Ralph W. Hauenstein 108th Birthday

ralph birthday

Today especially we remember our benefactor Ralph Hauenstein (1912-2016). March 20, 2020, would be his 108th birthday, and he still seems very much with us. All of us at the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies remember this wonderful man with gratitude and fondness. He did much to make our world a better place by giving us the example of a life well lived: a good life. He also possessed the gift of friendship which he shared in abundance. His excellent words and deeds gave people hope, and that’s a good thing to keep in mind during the present coronavirus crisis. To learn about Ralph’s remarkable life—which started before the Titanic sank and spanned the Roaring Twenties, Great Depression, Second World War, Cold War, and 9/11 era—check out the short biography I wrote about him. I and Hauenstein Center staff will be adding posts throughout the day, many of which will include photographs that his family has generously shared. So stay tuned! ~Gleaves Whitney, director


Young Ralph in suit

Ralph and other soldier

"As we look to celebrate the 108th birthday of COL Ralph W. Hauenstein, I am grateful to be part of an organization continuing to fulfill his vision. Throughout his life, Ralph desired to make the world a better place through his servant leadership. He has provided us with a great example to emulate. I am encouraged and inspired by the legacy of leadership from such a legendary brother in arms." ~Brent Holmes, Assistant Director (Retired Sergeant First Class)

"Through Ralph's experience in World War II, he witnessed first hand the destruction that bad leadership can cause in this world. We are incredibly fortunate that he took this experience and dedicated his efforts to developing ETHICAL and EFFECTIVE leaders of the 21st century. To date, Ralph's legacy lives on through more than 500 global leaders who took part in the Cook Leadership Academy. Today, on his 108th birthday, we are extra proud of the impact that our alumni are making throughout the world and pay tribute to the influence that Ralph's positive leadership has made in our ever-growing community of learners." ~ Grace Tummel Program Manager, Cook Leadership Academy

Ralph with Hauenstein Center Staff and Cook Leadership Academy Students

"Family meant everything to Ralph. Among the many lessons we've learned from him, this is one of the most important. Here's a copy of a letter he wrote back home to his wife, Grace, and his children while overseas. Included in the photos are images of their family when Ralph returned home from France in 1944. We are fortunate to have the continued support and guidance of his descendants as we continue his mission at the Hauenstein Center. They generously shared with us many of the photographs you're seeing today. Ralph's grandson, Brian Hauenstein, is on our advisory cabinet and shared wonderful stories about his grandfather at a Wheelhouse Talk with us earlier this year which you can view on our page. Additionally, Ralph's great-granddaughter, Lilia Hauenstein, is a recent graduate of our Cook Leadership Academy!" ~Allie Goeddeke, Office Coordinator


Ralph greeting his wife and children

Letter from Ralph to family

Ralph and family on Christmas

Young Ralph and Grace Hauenstein

Ralph and his children on Christmas 1944

Ralph Hauenstein working at his editors desk in a vest

“Reflecting on Ralph’s 108th birthday, it is one of my greatest honors to work for an organization that furthers Ralph’s vision to raise the next generation of ethical, effective leaders for the twenty-first century. Ralph spent a lifetime serving the public in a variety of ways, and his dedication to public service and the common good continue to be inspiration to the work we do at the center.” – Jakob Bigard, Program Manager, Common Ground Initiative

Ralph Hauenstein working with a female and a male military personal

Iceland Mountains with troops martching across

"While I am rather new to the team at the Hauenstein Center, I was impressed throughout the day learning more and more about our benefactor on what would have been his 108th birthday. His tenacity, drive, leadership, and passion for others shined through in all the dedications that were compiled in his honor today. I was blown away to learn of his service in Iceland, a country that I have visited myself. Combing through the files of Ralph's time in Iceland, I was amazed at the prestige of his placement, and in wonder of the men that served over there during those early times. Having climbed those Mountains first hand, I know how difficult it is, not even factoring in a rucksack or supplies. Truly Ralph is someone to admire, and I am pleased to have the chance to share his journey with everyone today and in the future." - Samantha York, Media Specialist

News article about Ralph Hauensteins time in Iceland

Ralph Hauenstein's promotion in Iceland

Ralph in front of plane

Ralph Hauenstein was an active man his entire life! He never let a little thing like age hold him back. Here is a photo of Ralph in Washington, DC, about to board J.C. Huizenga’s plane for the trip back to Grand Rapids. He was 100 years old when this photo was taken!

Additional Images of Ralph Hauenstein During All Stages of His Life

Ralph handshake with another soldier

Soldiers picking cherries

Ralph Hauenstein riding in a car in uniform

Ralph Hauenstein working at his editors desk

Ralph Hauenstein standing on a balcony

Ralph and Grace Hauenstein with friends

Ralph and Peter Cook in front of helicopter