Story by Christian Knoll
“Ben was a real social worker,” Georgia Granger said, remembering her husband. “He loved the students; he wanted to teach them all he could. He wanted them to look at the people, see what they are really like and help them with whatever needs they had.”
Ben Granger, former director of the Colorado State University School of Social Work who passed away in 2015, was remembered for his legacy of kindness and compassion through the CSU College of Health and Human Sciences Legacies Project. The Legacies Project honors former faculty and staff by gathering, archiving and sharing personal and professional histories.
Just a day later, Ben was also honored for his role as co-director of Human Animal Bond in Colorado with the placement of a plaque, bench and bronze statue of his favorite golden retriever, Casey. HABIC was founded by Georgia in 1993, and, upon his retirement in 2002, Ben joined her in leading the organization. Casey delighted HABIC patients (and encouraged them in their therapies) with his ability to fill his mouth with three tennis balls at one time. The event took place on the north side CSU’s Education Building, which is home to the School of Social Work, which Ben led before his retirement.
HABIC donors, the College of Health and Human Sciences and the School of Social Work all contributed to the memorial for Ben. In celebration of his life, Ben’s three children and Georgia reflected on his memory at the unveiling of the statue.
“My parents had the perfect partnership. It’s amazing how two people’s work and personal lives could so completely align and merge,” said David Granger. “And anybody who’s married knows exactly what I am talking about. Two people working and living together sustaining a relationship and a family. It was truly a beautiful thing, and the organization, HABIC, that grew out of it and that has been sustained for 24 years, is the best possible memorial to the love that my parents shared and to their concern for other people. And now we have a physical memorial to both that love and to all that the organization has accomplished.”
“I’m thinking back 40-plus years,” said Mark Granger. “And if you hung around Benny long enough, you caught something. Georgia caught it. More and more people started catching Ben and Georgia’s compassion. It’s being able to think outside of your selfish realm and see the others around you and feel that love and care for those people. But compassion is tied to action. HABIC is the mechanism for taking that heartfelt compassion and implementing it in your community, schools, hospitals and wherever you see a need. We want this to be a memorial to those who catch this compassion.”
“Daily he chose to look on the bright side – he laughed and didn’t take himself or this life too seriously,” said Ben’s daughter Becky Culver. “I also appreciate his kindness to others. He got the big picture that life was not just about him.”
Ben had a long and lively history. In his youth, Ben was one of six children in a Depression-era family. His parents were missionaries, and he grew up moving from place to place while his father ministered to the needs of California crop workers. Before long, Ben grew into an athletic young man. He attended Whittier College, where he played collegiate football and where he met Georgia.
After Whittier, Ben served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He eventually returned to school and finished his education with two master’s degrees from the University of Southern California and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University.
Before his start at CSU, Ben served as the associate dean for the University of Kentucky’s School of Social Work. Then, in 1973, he began his 19-year tenure as dean of the College of Social Work at the University of Tennessee. There he received the honor of Dean of the Year by the UT Commission for Blacks for his progressive efforts in recruitment and retention of African-American students, faculty and administrators.
Parallel to Ben’s work as dean, Georgia and he worked with the Veterinary College to launch Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee (HABIT), which eventually became a model program for the one that Georgia launched at Colorado State: Human-Animal Bond in Colorado.
It was 1992 when Ben joined CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences. He served as a professor and director of the School of Social Work for more than 10 years. To those who had the privilege of meeting him, he was known as a kind, caring and compassionate individual who was always smiling, always joking and always willing to lend a hand when needed.
“It is really hard to describe Ben, he was a really unique individual. I always thought of Ben as a role model. In the University he was so unique that I wanted to be like him,” said John Gandy, CSU social work instructor and distinguished professor emeritus from University of South Carolina.
“He came into a rather chaotic situation, and his job for the first few years when he was here was to help the department find itself, help the department streamline the curriculum and be in line with the accreditation,” said Vicky Buchan, professor emerita. One of Ben’s achievements was changing the name of the Department of Social Work to the School of Social Work, which more adequately communicated to national social work audiences the advanced degree and level of research activity at Colorado State.
After a decade of service to CSU, Ben retired. However, Ben chose to remain affiliated with the University by teaching and joined Georgia by becoming the co-director of HABIC. HABIC trains human-animal teams and provides animal-assisted therapies to communities across the Front Range with the mission to “improve the quality of life for people of all ages through the therapeutic use of companion animals.”
Watch as Georgia unveils the memorial to Ben:
After 24 years, HABIC, much like Ben’s memory, is still going strong. Under the umbrella of the College of Health and Human Sciences, HABIC now has more than 150 trained human-animal teams that volunteer in more than 60 separate community programs, which impact the lives of hundreds of people on a weekly basis.
Through countless acts of kindness, compassion and selflessness, Ben will forever be in our hearts at Colorado State University.
To support the HABIC program at CSU and to continue Ben’s legacy, visit his online giving page. To learn more about Ben’s history at Colorado State University and watch a video about him, visit his Legacies page. To view photos from the event, see the College of Health and Human Sciences Flickr page.