Erli Gronberg Retires

Posted July 21, 2009

After teaching for more than 35 years, Erli Gronberg, Chair of the Interior Design Department, retired in January.

Erli attended Michigan State University, where she received her BA in Fine Arts with a painting concentration as well as her Master's in Education. While working on her undergraduate degree, she took interior design classes, and upon graduation she worked at an interior design studio for several years before coming to Kendall in 1972.

"I started at Kendall teaching foundation classes, including drawing, design, and color theory. When I transferred to the interiors program, we only offered a certificate, and there were about 60 students in the program. In 1973, we received FI DER accreditation ??one of the earliest schools and the first three-year program to achieve that ??and have been accredited ever since." Erli has also been teaching the popular NeoCon class for more than 10 years, developing the opportunity for the Merchandise Mart to exhibit students' work during the show.

Erli has seen many changes during her tenure at Kendall, and continues to see them. When Erli began at Kendall, the college was located at 1110 College Avenue NE. Through the '60s and '70s, Kendall expanded its programs and campus, adding two new buildings at the College Avenue location. In 1981, Kendall College of Design was certified as a baccalaureate degree-granting institution and was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities. In 1984, it moved toits current location on Fountain Street.

In addition to her responsibilities as an instructor and department chair, Erli served on several international boards, including the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (formerly FI DER), for more than 25 years. In 1996, she was named a Fellow of the Interior Design Educator's Council, which is dedicated to the advancement of education and research in interior design.

Erli has kept touch with many students, and recently heard from alumnus Chris Mikowski (2001), who wrote, "I am having a bit of trouble with the thought of you retiring. You have been with me since I started a journey that has defined my life. The first time I met you was in '97 on a GUS bus. You were sitting across from me and another student. You asked us about our majors and made the comment that you liked to ride the bus to keep in touch with new students as they are only 'new' for such a short time."

2000 graduate Michelle (Hubbard) Horn adds, "When I think about my college experience, Erli is at the top of my list. Her passion for design and enthusiasm towards exploring new things empowered me to go just one more step above and beyond the norm. She helped me to believe in myself and not be afraid to share my ideas with others, and for that I am successful today. Because of Erli's dedication and support of my education, I had some wonderful internships, was selected to attend Steelcase University, was part of the first two NeoCon classes, was hired by Gensler out of college ? the list goes on."

When asked for her favorite Kendall memory, Erli responded, "There are so many. I've seen a number of talented students go onto successful professional careers. I can't tell you how many ?? maybe a thousand or so ??and many are still working in the field. Just watching the school grow and develop and be a part of that, watching students develop, and developing a program to keep pace with the industry ??there's never a dull moment."