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Memorial service set for benefactor Art Grindle

Art Grindle is surrounded by Honors Institute graduates Ryan Genslinger, Juan Robayo and Daniel Leon during the 2011 Honors Graduate Dinner.
Dede Schaffner and Art Grindle share a dance during the 2006 Dream Auction.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, July 20, to celebrate the life of Art Grindle, a former Florida legislator and businessman who was a longtime benefactor of Seminole State College of Florida.

Grindle, 89, passed away on Sunday, June 10.

Longtime Orlando residents will remember Grindle best for the TV commercials that featured him leaping on cars at his Dodge dealership and shouting, “I want to sell you a car!”

“We always used to kid him about it,” said Dede Schaffner, a former Seminole State Board of Trustees chair and College alumna. She and her late husband, Bill, were friends with the Grindles for years.

Those close to Seminole State will remember him for the legacy he left the College, which includes the first individual $1 million donation, said Seminole State College President Dr. E. Ann McGee.

“Art will be remembered for so many things, but our students will remember him because he made their futures possible,” McGee said. “He was a steadfast supporter of Seminole State College for over three decades. From co-founding our Dream Gala in 1984, to the naming of the Art & Phyllis Grindle Honors Institute in 2006, his legacy of helping others will long survive him.”

Schaffner said Grindle conceived the idea of the Dream Gala, the College’s largest annual fundraiser.

“I was trying to raise some dollars for some students to attend the college,” Schaffner said. “We were asking people to give checks to establish some scholarships. Art said, ‘Dede, you’re going about this all the wrong way. We need to have some kind of an event.’ Then, we began talking about it, and what we wanted to do. That’s where the Dream Auction (now Dream Gala) came from.”

For nearly the entire history of the Dream Gala, Grindle was a fixture, serving as the auctioneer and emcee. To date, the Dream Gala he helped create has raised more than $2 million for Seminole State students and programs, McGee said.

In addition to the Honors Institute endowment, Grindle gave annually to the Dream Gala, was a longtime Foundation for Seminole State College Presidents’ Club member and helped fund the CFADA Professional Automotive Training Center.

The Grindle family’s Honors endowment funds scholarships for honors students, brings national speakers to Seminole State, funds travel-abroad programs, and affords honors students the ability to attend national conferences.

Students who complete the Grindle Honors Institute have won some of the largest scholarships available to college transfer students. Seminole State is the only college among 1,200 in the nation to have seven consecutive Jack Kent Cooke Scholars. The JKC scholarship, worth more than $30,000, is considered the most prestigious for two-year graduates.

Daniel Leon, a 2011 Jack Kent Cooke Scholar who now attends American University, said Grindle took an interest in the honors students, often stopping by the Honors Center to visit with them.

“There was something unique about him,” Leon said. “With Mr. Grindle, there was an emotional investment in the students. It’s something that is also unique about the Honors Program at Seminole State.”

Schaffner said Grindle loved meeting the students.

“He loved to know he was making a difference,” Schaffner said. “That’s what Art Grindle was all about.”

Grindle was born in Chicago in 1923. He built his business in Houston, moved to Central Florida in 1968 and began to get notice as a Dodge dealer and TV pitchman.

Aside from building a successful car dealership, Grindle also excelled as a stock broker, insurance agent and mortgage broker. In addition, Grindle served in Tallahassee as a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives for five terms between 1982 and 1992.

The family wishes to celebrate the lives of Art and his wife, Phyllis, who passed away in 2004. The Art and Phyllis Grindle Celebration of Life will be held at on Friday, July 20, at 2 p.m. in the Fine Arts Concert Hall on Seminole State’s Sanford/Lake Mary Campus. The Grindle family has established an endowed scholarship for Honors students. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the scholarship in care of the Foundation for Seminole State College. Checks should be made payable to "the Foundation for Seminole State College."

About the Foundation for Seminole State College: The Foundation is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt corporation dedicated to enhancing Seminole State College's programs and services through the development and management of private contributions, public grants and community partnerships. Members of the board of directors contribute their management and leadership skills without compensation to support these initiatives. For more information, visit the Foundation homepage.

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