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Jack Grundhofer, one of the valley’s most prominent philanthropists, dies at 82

One of the Coachella Valley's most prominent philanthropists, Jack Grundhofer, has died of natural causes at the age of 82.

Grundhofer, an Indian Wells resident, was the former chairman of U.S. Bancorp. He was a generous supporter of many nonprofit organizations, including the Living Desert, Eisenhower Health, the Waring, the Joslyn Center, the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, and United Way of the Desert just to name a few.

He also served as a vice chairman for the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Grundhofer is survived by his wife Patti.

Jack Grundhofer

You can read more about Jack Grundhofer in the obituary provided by his family. It is posted below.

John F. (Jack) Grundhofer

John F. (Jack) Grundhofer, Chairman Emeritus of U. S. Bancorp, longtime leader in the financial services industry, loving husband, father, brother and cherished friend to many, passed away on January 24, 2021 after a long and very full life.

True to Jack’s lifelong “can do” attitude, he enjoyed a storied banking career and developed strong, lasting friendships that supported him during career successes and life challenges that he overcame with his personal tenacity and indomitable spirit.

Jack was born in Los Angeles on January 1, 1939. His father, John, was a bartender and often worked two or three jobs at a time. His mother, Laura, a deeply religious Catholic, worked as a housekeeper. Education was important to his parents and they worked hard and made sacrifices so Jack, his brother and sister could attend Catholic schools. A gifted student, Jack was only 12 when he passed tests to enroll in the academically-demanding Loyola High School, where his commute included a one-hour ride on a streetcar twice a day.

“Jack had a thirst to achieve that drove him,” noted his longtime friend John Karns, an attorney in Los Angeles who met Jack in 9th grade and later became a college roommate. “Being able to attend Loyola High School allowed Jack to make friends with people from all over Los Angeles, not just his own modest neighborhood. Lifelong friendships were created - it was a special opportunity for Jack.”

At age 12, Jack’s father suffered a heart attack; Jack took on a daily newspaper route, rising at 5a.m. to earn money so his family would not lose their home. Later, in high school, Jack hurried home from classes to work as a stock boy in a department store, earning 75 cents per hour.

Jack attended Loyola University on a baseball scholarship and mowed lawns for the school to help pay for his expenses. He earned a degree in economics and went to work for Union Bank as a credit analyst and trainee, and earned extra income working nights as a “repo man” for financed cars in arrears and “skips.” To advance in the banking industry, he returned to school at night and in 1964 earned his MBA in business administration with a concentration in finance from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. During this time in his career, Jack had opportunities to meet with a variety of business customers and honed his skills in building long-term customer relationships that served him well throughout his career. When a new Union Bank branch opened in Newport Beach, Jack was sent to manage it. Within two years he had built it to $100 million in deposits.

After eighteen years with Union Bank, Jack had risen to Regional Vice President for Orange County.  In 1978, he joined San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank as Executive Vice President of the Southern California Retail Banking Group.  He went on to head Wells Fargo’s Commercial Banking Group within California, which had responsibility for agricultural lending and trade finance.  From 1986 to 1990, he served as Wells Fargo’s Vice Chairman with responsibility for corporate banking, commercial banking, capital markets, loan adjustment, cash management and wholesale information services. He was also Senior Executive Officer for Southern California.

In 1990, Jack was recruited from Wells Fargo to lead then-First Bank System (a $10 billion bank) as Chairman, President and CEO, at a time when the institution was facing severe financial difficulties. Coming into a new community in the Twin Cities, and making hard decisions to save the struggling bank, was a professional and personal challenge Jack more than overcame as the bank survived and began to grow.

His accomplishments as CEO focused on delivering a comprehensive range of financial solutions for customers and creating value for shareholders. The company’s growth strategy included over 35 strategic acquisitions, including the acquisition of U. S. Bancorp in Portland

“Jack’s arrival as CEO of First Bank System started the trajectory of the company from then to its success today,” offered Richard Davis, Chairman, President and CEO for U.S. Bancorp. “He took the company from near death to stable to gaining the ability to grow through acquisitions and to now be a sustainable financial institution, employer and community supporter. Jack was the singularly best customer advocate I’ve ever known. His word was his bond with customers. That trust, particularly with business customers, have kept them loyal to this bank. He was the ultimate role model of what a successful banker should be.”

