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July 1999

Bill and Carol Greiner:
UB’s Perfect Pair

by Maria SCRIVANI

She says she’s proud of all he’s accomplished. He says he couldn’t do any of it without her. If there’s any concern over the future of the University at Buffalo in the new millenium, a few moments spent with that institution’s first couple, Bill and Carol Greiner, will dispel it. UB is clearly in good hands.

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Bill Greiner—1943—4th grade at St. Joseph’s School.


Eight years ago William R. Greiner was appointed to the UB presidency by the Chancellor and Board of Trustees of the State University, following an extensive nationwide search. It was the culmination of a distinguished career that branched into Buffalo in 1967—when the former UB Law School Dean Jacob Hyman recruited him for his faculty. Prior to that Bill was a faculty member in the School of Business at the University of Washington in Seattle. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Wesleyan University and subsequently earned three degrees—a masters in economics, a masters in law and a doctorate in law—from Yale University.

His areas of scholarly specialty include taxation and government finance, real property, real estate transactions, municipal law and municipal finance. He is the co-author (with Harold J. Berman, Harvard University and Samir N. Salima, Emory and Henry College) of “The Nature and Functions of Law.”

This impressive resume is gently mocked by its subject in his trademark self-deprecating way. “I envisioned a life as a lawyer,” says Bill Greiner.
“I became an entertainer.”

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Carol and Bill, 1956—Bill’s college graduation.


Sharing his life’s stage is his wife, the former Carol Ann Morrissey. The two met as youngsters in their hometown of Meriden, Connecticut, where Carol was, from early on, the real entertainer. From age five throughout her high school years she danced as one half of a duet that also featured a dear friend who grew up to be the famed children’s book
illustrator and author Tomie DePaolo. The couple performed throughout Connecticut and even did the industrial show circuit in New York City. They won several competitions.

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Bill and Carol—Carol’s Senior Prom in 1954.

Bill and Carol’s wedding, 1957.

“Tomie and Bill were high school classmates,” Carol recalls. Tomie went on to Pratt Art Institute following high school. He began by illustrating others’ books and soon went on to his own award-winning works. Carol is still in touch with her old dance partner.

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Bill Greiner’s Senior Class photo from Meriden High School.


For her part she wanted to continue on in the dance world—but her mother steered her toward college instead. Carol channeled her considerable energy into a dual major in physical education and physical therapy at the University of Connecticut, nurturing her love of performance through participation in modern dance class and theatrical productions.

After college she entered the stewardess training program of American Airlines, flying for the first time in her life to attend the classes in Chicago. Considering the vivaciousness and gentility that mark her personality to this day, it’s no surprise she was chosen outstanding graduate.

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Carol—a stewardess with American Airlines.


As a stewardess in a time when flying was still a gracious adventure, Carol had many interesting experiences, including serving on the special flights that transported refugees from the Hungarian uprising to new homes in America. On West Coast runs she frequently met celebrities. One time a bored Gene Kelly volunteered to help her serve lucky passengers their breakfasts.

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Tomie DePaolo and Carol, 1949.

Tomie DePaolo and Carol at Tomie’s 60th birthday party.


Though Carol loved her work, she was also in love with Bill Greiner, and when he proposed she bowed to then-company policy forbidding married stewardesses and left the airline. One of American’s top executives rewarded her sterling service with a wedding gift of a 90-day pass to anywhere the airline served. The newlyweds went all over the country on their high-flying honeymoon, stopping in hotels affiliated with the airline. At this time Bill was the novice air traveler.
Reality soon set in as Bill returned to Law School and Carol took on new employment with Connecticut Blue Cross and Blue Shield. They lived in a student housing project—World War II Quonset huts which had housed veterans returning to school at the war’s end. The Greiners had the first of the four children they would have in five years. Money was scarce but never ideas, so Bill and a friend acquired a concession selling milk, sandwiches and snacks in the law school dormitory, Carol serving as chief sandwich maker. Appropriate to the law school location, they called the venture “Equity Chow.” Both Bill and Carol have especially fond memories of this time, of the simple accommodations and the warm friendships they shared with other young couples also working their way through graduate and professional school.

Asked if she ever misses those carefree days, Carol Greiner is quick to respond, “I have had many more exciting and better adventures since.” She and Bill moved to Seattle when he was offered an appointment to the faculty at the University of Washington.

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The Greiner’s: (left to right) Susan, Dan, Carol, Kevin, Bill and Terry in 1972.


Carol, a gardener at heart, wanted to landscape their Seattle property. Bill, who had no interest in yardwork, was persuaded to tend the little ones and make supper on Sundays so Carol could spend the afternoon outdoors. “At first the dinners were not great,” Carol says diplomatically. “But he got better.” Soon Bill found he enjoyed cooking and a lifelong hobby was kick-started. Today he cooks for the big holidays and other family events.

