Obituary: Jack Grinold was “the encyclopedia of Northeastern Athletics”

Jack Grinold, who worked as Northeasterns sports information director for 50 years, died April 21. He was 81 years old. / Photo courtesy Matt Houde, Northeastern Athletics
Jack Grinold, who worked as Northeastern’s sports information director for 50 years, died April 21. He was 81 years old. / Photo courtesy Matt Houde, Northeastern Athletics

By Jenna Ciccotelli, sports editor

Jack Grinold, 81, who made a home on Huntington Avenue for over half a century as Northeastern University’s sports information director and was recognized both nationally and locally for his pride and dedication to the institution, died April 21 after years of declining health.

“No one is more synonymous with Northeastern athletics than Jack Grinold, and his passing has left us with a deep void,” Peter Roby, director of athletics and recreation, said in a statement to

After his retirement in 2012, Grinold, who retained associate athletic director emeritus status, went to Matthews Arena every Tuesday for weekly lunches to discuss the progress of Northeastern sports teams with coaches and other athletics employees.

“He would call me Monday afternoon and say, ‘I’m coming in tomorrow, so make sure you’re available,’” said Matt Houde, associate athletic director of communications for Northeastern. “He’d come and we would go sit for half an hour, 45 minutes or so and we’d just shoot the breeze about how the hockey team did that weekend or how healthy we were with respect to injuries.”

Though Grinold was a seasoned supporter of every Northeastern athletic program, his presence was deeply felt within the men’s rowing organization. In 2008, Grinold and his wife Cathy established a $1.25 million endowment for the program. The Jack and Cathy Grinold Training Center at Henderson Boathouse was dedicated to the couple in 2013. On the afternoon of Grinold’s death, the team took his boat out on the Charles River.

“His spirit will continue to drive the men’s rowing program at Northeastern, as I’m sure it will continue to drive all of our athletic endeavors,” said men’s rowing head coach John Pojednic.

Grinold, a Belmont, Massachusetts, native, graduated from Bowdoin College in 1957 and joined the United States Merchant Marine. He began working as the Northeastern sports information director in 1962.

Houde, who joined the department as Grinold was retiring, said Grinold was helpful in his early days at Northeastern.

“He was just a great resource for me as a relatively young guy coming into this position,” he said. “[Coming in] I had heard so much about him—he had already been at the institution for 50 years. I was intimidated, but also really lucky to have somebody like him.”

Houde’s office highlights the importance of Grinold to the sports information department at Northeastern. File cabinets line the walls of the room, alphabetized by last name, with documents and information on Northeastern athletics dating back decades.

“He was really the encyclopedia of Northeastern athletics,” Houde said. “He was just an absolute historian about not only our department, but our university.”

Now in his 17th year as the head coach, Pojednic said Grinold was a large part of his success when he came into the league at 25 years old.

“Jack was instrumental in not only appointing me to that position, but just introducing me to what a special and unique place Northeastern is,” he said. “My first impression was no doubt that this is somebody that I need to impress if I want to make it here.”

Pojednic said Grinold was supportive but always there to bring him back down to earth after a win or to scold him bluntly after a loss to rival Boston University.

“He knew when to provide the right kind of tough love,” he said. “He was the perfect blend of mentorship and guidance. He knew Northeastern sports so well and he knew rowing so well that there was never anything that would come up that he couldn’t provide some kind of anecdote or specific example of something that had happened like this before.”

Organizations across the university and the nation recognized the impact Grinold had in the world of sports. In 1985, he was the first non-athlete inducted to the Northeastern University Varsity Club Hall of Fame. The College Sports Information Directors of America also recognized his work, awarding him many Citations of Excellence for his publications, inducting him to their Hall of Fame in 1994 and honoring him with their Community Service Award five years later.

He is represented in the New England Basketball, Massachusetts Hockey and Beanpot Halls of Fame and won awards across the Eastern College Athletic Conference. The Eastern Massachusetts chapter of the National Football Foundation was named in his honor.

Grinold’s reach extended beyond athletics. Houde said Grinold was also involved with the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Boston Athenaeum, one of the oldest libraries in the country, and was happy to discuss his projects with those around him.

“He was one of the more cultured people I’ve ever met,” Houde said. “You knew that he was one of the smartest guys in the room, but it sure as hell didn’t come off like that. He was comfortable having a conversation with anybody.”

Pojednic said simple conversations with Grinold, which took place at their homes or over the phone in recent years, were a large part of their personal and professional relationship.

“He was always so excited to see you,” he said. “The most mundane thing could become a hot topic. His voice and his enthusiasm are the things that I miss so much already.”

Matthews Arena is home to several already-established distinctions that pay tribute to Grinold’s contributions to the athletic programs at Northeastern. The Northeastern sports information office hires an intern every year through their Jack Grinold Athletic Communications internship program, which Houde said is a prestigious honor “because of the name that it holds.”

The press box at the arena was named the Jack Grinold Media Center in Grinold’s honor in a 2011 ceremony. In 2014, the athletics department raised $350,000 to fund the Grinold Family Scholarship for Northeastern student athletes.

“Jack had a remarkable passion and love for Northeastern, and his impact on our university over more than five decades of dedicated service was immeasurable,” University President Joseph E. Aoun said in a statement to

Houde remembered meeting with an excited Grinold in 2016, after the men’s hockey team won Hockey East for the first time in 28 years and was preparing to head to Cincinnati, Ohio, to compete in the NCAA tournament. He offered Grinold the chance to reunite with the Hockey East trophy that had been away from Huntington Avenue for decades.

“The smile on his face that day when the Hockey East trophy walked into the varsity club is something that I’ll remember forever,” he said.

Houde is one of many individuals encouraged by Grinold. He oversees a staff of four sports information directors, the team of five doing the job Grinold once did on his own.

“I owe a lot to Jack Grinold. I don’t think I’m sitting in the chair that I am now without him,” Houde said. “There will never be another Jack Grinold, here or probably anywhere else, nor should there be.”

Pojednic said the way Grinold carried himself and conducted his business as a sports information director would set a precedent for those pursuing the career at Northeastern and beyond.

“He’s the quintessential champion of Northeastern,” Pojednic said. “He’s going to leave a legacy of support, of pride and integrity. His integrity as a sports information media representative has inspired and guided so many generations of people who are now in the field today.”

Jack Grinold is survived by his wife Cathy Grinold and his brother Richard Grinold. There will be no public service, but Northeastern Athletics said in a statement plans were in the works for a memorial service later this year.

Jack Grinold, who worked as Northeastern’s sports information director for 50 years, died April 21. He was 81 years old. / Photo courtesy Matt Houde, Northeastern Athletics
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