2015 Hoosier German - American of the Year
(May 3, 1929 - July 16, 2021)
Throughout his 60 years in travel, Othmar Grueninger has promoted cultural exchange between Europe and especially Germany, and the United States. He has helped bridge cultural understanding between the two countries and particularly between the sister-cities, Cologne and Indianapolis. In 2013, Grueninger was recognized for his 25 years of Commitment, Support and Loyalty by the Indianapolis-Cologne Sister-City Partnership Committee with a special award for promoting cultural understanding between the two countries and cities.
In 1952 Grueninger received his degree from Geissen, Germany and then was offered a scholarship for further study at DePauw University in Greencastle as an exchange student. In 1954, he began offering student tours to Europe. After graduating with a Masters in International Relations and working toward his PhD at Northwestern, Grueninger then expanded his successful student business into a full-service travel agency in 1956. Using his native knowledge of Europe, he started arranging European tours for corporate travel clubs, as well as the general public. Throughout the years, Grueninger Travel continued to grow, opening branches across the Midwest and Northeast.
He has a passion for sharing the history and culture of Germany, with fellow Hoosiers. For the past 30 years, he has designed, operated and hosted his famed Black Forest tours. These journeys go beyond the normal tourist stops to see and even more importantly, meet, Germany up close and personal. For example, tour members meet Georg Thoma, Olympic medalist, learn hands-on how to make a 'Schwartzwaldkirschtorte', visit behind the scenes at the 'Rothaus' brewery, spend time at the 'Heimatmuseum', hike in the beautiful Feldberg, wander through the quaint towns on the Bodensee or along the falls in Triberg.
Grueninger was president of ARTA (Association of Retail Travel Agents), was a state secretary of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and remains a member of the Northside Kiwanis. He served on the board of the Jaycees and was State Secretary for a two-year term. He has been involved in the sister cities of Cologne and Indianapolis since its earliest discussions. He is currently a board member of the Propylaeum and helped to successfully raise all funds for new roof, more than $600,000.
He is married (59 years), a father of 3 and grandfather of 10.