In Memory

Carl V Gruhn

Carl Gruhn, chemistry and physics teacher at SPHS from 1943 to 1968, passed away in 1996 at the age of 93.  He is the father of Hannah '61, Diana '62, and Carl '64.



Carl Vahlsing Gruhn was born February 20, 1902, in Jeannette, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest of seven children born to the Reverend Carl Adolf Gruhn, a Baptist minister born in Marienwerder, Germany, in 1870, and his wife Louise Anna Vahlsing Gruhn, born in Buffalo, New York, in 1873, shortly after her parents' emigration from Germany.

Carl grew up in Goodrich, North Dakota, and Madison, South Dakota, where he early demonstrated an aptitude for science and mathematics. He graduated from Northern State Teachers' College in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and then began graduate studies in biochemistry at the University of Minnesota. During this time he taught chemistry and physics at Aberdeen High School in Aberdeen, South Dakota. It was there that he met his future wife Hannah Dyste, who was a teacher in the math department.

He moved to southern California in 1938 and received his Master's Degree in Education from the University of Southern California in 1941. In the same year he married Hannah, who had also journeyed to southern California to complete her Master's Degree from USC. In 1943 (when he was 41) their first child, Hannah Louisa, was born, followed by Diana Elizabeth in 1944 and Carl Dyste in 1946.

Carl taught many generations of students in physics and chemistry at Polytechnic High School in Riverside, South Pasadena High School, and at Flintridge Preparatory School in La Canada. He eventually retired from teaching in 1979 at the age of 76. Many of his students went on to distinguished careers in science, medicine, and the teaching profession. He planned the construction of South Pasadena High's science building in the 1970s. Flintridge Academy's 1979 yearbook was dedicated to him as a tribute to his lifetime dedication to teaching.

For over a half-century he was a member of the First Baptist Church of Pasadena, where he sang tenor in the church choir, was director of the Men's Chorus, and taught Sunday school.

He died on May 25, 1996, at Atherton Baptist Homes in Alhambra, where he and his wife Hannah had resided since 1978. He is survived by two daughters, Hannah Gruhn-Bengtson (Vern) of South Pasadena, and Diana Guthery (George) of Glendora; a son, Carl D. Gruhn (Marty) of Mesa, Arizona; six grandchildren (Kenna Gruhn, Erin Towle, Jenni and Mindi Guthery, Julie and Kristina Bengtson); his brothers William and Earl and sister Lillian Kramer, and a host of nieces, nephews, and other family members.

A memorial scholarship in his name has been established for students in science at South Pasadena High School.

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03/07/09 01:43 PM #1    

Jennifer Hartzell (Martin) (1963)

Mr Gruhn was one of those teachers I still quote and refer to. He had a fund of wonderful stories and ideas, shared with relish. He was already thinking of alternatives to oil at the beginning of the 1960s -- one idea was for a car in the Midwest that could gather bugs into a front-mounted hopper (rather than wasted on the windshield) and convert them into a fuel source.

He was good at considering how to make chemistry relate to one's own interests and approach. I still remember the "black box" experiment and how the writing part of it engaged me. He was the first person who suggested I could be good at this kind of description.

03/12/09 12:46 PM #2    

Steven S Kane (1966)

Mr. Gruhn was a very effective and dedicated teacher. He insisted on careful and rigorous lab procedures which stood me in good stead when I took qualitative and quantitative chemistry courses with labs at UCSD. He also required that we learn to balance a chemical equation which, surprisingly, few of my UCSD classmates knew how to do correctly starting their first college chemistry course. Mr. Gruhn's teaching (accurate titration procedure) was enough to get me student jobs at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the Marine Life Research Group and Deep Sea Drilling Project labs which I kept for all four years of college. Although I did not pursue a career in science, Mr. Gruhn helped to teach me analytical thought processes which apply in everything we do. Most important, Carl Gruhn genuinely cared about his students and their futures. I recall that he took quite a bit of his own time to help me with a science fair project in my senior year, and I believe that he enjoyed doing this. I hope and trust that SPHS still has science teachers who match his skills and dedication to teaching.

03/12/09 01:10 PM #3    

Forrest Allen (1957)

Carl and George Fishbeck were cut from the same mold. They both loved to teach their first love. Science.

Carl had quite a logevity @ S.P.H.S. My brother and sisters remembered him well. Along with his other fellow teachers from the '40's.

07/12/09 08:01 PM #4    

Joseph P McMahon (1962)

(Class of 1962) Although a long time ago, I still have very positive and fond memories of Professor Gruhn and his very effective teaching style - some of his comments and witicisms still remain in my mind.

10/04/09 09:18 AM #5    

John Bercovitz (1963)

Everything I ever needed to know wasn't learned in kindergarten. What I needed to know in professional life was learned in Mit 'Teele's class or Mr. Gruhn's class. University just polished what they taught me.

06/03/10 10:10 PM #6    

Linda Johnson (Hernandez) (1963)

I wish I had been more prepared for Mr. Gruhn's Chemistry Class. Not having a strong Math background for all the formulas, I really floundered like a fish out of water. Somehow, my good friend and Science genius, Martha Hyman (Friedman) got me through. Her dad was a Cardiologist and she had a very strong Math and Science background. I remember Mr. Gruhn assigned us a Chemistry Experiment related to real life and I was working in the Snack Bar of the old El Rancho Market on Huntington Drive and chose to investigate why the mayonnaise ate through the metal containers that we stored it in. The Manager was not amused and felt the El Rancho's reputation might be at stake.  I really loved Science, I just wish I had a stronger Math foundation to do well in it. Well there was always my first love: Language, Writing and Literature! To each his own and my thanks to all the dedicated Science and Math teachers at SPHS who did the best they could with mediocre students like me!

Linda (Johnson) Hernandez - Class of 1963

02/14/15 04:31 PM #7    

Diana Gruhn (Guthery) (1962)

Thank you, Donna Hoegemann for posting this about my Dad, Carl V. Gruhn.  All 3 of his children had him as a teacher in Chemistry and Physics.  He cared very much about his students and worked on their strengths.

Diana Gruhn Guthery

06/17/17 01:31 AM #8    

Nathaniel Hummel (1961)

To this day I remember Professor Gruhn. You could tell he loved chemistry. He would have us do some test or procedure and then get more excited that we students. Again, his love for chemistry. He made it seem alive and well worth studying. I don't think I got a very good grade... and my "project" for the year was pitiful. However, all that won't diminish my respect for "professor" Gruhn. I'm sure God will be putting you to some great use in with some type of supernatural chemistry. :)

Respectfully, Nathaniel, not a particularly good student, but definitely a fan of Professor Gruhn. :)

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