The couple’s showcase Amherst home, owned by the University at Buffalo Foundation, is managed by Carol, whose official title is SUNY Associate to the President. “She is the best advancement and development officer the university has,” says Bill, who credits his wife with, among many other things, a considerable talent for “working a room.” While the two often attend events together she represents him on occasions when he cannot be there in person.

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President William R. Greiner received the Medal Merentibus, the highest distinction given to persons of special merit from Poland’s Jagiellonian University.


With the able assistance of university-employed staff, they entertain between 3,500 and 5,000 people in their home annually. In one recent year, Carol’s personal calendar showed 210 days with at least one UB-related event to attend. “She saves the university at least two staff people,” is the way Bill puts it.

“An enormous amount of what we do is ceremonial—and that means evenings,” he adds. “We attend athletic events. A couple of times a year we eat with the students in the dorms. Through all this, Carol is my partner. The truth is I’d be much more reluctant to do a lot of things I do if she didn’t come with me...It sounds trite, but it’s like that line from the movie ‘Jerry Maguire.’ She completes me.”

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Carol with their granddaughter, Kelsey Greiner, 1995.

Pa and grandson, Connor Keenan, 1994.

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Bill and Carol at the Winter Olympics—Nagano, Japan, 1998.


University activities dominate their lives but the Greiners are also firmly committed to the ideal of public service in the larger realm. From early on in their marriage, Carol has been involved with a number of community projects. She was a longtime member of the Kiwi Club, the association of former American Airlines stewardesses, helping to organize a national alliance of stewardess clubs. While in Seattle, she organized a campaign to raise funds for the establishment of the first kidney dialysis center in that city. She was a PTA member for nearly 20 years, served as Cub and Girl Scout leader and helped organize the first Teen Center in Amherst. She has since served on numerous boards, including the American Association of Universities Partners Board and a term as chair of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges Council of President’s and Chancellor’s Spouses. Locally she serves on the boards of Bethel Head Start, Language Development Program and the Amherst Youth Foundation as well as many honorary board appointments.

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The Greiner Family, 1997.
Standing: Kevin Greiner, Carol Morrissey Greiner, Bill Greiner, Chris Keenan and Terry Greiner holding William Augustus Greiner.
Seated: Daniel Greiner holding Liam Greiner (twin) and Kelsey Greiner, Kathy Bursk Greiner (spouse of Daniel Greiner) holding Lydia Greiner (twin), Shahin Vasigh (spouse of Kevin Greiner) holding Kian Greiner, Sue Greiner Keenan (spouse of Christopher Keenan) with Connor Keenan (standing) and holding Quinn Keenan, Jennifer Verrico Greiner (spouse of Terry Greiner) with Benjamin Paolini and Carolyn Greiner.


Bill’s long list of past and present memberships include Studio Arena Theatre, Buffalo Philharmonic, Greater Buffalo Partnership, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise Council, the United Way and Success by Six. He has been consulted for his expertise on municipal government issues by the Mayor and Common Council of Buffalo, the Erie County Executive and the Town of Amherst Board of Supervisors. He’s also a key player in the local healthcare system, representing the community as a board member of Kaleida Health and as president of UB, which trains many of the areas health care providers.

Making a positive impact on the local community as well as raising the level of discourse on public issues such as the Peace Bridge project is what UB should be doing, according to the gospel of Bill Greiner. “We definitely have a role in public service—that’s what public universities do outside of their scholarship and their teaching...I have worked very hard at trying to bridge the gap between the university and the community,” he says; including trying to heal old wounds that continue to fester in some quarters about whether or not UB should have built an Amherst site. As Bill sees it, “We left the corner of Main and Bailey for two-thirds of what we do—but we’re still very active in the city; we haven’t left. We’ve got a foot in both the county and the city.”

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Bill at a University at Buffalo football game.

Bill golfing.


The latter statement gives a good indication of Bill Greiner’s views on regional government, and its efficacy as we approach the 21st century. UB is poised to move forward with alacrity, and he credits the university’s “outstanding leadership team—from vice presidents to deans and the senior faculty” with propelling the institution ahead. “We have managed to get through an extremely difficult eight years—fiscally, for the State of New York—and we’ve managed to maintain a high-quality institution and to keep growing.”

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Bill with Harley, First Dog.

Schmata and Asal.


Given their very public profiles, it’s a struggle for the Greiners to find private time but they try to take at least one day or evening a week “off”—that is, not scheduling any functions. In summer they spend time at their home on the Canadian shore, where they both find “sanity.” They entertain their brood, which now includes 10 grandchildren. Two more are on the way. They play golf. And this August, they will celebrate their 42nd wedding anniversary; four decades of what can only be described as a perfect pairing.

Maria Scrivani is a freelance writer.

 

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