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A Finding Aid for the Robert P. Gerholz Papers 1916-1984

Collection Summary

Collection Title: Robert P. Gerholz Papers

Creator: Gerholz, Robert P.

Dates: 1916-1984

Abstract: Robert P. Gerholz (1897 -1985) served on the Ferris State Board of Control from 1967-1982. Gerholz was a 1916 graduate of Ferris Institute who became a prominent business leader in the real estate, construction and commercial development professions. From 1965-1966, he was the president of the National Chamber of Commerce. Gerholz was active in the post-World War II home building explosion but was also a civic leader, active in his Presbyterian Church of Flint, Michigan. The papers contain correspondence and programs relating to his involvement in various home building associations, and his political activities. There are also several photographs of Gerholz at a variety of events.

Language: English

Quantity: 0.4 cubic feet; 1 Hollinger box

Identification: UA 2.50.2

Repository: Ferris State University Archives and Records Management Program

Historical Note

Robert P. Gerholz was born in 1897 to German immigrant farmers in Merrill, Wisconsin. As one of 12 children, Gerholz had to make his own way early in life. His first jobs included working on a truck farm (for 20 cents per day) and working in a box factory, While a Ferris Institute student in 1916, Gerholz continue to work his way in a variety of odd jobs, including milking cows, shoveling furnaces and doing odd jobs for Woodbridge Ferris- who wrote him his first recommendation.

After Gerholz left Ferris Institute, he served in the Army in France in World War I. Following the war, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin. In 1922, Gerholz founded Gerholz Enterprises, in Flint, Michigan. This was a combination realty/ home building corporation originally named the Gerholz Home Builders and Realtors. During the Depression, Gerholz struggled to keep his business going but managed to avoid bankruptcy. By the late 1970s, Gerholz Enterprises had been involved with over $100,000,000 worth of investment in Flint real estate.

Gerholz became a national business leader. He was president of the National Association of Home Builders in 1944, and the National Association of Realtors in 1950. During the 1960s, Gerholz was both president and chairman of the board for the National Chamber of Commerce. As such, he testified on committees before President Lyndon Johnson and the United States Congress. Gerholz also served on the Ferris State College Board of Control from 1967-1982. He was chair from 1972-1980 and received an honorary doctorate of law degree from his alma mater in 1957. Among his numerous awards were induction in the National Association of Home Builders Hall of Fame in 1977 and the United States Postal Service Horatio Alger Award in 1982.

Gerholz was also extremely active in his church- First Presbyterian Church of Flint, Michigan. He was a strong financial supporter, often donating his speaking fees from real estate association meetings around the country. In 1983, an anonymous gift established the "Robert P. Gerholz Counseling Center" at the church.

He died 18 April 1985 in Flint, Michigan. Robert Gerholz was married to former Freda Clark. They had three children: Robert Charles, Jaynce Allyn (Pike) and Barbara Lee (Kogel).

Scope and Content Note

A 1916 graduate of Ferris Institute, Robert Gerholz was one of the early alumni success stories. Like many of the early graduates, Gerholz had a personal recommendation from founder Woodbridge N. Ferris. He became involved in the real estate/construction business in the 1920s and was able to hold on to his business until the post-World War II housing boom. Gerholz was active in a number of business and real estate organizations. The papers reflect his numerous activities in professional organizations, and the correspondence series shows the esteem in which he was held by colleagues and friends. Some of these colleagues included politicians President Gerald R. Ford, Governor William Millikin and Senator Robert Griffiths.

The professional interests and awards Gerholz received can be traced through the nearprint/memorabilia collected which included awards and membership cards and also through the photograph albums which are often labelled, and filed in chronological order. Of particular interest is a folder with notes about Gerholz's 1950 trip to Europe to speak at a conference of realtors.

Gerholz was very active with his church and there is a folder devoted to the First Presbyterian Church of Flint, Michigan. His faith and devotion to the church can also be seen in other correspondence, where he donated his speaking fees from real estate groups to his local church.

While Gerholz served as a member of the Ferris Board of Control from 1967-1982, and as chairman from 1977-1981, the papers focus more on his other activities. There is a copy of a lecture Gerholz gave at the College in 1972, a centennial service medal and some miscellaneous photographs. There are records of his tenure on the Board in the Board of Trustees records.


The papers are contained in a single series.

Access Information

Conditions of Access

The Robert P. Gerholz Papers are open for research to all users in accordance with University Archives and Records Management access policies. It is available in the reading room of the Ferris State University Archives.

Conditions of Use

Requests for permission to publish material should be directed to the University Archivist. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Copyright interests for this collection have not been transferred to Ferris State University. For more information, contact the University Archivist.

Subject Headings

Below are a list of names, organizations and subjects relating to the collection. Names have been taken from Library of Congress Authority headings whenever possible.

Related Materials

Board of Trustees Records. (UA 2.2)

Administrative Information


Footnotes and bibliographic references should use the following format:
[Item], Folder, Box. Robert P. Gerholz Papers. Ferris State University Archives. Big Rapids, Michigan.

Provenance (Acquisition Information)

The Robert P. Gerholz Papers were donated by the Gerholz family through Jeffrey Cross, acting Dean of the Gerholz Institute for Lifelong Learning at Ferris State University, in April, 1993.

Processing Information

The Robert P. Gerholz Papers were processed to the folder level by Melinda McMartin Isler in April 2003. A finding aid was prepared in a word processing format and converted to EAD 1.0. A revised finding aid was created in January 2008. A collection level MARC-format record was prepared and placed in the library online public access catalog. Description was based on Describing Archives: A Content Standard (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2004). v

Separated Materials

During processing, duplicate materials were discarded. There were no other materials placed in other collections.

Technical Requirements

This collection consists of paper based materials. No specialized hardware or software is required for viewing.

Content Listing

Series 1. General Records. 1916-1984.

This is a general subject file relating his Ferris and business related activities. Materials relating to Ferris State University can be found throughout the collection.

The files are arranged alphabetically by correspondent name or subject (i.e. Woodbridge Ferris or photographs). Within folders, materials are arranged chronologically whenever possible. The photo album photographs are in rough chronological order, but have been left in the numbered order that they were found in the album.

Box Folder Contents
1 1 Addresses; writings. 1946-1977.
1 2 Association of Governing Boards. Distinguished Service Award. Recommendations. 1981.
1 3 Awards; certificates. 1950-1981. (Additional oversize material folder file available in cabinet)
1 4 Bruckner, Wilbert. 1932.
1 5 Correspondence. A-Z. 1917-1976.
1 6 Ferris State College. Centennial Medal of Service. 1984.
1 7 Ferris State College. Distinguished Business Lecture. 1972.
1 8 Ferris State College. Memorabilia. 1912-1971.
1 9 Ferris, Woodbridge N. 1916-1920.
1 10 First Presbyterian Church. Flint (Mich.) 1933-1976.
1 11 Ford, Gerald R. 1974-1975.
1 12 Gerholz Enterprises. 1984.
1 13 Griffin, Robert P. 1971; 1974-1976.
1 14 Masselink, Gerrit. 1916.
1 15 Membership cards. Undated.
1 16 Milliken, William G. 1974-1976.
1 17 National Association of Realtors. Convention notes. 1950.
1 18 Nearprint. 1944-1977; undated.
1 19 Photo album pages. Photos 1-60. 1916-1960.
1 20 Photo album pages. Photos 61-131. 1916-1960.
1 21 Photos, loose. 1961; 1967; 1969; 1971; undated.
1 22 Varhula, E.V. 1976.