For a man who served duty on the front lines of the Los Angeles Watts riots as a sergeant in the California National Guard, Jack faced his most perilous personal challenge during what he called “the most frightening experience of my life” - being kidnapped at gunpoint from a downtown Minneapolis parking ramp as he arrived for work. The kidnapper strapped sticks of dynamite to Jack’s arm and made him drive them to a wooded area in northwestern Wisconsin. Tied up and left alone by the kidnapper, Jack managed to free himself and sought help at a nearby farmhouse. His senior executive team and other key employees, huddled with FBI agents at his office, were jubilant when he called to say he was alive and freed.

Throughout his career and retirement, Jack generously shared his time and talents with numerous companies and nonprofit organizations. He served as a director for companies including Air California, Golden West Mobile Homes, The Donaldson Company, Inc., Minnesota Life Insurance Company and BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. Jack also served as Vice Chairman for the Palm Springs International Film Festival where his financial expertise helped bring that organization back from the brink of insolvency, much like he had done for First Bank System. Jack also served on the board of the Horatio Alger Association. He was also Chairman of the Danny Thompson Memorial Foundation board and served on boards for the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, CA, and as trustee of Loyola Marymount University. He served as Chairman for a United Way campaign in the Twin Cities. Other nonprofit board service included the Livingston Center for the Arts and Culture in Livingston, MT and the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. His service for professional associations included the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, Financial Services Roundtable, International Monetary Conference, Federal Advisory Board and Federal Reserve Board.

Jack was involved with hundreds of philanthropic and civic organizations throughout his career. In recognition of his humble beginnings that he overcame to develop a successful career, and his avid support for nonprofit organizations, Jack received the prestigious Horatio Alger Award in 1997. He was also a generous financial contributor to many nonprofit organizations through his John F. Grundhofer Foundation and other personal donations. Jack especially enjoyed teaching and throughout his career taught accounting courses, participated in a lecture series for Loyola Marymount University and an ongoing seminar for business students at the University of South Dakota-Vermillion.

In addition to his professional and charitable activities, Jack wholeheartedly pursued his favorite hobbies of hunting, fly fishing and enjoying fine wines.

Jack and his wife, Patti, enjoyed sharing the four seasons between their homes in Indian Wells, CA, Livingston, MT, Minneapolis, MN and Sioux Falls, SD. An avid outdoorsman, Jack traveled the world to fulfill his passion for bird hunting, although some of his most favored spots remained a farm he owned in South Dakota and two ranches in Montana. Jack always loved to share outdoor activities with large networks of friends, and a succession of energetic black labs. “Jack was a “guy’s guy,” recalled longtime friend and hunting buddy John Barry. “He was always respectful of what the rules were and was a very responsible hunter. Yet, he had a very competitive spirit no matter what he was doing. That competitiveness was why he was so successful in all his pursuits – hobbies, business, community giving – it made him thrive.”

Jack also enjoyed his golf and played as a member of the Los Angeles Country Club, Bel Air Country Club, Eldorado Country Club (Indian Wells, CA), Birnam Wood Golf Club (Santa Barbara, CA), Newport Beach Country Club, Big Canyon Country Club (Newport Beach, CA), Interlachen Country Club (Edina, MN), Spring Hill Country Club (Wayzata, MN), Hazeltine (Chaska, MN), Riverside Country Club (Bozeman, MT) and Rolling Rock Club (Ligonier, PA). Jack was very social and an active member of the California Club (Los Angeles, CA) and the Minneapolis Club.

Jack is survived by his wife, Patti, daughters Karen Grundhofer-ElKawa and Kathleen Grundhofer (Kevin Chatow), grandchildren Ramzi, Aliya, Zakaria, Tyler and Katie. In addition, he is survived by his brother, Jerry Grundhofer (Kathie); niece, Lauren Peterson (Christopher); sister, Joan Briggs and nephew, Jeff Briggs (Jing). The family will hold private services and burial.

A firm believer in being rewarded for performance, Jack once said: "You create your own luck by working hard and working smart." He truly lived his life that way.  He enjoyed life to the fullest and made sure everyone around him did as well. He will be deeply missed and remain in the hearts of all who had the opportunity to work, play and live life fully with him.

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Peter Daut


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