Charles T. Grawn was the son of Swedish parents, Andrew and Christina Grawn. Andrew was a shoemaker. The Grawns left Sweden in 1853 with their children to sail to the United States. One of their children died en route. Charles was born in Salem (Washtenaw County, Michigan) on October 4, 1856. At home, Charles learned first to speak and read in Swedish, and, later, in English.
He worked on the family farm and in logging camps of Sparta, Michigan. In one camp Charles met a Mr. Laird, a former student of the state normal school at Ypsilanti, now Easter Michigan University (EMU). Mr. Laird inspired Charles to pursue a career in education.
At age eighteen, Charles taught at a rural school in Kent County, Michigan. In 1876, he entered EMU, graduating from the Classical course in 1880. Grawn was highly rated by his classmates. One supposedly said, “He may kill himself, but he will not fail.”
Charles Grawn served as superintendent of public schools in Plymouth, Michigan, before accepting a similar position in Traverse City, Michigan, where he remained for 15 years.
On November 24, 1881, Grawn married Helen Blackwood of Northville, Michigan, whom he had met while they were both students in Ypsilanti. Their first child was born in 1883.
In 1899, Grawn left Traverse City to become the superintendent of the training school at the state normal college at Mount Pleasant, now Central Michigan University (CMU). A year later, when Charles McKenny resigned to take a larger position in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Grawn was appointed to the position of principal by the State Board of Education. Realizing that many of the younger professors at CMU were more educated than himself in pedagogy, Grawn earned his M.A. from Columbia University in 1904.
When Grawn arrived at Central, the original administration building was just being enlarged. During Grawn’s presidency, the Training School was built in 1903 for $50,000; a heating and lighting plant was built in 1905 for $35,000; an equipped gymnasium as added in 1908 for $62,000; and a science building in 1915 for $115,000. The campus increased to twenty-five acres, in which President Grawn supervised the planting of numerous trees. Initially, President Grawn got along well with the legislative committees responsible for increasing funding for CMU due to his zeal for economy.
Professor Rolland Maybee remembered President Grawn as a kind, scholarly man, who loved to tell Swedish folk tales to children.
When enrollment number fell from the early 1900s through 1917, due to the national economy and World War I, President Grawn was resented by important men in both Lansing and Mount Pleasant. He decided to retire effective April 1, 1918. His replacement was the popular superintendent of schools at Saginaw, E.C. Warriner.
Grawn then moved to Detroit and spent summers at his summer home in Leland, Michigan. He went into the building business in Detroit, erecting both large apartment buildings and small homes.
Grawn died on November 12, 1942 in Florida. He was survived by his wife, a daughter, Mrs. James T. (Hildegard) Milliken of Traverse City, and a son, Carl B. Grawn, a lawyer in Detroit. (This information is from the collection.)