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Nichols College

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Going the distance: Kurt Grimmelmann ’74

As a former member of the Nichols College cross country team, Kurt Grimmelmann ’74 knows how to go the distance and has shown it in his life, career, travels, and even mountain climbing.

His interest in business can be traced to the age of 13. “I remember looking at stock prices with my father who worked for American Express at the time,” he shares.  He says he chose Nichols because it was far enough away from his home in New Jersey but close enough to drive back and forth. And, it felt like home. “The best way to describe how Nichols felt to me was ‘warm,’” he recalls. “The people were all nice and friendly, and I found that the professors were willing to go out of their way to help.”

Grimmelmann credits Nichols for helping him grow as a student, particularly after he found himself on academic probation in his first year. “My junior and senior years, I was a straight-A student. I needed time to mature and grow up,” he says. “My time at Nichols was a big part in helping to shape how I grew and worked. It played a big part in my future success as I developed my career.”

As a self-described all-around athlete with a natural affinity for running, Grimmelmann enjoyed campus sports at Nichols, whether playing intramurals or watching varsity games with friends.

Then, in junior year, he got the opportunity to join cross country. “The team lost some runners and then-captain Rich Desjardins asked me to go out for the team,” he explains. “I joined around their second meet that year and was determined to beat everyone on the team’s finish times from the first meet in order to prove myself.” How did that work out? “It was a five-mile course, and I was well ahead until the last quarter mile when, all of a sudden, I found myself losing my lunch on the side of the road. Welcome to the team, right? At the end of the first year, I finished as the #1 runner and won the Unsung Hero Award and in my senior year, I won the MVP Award.”

Grimmelmann says his time as a college athlete was important to him. “If you are going to be committed to a team, you have to set goals, as I did as a runner,” he offers. “Sports gives you the discipline to go after those goals. I always think of success being like a trip. It’s not always the end of the journey which teaches you the most important things … sometimes it’s the process of getting there. There is a lot of pain involved in cross country running, and sports taught me how to move past the discomfort without slowing down.”

After Nichols, Grimmelmann built a career in the finance industry, starting with American Express while he earned an MBA at Pace University. He went on to work as an investment analyst in the trust department at United Jersey Bank but found the setting “a little too buttoned up, quite literally. There was a rule that employees could not remove their jacket while working,” he says. That, combined with a desire to control his own destiny and his professional designation as a Certified Financial Planner, led him to Merrill Lynch where has was one of the top producers in municipal bonds and managed a half billion-dollar book of clients. He retired in 2016 after 38 years with the company. 

These days, Grimmelmann and his wife Debbie stay busy travelling, a passion supported by Debbie who worked for Pan Am Airlines when they met. “We could travel the world at very little cost,” he says. “We honeymooned in Tahiti in 1979 and have since explored seven continents together.” While attending a leadership course through the Wharton School, Grimmelmann visited Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. He has summitted Mount Kilimanjaro, Grand Teton, Grand Paradiso in Italy, and has been to the Himalayas several times and on safari. He hopes to do an Amazon River Cruise next year. As far as his favorite places to visit, “Patagonia and Antarctica are right up there,” he says.

He and Debbie moved to Idaho last year for the skiing and golf. They have two children, a son in New Jersey and a daughter in Wisconsin with a granddaughter they connect with a few times a week on Facetime.

Grimmelmann also stays connected with Nichols. He recently spoke to an event planning class which was researching the viability of hosting a cross country event at Nichols. “They wanted me to talk about my experience with the old course and the sport in general,” he says. He also participated in a Zoom class of finance students presenting selections for the Thunder Fund, the college’s student-managed investment fund. And he and Debbie showed their Bison spirit cheering on the men’s basketball team last year when they played New Jersey’s Stevens Institute of Technology in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament.

But it’s the cross country programs at Nichols, which he generously supports through annual contributions, that are nearest and dearest to his heart. “It’s very impactful personally to be able to donate towards an area of the college which greatly impacted me, and I can see that my contributions are helping the teams move the needle.”  

Grimmelmann has enjoyed seeing Nichols go the distance over the years. “The campus still has a beautiful New England style small town feel, but I was amazed at all the new technology Nichols has invested in. The college has really stepped up its game,” he says, adding “I would really encourage my classmates to support Nichols, if they are able to, and appreciate all the things that the college has done for them which maybe they didn’t think about at the time.”