impact on our university over more than five decades of dedicated service was immeasurable. Our community lost a true friend and ambassador today, but his legacy lives on through the countless people whose lives he enriched.”
In 1985, Grinold was elected to the Northeastern University Varsity Club Hall of Fame, becoming the first non-athlete or coach to receive the honor. And in 1998, as part of Northeastern’s centennial celebration, he was chosen as one of the 100 individuals responsible for the university’s growth and success.
Grinold amassed an impressive record of accomplishment in the field of sports publicity. The national organization for college athletic communications, the College Sports Information Directors of America, awarded him several honors, including more than 25 Citations of Excellence for university publications. He was inducted to the CoSIDA Hall of Fame in 1994 and in 1999, received the organization’s Community Service Award.
In 2003, Grinold was inducted to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, in 2009 to the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame and in 2012, to the Beanpot Hall of Fame. He was the first recipient of the New England Information Publicity Plus Award in 1971, and earned the ECAC Service Bureau Award in 1979. Additionally, in 2009, he received the ECAC Commissioner’s Award, and in 2010 the ECAC-SIDA Award for Distinguished Achievement.
In 2016, he became the first sports information director to ever be honored with the James Lynah Distinguished Achievement Award, bestowed annually to former ECAC athletic administrators who have achieved outstanding success in their career and have made an unusual contribution in the interest of intercollegiate athletics, the NCAA, and the ECAC.
“No one is more synonymous with Northeastern Athletics than Jack Grinold, and his passing has left us with a deep void,” noted Northeastern director of athletics and recreation Peter Roby in a news release. “Jack loved Northeastern and all the athletes that ever represented the university. Our thoughts are with his wife Cathy during this difficult time, but our memories of Jack’s time here will help keep a smile in our hearts.”
For more than five decades he served as the secretary of the New England Writers Association and the chairman of the New England Writers Association football and hockey banquets. He also was a long-time executive director and former president of the Eastern Massachusetts Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame, which, in his honor, was named the Jack Grinold Chapter. From the latter, he received the Contribution to Amateur Football Award in 1994, and in 1996 the National Foundation honored him with its Chapter Leadership Award. The New England Football Writers named the Division I-AA coach of the year award the Jack Grinold Award.
Grinold served as chairman of CoSIDA’s Committee on Committees. Additionally, he served as a press steward for the Eastern Sprints for 33 years and was press steward at the venue of rowing and canoeing at the 1984 Olympiad in Los Angeles. He was also the secretary of Boston’s celebrated Beanpot hockey tournament.
Boston University honored him as the first non-media recipient of the Scarlet Quill Award and he was the first-ever recipient of the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston’s John Baronian Award for lifetime contribution to football in 1997. In 2012, he received a lifetime achievement award from the 33 Touchdown Club.
Grinold’s expertise was not limited to college athletics. He was a recognized sports historian and appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including Costas Coast to Coast. He also appeared on SportsChannel, ESPN, NESN and WABU, discussing the early days of Boston sports.
A true Renaissance man, Grinold was a proprietor of the Boston Athenaeum and was elected to the Colonial Society of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Historical Society, where he served on the Art Committee. He also was a member of the Community Advisory Board to the trustees of WGBH-TV, and was the vice president of the Victorian Society of New England, where he chaired the Preservation Awards Committee for 20 years, and was a former director of the Gibson House Museum.
Additionally, he wrote a history of the Hampshire House (formerly Bayard Thayer mansion) and contributed to Preview, the bi-monthly publication of the Museum of Fine Arts, and the prestigious New England Quarterly.
Grinold was a proud member of the Bowdoin College class of 1957 and the Browne and Nichols Country Day School class of 1953. He also spent time in the United States Merchant Marine.
In 2008, Grinold and his wife, Cathy, established a $1.25 million endowment at Northeastern that will benefit the men’s rowing program. And recently, friends and supporters contributed more than $350,000 in Grinold’s honor to endow the Grinold Family Scholarship for student-athletes at Northeastern.
In 2013, the university dedicated its new state-of-the-art rowing training facility in honor of the Grinold family for their continued commitment and generosity to the Northeastern rowing programs. The university also named the press box at its Matthews Arena the Jack Grinold Media Center in recognition of his dedication to the university and its students.
Legendary Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan once wrote that Jack’s “laughter, good cheer, and genuine concern for the media’s interests has made him, with all due respect to some fine people (including a onetime roommate of mine), the most beloved sports information director in the history of Boston collegiate sports.”