In Memory: Ben Granger

Ben Granger, longtime professor and former director of the School of Social Work at Colorado State University and the co-director of Human-Animal Bond in Colorado, died on Jan. 9. He was 83. The cause was complications from multiple myeloma.

ben granger obit
Ben, his wife, Georgia, and scholarship recipients of the Georgia & Ben Granger Social Work Human-Animal Bond in Colorado Scholarship in the School of Social Work.

Granger was one of six children of a Depression-era Congregationalist minister. He was born in Mexico, while his parents were missionaries, and grew up moving from town to town as his father ministered to the needs of crop-workers of North-Central California. He was educated at Whittier College, served in the Army during the Korean War, and completed his education with master’s degrees from the University of Southern California and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University.

Granger’s career was devoted to advocating for disadvantaged and disenfranchised members of our society and then educating multiple generations of social welfare professionals. As a young man he pioneered the concept of residential group homes for mentally handicapped adults. He worked in the youth prison system in California and was associate director of the San Diego Children’s Home. Up until his death, he had been working as an advocate for young offenders at Platte Valley Youth Correctional Facility.

Prior to moving to Colorado State, Granger was the associate dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Kentucky and then began a 19-year tenure as dean of the College of Social Work at the University of Tennessee.

He met and married the former Georgia Brown at Whittier College. For more than thirty years of their six-decade marriage, they have blended their personal and professional lives. At Tennessee, Georgia Granger developed and built Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee (HABIT), a sprawling organization through which certified animal-assisted therapy dogs worked with professional therapists on treatment protocols that addressed challenges as varied as head trauma, elder issues and autism. When they moved to Colorado, Georgia created Human Animal Bond In Colorado and Ben eventually became its co-director. HABIC, now in operation for twenty years, is run under the umbrella of the College of Health and Human Sciences and currently operates 54 distinct programs that are staffed by 150 human-animal teams.

Ben and Georgia have three children: David, from New York who is the editor of Esquire Magazine; Becky, from Colorado Springs, where she is a mom and is active in bible study fellowship, and Mark, from Knoxville, Tenn., where he is a business manager for Emerson Process Management. They also have eight grandchildren, each of whom just could not stop laughing at their grandfather’s jokes and funny faces.

Ben had an interesting and wide-ranging athletic career. At Whittier College, he played football for eventual Pro Football Hall of Fame coach George Allen. He ran 15 marathons, including two Boston Marathons. Once he stopped running, he was an avid tennis player who was scheduled to play in the USTA super senior nationals in March. He and Georgia won their division of HABIC’s annual Diggin’ Doubles tournament just over a year ago. And he celebrated his 80th birthday by water-skiing on Norris Lake in east Tennessee. He was also a standout performer in the annual Granger Family Olympics.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Ben’s memory to the Colorado State University Foundation. Checks can be made out to the CSU Foundation, earmarked for HABIC, and mailed to the CSU Foundation, 410 University Services Center, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, or donate online in memory of Ben.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14, at Plymouth Congregational Church, 916 W. Prospect Rd., Fort Collins. Reception to follow.