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Gaining a Global View

Lou Grossman '73 poses with President Margee Ensign during her Useful Education for the Common Good tour.

Lou Grossman '73 and President Margee Ensign.

Lou Grossman ’73

Lou Grossman 73 came to Dickinson because he wanted an exceptional study-abroad experience, and he found it. More than 40 years later, this Philadelphia native says that his junior year in Bologna shaped his worldview—a mindset he’s proud to have passed on to his two daughters, now grown.

Grossman majored in political science at Dickinson and still vividly recalls the charged political climate, nationally and across campus, during the final phase of the Vietnam War. He went on to do graduate coursework in journalism at Temple University and, after a stint writing for a wire service, forged a career in public relations—including constituent-relations and public-relations work for the Pennsylvania legislature—and advertising. He also has public-relations experience as director of a national CPA firm and with various public-relations agencies in New York City, Philadelphia and Princeton, New Jersey.

He and his wife, Amy, built a Philadelphia-based public-relations consulting business in 1995, which he continues to lead in Florida. Grossman volunteers with Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Party.

A former Alumni Council member, Grossman reports that he recently met with President Margee Ensign and was pleased to learn about her plans for the college’s future. He supports the K. Robert and Julianna P. Nilsson Scholarship, which is named for his former professor and mentor.

What’s your current job?

Principal, Grossman Public Relations Counselors.

What do you love about your work?

I love teaching people what the media is about and how to use it effectively, and I love strategic communications planning and messaging. I also like working with reporters, and I especially enjoy working with troubled companies and nonprofits, and getting them through crises.

Who was your favorite professor?

I had some spectacular professors. Bob Nilsson, who ran the Bologna program, was a tough, disciplined professor. The lessons I learned from him stayed with me the rest of my life. Don Flaherty was a China and urban-studies expert, and what I learned from him stayed with me too. Bruce Andrews was my advisor and inspired me greatly.

What jumps out as a great memory from your time at Dickinson?

Getting off the plane in Bologna [at the start of my study-abroad year] and being greeted by the Nilssons when I arrived. They were my family away from home.

You describe your study-abroad experience in Bologna as “life-changing.” Why?

Studying abroad totally transformed my life and gave me a global view. I loved being in Italy. It created a lifelong love of Italy and globalism.

While I was in Bologna, I took a 30-day intensive program taught by a famous Italian folk singer, known as the Bob Dylan of Italy, who led a class in the mornings and then told us to sit in the piazza and practice our Italian. It worked!

I also took a tour of Eastern Europe—Prague, Leningrad, Moscow, Kiev and Budapest—with about 10 Dickinson students and with Italian students. This was during the Cold War, and I’d lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis: Growing up as a kid, I had to hide under desks [during nuclear-war drills], and I was taught that Russians were evil. When I met actual Russians, I found out they were people, just like me—it was the politics that was different. It was eye-opening.

Any more memorable moments at Dickinson?

  • Living in a Perry County farmhouse during senior year with a bunch of other guys.
  • Marching to the U.S. Army War College, and in Washington, D.C., to protest the Vietnam War.
  • When the college closed, just before finals [in 1970]. Right after the Kent State Massacre, there was so much unrest and so much fear [at U.S. colleges and universities] that Dickinson canceled finals that year and sent us all home.

What did you learn at Dickinson that helped you throughout your career?

In my political science classes, I learned how to measure public opinion and how to influence it. That laid the foundation for my career. The writing classes taught me to write clearly and correctly. That helped me when I did graduate work at Temple, and it was a good preparation for just about anything else I wanted to do.

Did you have a favorite class?

My freshman year at Dickinson, I took a seminar course, Perspectives on Race, which was taught by senior black sociology and history majors. Komozi Woodard ’71 led the class, and he assigned books and lectured about slavery, black history and the movement, and what it was like to be a black person in America. I think there were a lot of white students in that class who grew up in white or mostly-white neighborhoods who were changed by that class. It was eye-opening.

You recently met President Margee Ensign. What are your thoughts on the college of today?

Margee is presenting a dynamite face of the college, and her background in social justice is impressive. The college is going in a wonderful direction. I love how we continue to expand our global and environmental programs, and it’s good to see Dickinson attracting national attention.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

  • Keith Richards: I’ve always wanted to meet him. He is the coolest person of my generation.
  • Congressman John Lewis: He’s one of the most courageous people that I’ve ever read about. He’s a national treasure.
  • Walter Cronkite: He was the most credible reporter of all time.
  • Martin Luther King: He was one of the greatest Americans of all time.
  • Muhammed Ali: the best boxer of all time—and he stood up for what he believed in.

If you had a time machine, where would you go?

I would want to be a Freedom Rider in Mississippi. I think we need more of that courage now.

If you were going to live on a desert island, what would you take with you?

  • Movies: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 48 Hours, Trading Places, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Coming To America. Those movies would make me laugh for the rest of my life.
  • Music: Every Rolling Stones album, a couple of bluegrass CDs, 1950s Cuban music and James Brown’s greatest hits.
  • Books: As many political books about the '60s and '70s that I could find. Also a lot of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Mailer.

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Published July 10, 2018