A passion for education through the generations

A passion for education through the generations

D r. Angela “AJ” Grube, ’91, ’94, gets her love of education from her mother, Mary Evelyn Farr Johnson, ’63, ’76. Besides teaching students in K-12, her mother taught Grube to never settle for anything short of her dreams. And Grube has done just that. Recently named dean of the College of Business at Western Carolina University, she begins her new role Jan. 1. 

Dr. Angela "AJ" Grube
Dr. Angela "AJ" Grube

From a young age, Grube wasn’t sure what she would end up doing. She certainly didn’t envision a career in education. The management major absorbed all that her classes had to offer, plus kept the scorebook at Georgia College baseball games and practices for six years. Her Management Professor and Academic Advisor, Dr. Tom Krilowicz and his wife, Lucky, who also worked as an advisor in the Athletics Department at Georgia College, liked baseball. They attended games at Georgia College and also invited Grube to travel to the Florida State baseball games with them. Not long after she graduated, Krilowicz suggested Grube pursue a Ph.D. at Florida State University.

Grube took his advice and initially intended to be an athletic director, but she was awarded a teaching assistantship at FSU, and discovered she liked teaching. So, she pursued academia instead.

Once Grube graduated from Florida State University, she became a faculty member, school director, interim associate dean, associate dean, acting dean and now, dean at Western Carolina University. She also held administrative appointments, serving as assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs and assistant to the chancellor for equal opportunity programs.

Grube’s path to success started at Georgia College, where she learned the importance of marketing, not just paid advertisements, but marketing one’s self and abilities.

“I have vivid memories of the marketing game—a simulation we played at GC. The lesson was whatever money you had left from your business, if you put it back into marketing, your business grew. So, then you had more money to invest into marketing. If you took that example, you could apply it to a business. But, if you take money out of the equation, you could also apply it to yourself and any organization.”

“I didn’t realize what a marvel my mother was until I got into my own career. I’m just so thankful for her. So many times I say, ‘I would love to see what she would think about this.’”
– Dr. AJ Grube
She also found the human resources training she learned from her management courses at Georgia College useful in her role as school director, where she primarily worked with curriculum planning and evaluation of faculty.

In addition, Grube applied what she learned from her public administration courses as assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“Learning about governmental funding and financing was so useful to me, because I worked primarily with staffing and funding,” she said. “Understanding state funding can be particularly tricky, because it varies from state to state.”

While Grube has applied many different skills she learned at Georgia College, she stresses the importance of bundling these with what she learned on the job.

“I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the experience I had at Georgia College,” she said. “It not only prepared me for the world, but it also prepared me to keep learning from every post I’ve held and to be a lifelong learner.” 

Dr. AJ Grube at work.
Dr. AJ Grube at work.

As new dean of the College of Business at Western Carolina University, Grube plans to prepare students for success and to always be willing to learn new things.

“What I’m excited about in my new role is seeing how I can help facilitate student success from a different perspective,” she said. “That would mean working with faculty, students and administration to help them become lifelong learners.” 

Grube is grateful her mother gave her the determination to achieve a successful and rewarding career. Her mother inspires her every day.

“She never once said to me, ‘Aren’t you tired of going to college, or do you think this could be the last degree you’ll get?’” said Grube. “Instead she said, ‘We’ll support you as long as you want to continue going to college.’” 

“My mother was a first-generation college student. She came from a family where she was not particularly encouraged to pursue a higher education, but she did anyway,” Grube said. 

Dr. AJ Grube on campus.
Dr. AJ Grube on campus.

Her mother also went to Georgia College and majored in education. Although she passed away in 2002, Johnson’s emphasis on the importance of getting an education and a career remains with her daughter. Johnson continues to be a role model for Grube, particularly when it comes to women’s independence.

“She was an amazing educator,” Grube said. “I look back at her and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I am so thankful for her having the determination to say, ‘I’m going to get an education, even though others tell me I shouldn’t pursue one.’”

“I didn’t realize what a marvel my mother was until I got into my own career,” said Grube. “I’m just so thankful for her. So many times I say, ‘I would love to see what she would think about this.’”