University News

L-r, Bill Grice, Wrenn Grice and Harry Grice. This is the last photo taken of the three Grice brothers. It was taken in Moline on Oct. 20, 1944, three days before Bill left for overseas duty.
[Download Print-Quality Image]

Giving Back to Western

March 30, 2017

Share |
Printer friendly version

Western Illinois University Alumnus George Grice is no stranger when it comes to giving back to his alma mater.

Since 1985, Grice has established four Grice Family Education Scholarships including the Wrenn R. & Evelyn J. Grice Scholarship, named in honor of his parents; the Jessie Ferne Routh Grice Scholarship, named in honor of his grandmother; the Carol J. Grice Major Scholarship, named in honor of his older sister; and the Leanne L. Grice Porch Scholarship, named in honor of his younger sister. Like George, each of these family members attended Western and became teachers. And now, George is establishing a fifth scholarship, the Charles William Sr. and Josephine Luman Grice Scholarship in honor of his Uncle Bill and Aunt Jo. Similar to the other four scholarships, this new scholarship will assist Western students majoring in education, specifically those who plan to teach at the middle school or secondary levels.

"These scholarships affirm the importance of teaching and learning, and the role Western played in my family," Grice said. "Increasing the number and financial amount of scholarships enhances teaching and learning. Nationwide, fewer students are enrolling in K-12 teacher training programs. And those who do, often choose more lucrative careers in order to pay off student loans."

Born after his uncle's death, Grice relied on stories from his parents and his Aunt Jo to learn about his Uncle Bill. Those stories, combined with excerpts from his father's diaries and information from WIU Archives, have given him an image of who Charles William Grice Sr. was.
His Aunt Jo was one of three Luman sisters who attended Western, studying from 1938-40. She roomed with her sister, Evelyn, in Monroe Hall. Valedictorian of her high school class, Jo studied education along with home economics. Bill joined his older brother, Wrenn, at Western, attending from 1936-40. He combined his love of science with a passion for music. Family and classmates often spoke of his performances at Western in the choir, musicals and men's quartet.

The Grice brothers would meet the Luman sisters at Monroe Hall and escort them to a movie at the Illinois Theatre, to the library and to campus events. Bill married Jo in Summer 1940, and Wrenn and Evelyn married the following year. Bill accepted a teaching position at Wyanet High School, where he taught science and worked with the band and choir. But his work would soon be interrupted by World War II.
On Oct. 23, 1944, Bill's mother, Ferne, Wrenn and Jo took him to the CB&Q station in Galesburg, where he would begin the train ride to be processed for overseas duty. Wrenn would later remember this as "a last goodbye." On Nov. 6, 1944, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise left Pearl Harbor with Bill aboard.

Mike R. Vining, SGM USA (Retired) wrote the following about the USS Enterprise where Ensign Grice was assigned to the Mobile Explosives Investigation Unit:

At that time, the Enterprise was part of a task force supporting landings on Okinawa as part of Operation Iceberg. At dawn on May 14, 1945, the task force was attacked by about 28 single-engine planes as part of Japanese code name Kikusui (Floating Chrysanthemum). Six planes were shot down by antiaircraft fire and 19 by the combat air patrol. Less than an hour later, one suicide kamikaze Mitsubishi used cloud cover and avoided 5-inch and 40-mm antiaircraft fire while approaching the carrier from her stern. The kamikaze pilot crashed through the carrier's forward flight deck and the resulting explosion blasted most of the ship's forward elevator more than 400 feet in the air. The Enterprise was put out of operation, but was able to maintain her place in the formation and fight off more attacks that day. Fourteen sailors were killed-in-action, including Grice; another 68 were wounded. ENS Grice was buried at sea and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal. *

May 24, 1945, was Jo's 25th birthday. The family had planned to celebrate the occasion quietly at the farm where she was born and now lived with her parents. They would wish for an end to the war. Jo looked forward to the day she and her 3 year-old son, Charles William Grice Jr., would be reunited with her husband. Those plans abruptly changed the morning of May 23. A telegram was delivered to the farm, informing Jo that her husband had been killed in action on May 14. Bill's brother, Wrenn, wrote in his diary that evening: "As I sit here looking at your picture, I cannot fully realize that you are gone—that never again will I feel your warm grasp or hear your cheerful voice. Dozens of memories flood my mind and bring tears to my eyes. The vacant place your passing makes can never be filled. War is such a waste, but we must go on. We will laugh again, have good times, be happy. You would want us to, but never, never will we forget you, Bill."

"George Grice has been so generous to Western Illinois University. We are grateful for his desire to focus his giving on helping future educators," shared Brad Bainter, vice president for advancement and public services. "By assisting current education majors, George's contributions will not only impact today's Western students but the students they will educate in the future. This is a gift that will keep on giving."

Family has always been important to the Grices and the Lumans. That is why George has created five scholarships in various family members' names, including this new scholarship named for his uncle and aunt.

"It is a way to honor the past and invest in the future," Grice said. "Scholarships enable us to recruit, retain and reward quality teachers. I can find no better place to invest in this cause than WIU."

* Retired Army Sergeant Major Mike R. Vining has researched and published articles on naval history and expeditions.

Posted By: Amanda Shoemaker, WIU Foundation & Development (
Office of University Relations