For food science professor Ingolf Gruen, life is a balancing act

He is the family man and adventurer who never stops going. Ingolf Gruen is a proud food science professor and interim director of the Grape and Wine Institute who enjoys finding time for his family, table tennis and taekwondo.

The white walls of his office are covered entirely with tapestries from Malaysia, Thailand and China. These and the small trinkets covering his desk and shelves are all gifts from his many international students. Each one is placed strategically into an open spot between his dozens of books.

Freshman food science major, Kenzie McClintic, has Gruen as both an adviser and a professor.

“He has a great personality and a unique teaching style,” McClintic said. “He has more of a random and flexible style of teaching and I love it.”

Even though Gruen is a busy man, he always has time to help his students out and show that he cares, according to McClintic. Gruen does admit however, that beyond his family, the second most important aspect of his life is his work. He says his love for his work stems from what his students do. Gruen loves when a student truly learns something in one of his classes

“It’s not so much about learning facts … it’s when I realize that students are intellectually capable of being open minded and thinking about an issue from different angles.”

Although Gruen does have many responsibilities with the University of Missouri, including the study abroad trips he takes every 18 months, he finds plenty of time to spend with his wife and two sons.

“First and foremost, my family is the most important thing to me,” Gruen said, smiling to himself and pushing his thin framed glasses up the ridge of his nose.

Gruen met his wife, Karen, in 1986 at Virginia Tech where they were both studying as graduate students. They lived in a graduate student residence hall and met one day eating breakfast in the dining hall. Gruen was there as an exchange student from Germany, but his wife was born in the U.S. and lived in Detroit for most of her life, so they had to learn about the different cultures they each grew up in.

Six years later, in 1992, the couple was married. Karen currently works for the University of Missouri, as well, in the graduate school.

Gruen’s oldest son is 19. He takes classes at Moberly Area Community College and works full time. His youngest son is a senior at Battle High School in Columbia and enjoys playing football. Gruen said he is excited to be active in just about anything that his sons are interested in, even if that means he loses a few hours of relaxation.

His thin lips spread into a grin as he spun in circles in his chair talking about all of the events for the week. Clubs, games, meetings: nothing seems to be too much to handle as long as he has his calendar nearby.

Searching through the many pink sticky notes lining his desk, Gruen takes a look at his calendar for the week and reels off a list of what he has to do each night. Monday night is a Boy Scout meeting, Tuesday is touchdown club meeting, Thursday means school meetings, and on Friday he drives to his son’s football game.

“Every evening of the week is kind of filled up with something, if I happen to have an evening off, I like to sit down and relax … but that does not happen often!”

Because of this, Gruen does not find much time for his hobbies anymore. He enjoyed playing table tennis in high school and still occasionally practices taekwondo when he finds the time.

He laughed and ran his hand absently through the white wisps of hair on his head as he commented on the difference in popularity for table tennis here in the United States as opposed to in Germany.

“Germany and the United States are very similar,” Gruen said. “But there are a few parts of Germany that I will always miss.”

Alexa Nordwald

About the Author Alexa Nordwald

Hi, my name is Alexa Nordwald, and I am currently a freshman at the University of Missouri majoring in science and agricultural journalism. I hail from about five hours southeast of Columbia in the small town of East Prairie, Missouri. Although my grandparents raise Charolais cattle in Audrain County, I did not grow up on a farm. On campus I participate in Christian Campus House Ministries, Agricultural Communicators and Leaders of Tomorrow, and the professional agricultural sorority, Sigma Alpha. I also work at the University of Missour Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) and serve as a Missouri FFA State Officer.