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One of America's Most Successful Businessmen

John Conway - Sullivan County Historian
Posted 9/27/19

He was born in Callicoon and learned about hard work and the keys to success from his father, one of the area's largest employers and most respected citizens.

His own vision and drive made him a …

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One of America's Most Successful Businessmen

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He was born in Callicoon and learned about hard work and the keys to success from his father, one of the area's largest employers and most respected citizens.

His own vision and drive made him a wealthy man at a fairly young age and he became a generous benefactor, especially in the field of education, with major gifts to MIT, Berry College, Peace College, the Illinois Institute of Technology and Sullivan County Community College.

He was Grover Martin Hermann, and when he died in Pebble Beach, California on May 4, 1979, he was lauded as one of America's most successful businessmen.

Grover Hermann was born on July 21, 1890, the second of four children of Martin and Mary Hermann. Martin had been one of eleven children born on a farm in Callicoon Center and had become a building contractor. Following the disastrous fire of 1888 that wiped out a large portion of the business district of what was then called Callicoon Depot, Martin moved his family there and began to take on work reconstructing the buildings that had been lost in the fire.

Realizing that lumber was becoming scarce because of the great demand created by the rebuilding effort, Martin Hermann began to purchase rafts of timber from those working the Delaware River and to mill the lumber himself. It was a practice he continued until 1921, when the last raft was floated on the river. Martin expanded his business quickly and his small contracting company soon became a lumber yard, a saw mill, and a sash and door frame factory as well as a construction company. In addition, he eventually operated an automobile garage that sold a number of makes of vehicles, including Buicks, for which he also fabricated bodies.

Grover worked for his father until 1913, when with a few thousand dollars in his pocket he moved to New York City, and founded the American Asphalt Paint Company. Within a few years, the company had outgrown its headquarters and had moved to New Jersey and then to Chicago.

Following the acquisition of several other firms, the company became known as American-Marietta Company and was a nationally known producer of paints, varnishes, synthetic resins and other chemical compounds. By 1960, American-Marietta employed more than 16,000 and was recording annual sales of $368 million.

The following year, American-Marietta was consolidated with the Martin Company under the name Martin-Marietta. Grover M. Hermann, who had served as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of American-Marietta since 1950, became Chairman of the Board. He also served as a director of the American National Bank of Chicago and of Consolidated Freightways, among other corporations.

During his steady ascent through the business world, Hermann never lost touch with his friends in Callicoon, often entertaining some of them on his private plane when in the New York area and frequently contributing funds to their most important projects.

He was “a philanthropist whose gifts to schools, hospitals, and charitable institutions were on the imperial scale,” the Sullivan County Democrat newspaper reported at the time of his death.

“Mr. Hermann gave millions to large institutions… In Sullivan County, his gifts were smaller because the projects were smaller, but they were, in almost every case, enabling gifts, without which the projects never would have come into being.”

Hermann gave $550,000 to match the federal funding to build the hospital founded by Dr. George Mills in Callicoon. Without the gift, the hospital would never have been built. He contributed $500,000 to Sullivan County Community College, and his gift, which was specifically earmarked for the Loch Sheldrake site, helped decide the location of the permanent campus after years of often heated debate. The library at the college bears his name to this day.

Hermann also provided money for the renovation of the library and pastor's study at the Methodist parsonage in Callicoon, contributed to the construction of a library at St. Joseph's Seminary in the hamlet, and according to the Democrat “gave repeated gifts to establish and develop the Delaware Youth Center.” He also funded construction of the manse for the Hortonville Presbyterian Church.

“Mr. Hermann's gifts followed his heart's interest,” the Democrat reported. “He never lost a keen sense of having been a small town boy.”

In fact, his giving continues today through his Grover Hermann Foundation and an endowed fellowship at the Heritage Institute. The Foundation, based in Burr Ridge, Illinois, has a simple philosophy, spelled out in its guidelines for giving.

“At the time of Mr. Hermann's death in 1979, he was remembered not only as a great entrepreneur and businessman, but also as a man who generously contributed both time and fortune to many important philanthropies. It is the objective of The Grover Hermann Foundation to continue that tradition, by assisting deserving causes throughout the United States of the types actively supported over the years by Mr. Hermann and his wife, Sarah T. Hermann.

“The Foundation's primary areas of interest include education, health, public policy, community and religion, although there is no reason to exclude worthy causes in other areas that may be deemed important from time to time.”

It is a legacy of which Grover M. Hermann would no doubt approve.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian. He can be contacted by e-mail at jconway52@hotmail.com.

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