Cover Story: Local Resident Leaves a Legacy of Compassion With Establishment of Endowment Fund


by Grace DeGregorio

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Brian Hurst (Director of Fund Development for the UC College of Allied Professions at the time the endowment was established), Ruth Ann Van Loon, PhD (Chair, UC School of Social Work), Jim Gruber and Aaron Stapleton (owner Queen City Homecare)

We all know about the Baby Boomers born after WWII. Those within that generation are now older adults, with subsequent generations to follow, all living longer and requiring, at some point, longer term care. The traditional nursing care model - crafted as “one size fits all” for groups - is rapidly changing to an array of models fitting the individual needs of the expanding numbers of older adults.
Today a person may enter a retirement community, assisted living, skilled care or any number of care options geared toward specific needs and predicated by a professional assessment. With so many changes in the levels of care and the focus on creating individual care plans appropriate to each person, it’s critical that a commensurate change be made to ensure care providers are keeping pace with their training and credentialing.

Hyde Park resident James Gruber, MSW, LISW, is doing his part to advance the standards of geriatric care. A lifelong social worker with expertise in the care of older adults, Jim has been instrumental in establishing The James Gruber Endowed Fund for Aging Education at the University of Cincinnati College of Allied Health Sciences. The goals of the endowment are to establish a Chair of Gerontology at UC, define a degree program at UC within the College of Allied Health Sciences and to implement an annual symposium offering continuing education courses and quality educational opportunities for social workers and allied health, nursing and medical professionals.

"I met several times in the course of a year with Brian Hurst, [then] Director of Fund Development for the College of Allied Health Sciences and Pharmacy; and Ruth Anne Van Loon, PhD, Director, School of Social Work, discussing planning for the establishment of the endowment," explains Jim. "As people are aging, the need for a specialty in geriatric social work is becoming more imperative."
When Jim studied as an undergrad in social work, he says he “had no intention of doing geriatrics - I thought it would be psychiatric social work.” His first job at Jewish Hospital was as a medical social worker assigned to two floors, “each pretty much devoted to caring for elders. I was a social worker and diabetic educator.”

At the time a small adjacent nursing home was bought by the hospital. “It was covered by social worker Edna Dornberg, whom I really respected. She suggested I take over ‘2200' in addition to keeping a floor in the hospital. There were about 18 residents, most in double rooms, significantly impaired by dementia. I visited every day and fell in love with those people. It was a joy. I found ways to begin to communicate with people with dementia. I felt this was my forté and wanted to study more and see how to improve the quality of their lives.”

Jim furthered his education at the University of Texas in Arlington, the only school at the time offering a track in gerontology. “I was given a full scholarship and stipend for an internship at the Dallas Home for Jewish Aged and the Geriatric Research Institute.”

Jim later returned to Cincinnati to work in the aging department of Jewish Family Service. “I coordinated the first symposium on aging, which drew a couple of hundred people from across the country. One of the speakers, Dr. Jim Hartford, asked me to join him at UC. I wanted to get more experience with the mental health issues of older adults.” Later, Jim was invited to work with Dr. Jim Hawkins, further expanding his experience in the field.


Brian Gruber, Jim’s nephew, who made an early contribution to the James Gruber Endowed Fund for Aging Education

“In 1993, I decided to go to a different environment” and worked for several years in Corpus Christi, TX, primarily with a Hispanic population, “some of the sweetest, kindest people I’ve ever known in my life!” In 2000 he once again returned to Cincinnati (“My parents were aging.”) and began work at Cedar Village, where he eventually became the Director of Residential Life and Enrichment.

The next step in Jim’s rewarding career was as a consultant to a private case manager. “I was asked to coordinate care conferences and Aaron Stapleton, owner of Queen City Homecare, attended. Aaron invited me to work with him to provide education for his staff.” Jim accepted the position, which he currently holds. “I love teaching, and it also gives me an opportunity to do other things such as creating comprehensive care plans for caregivers.”

Queen City Homecare provides personal care assistance, in-home safety assurance, meal preparation, housekeeping, transportation and companionship - among other services. Jim says he is impressed by Aaron’s dedication to hiring credentialed staff (State Tested and Certified Nursing Assistants and Licensed Practical Nurses) and upgrading their knowledge.

Sharon McRae, Field Supervisor of the Queen City Homecare STNAs who has worked in the field for 30 years, says, “I’m happy to be working with Jim, visiting clients in homes, doing bio-social histories and in-services. We make sure the staff knows as much as possible about the clients and that they are prepared. I’ve never been to an agency doing what’s done at Queen City Homecare - I’m excited about what’s being implemented. We want better for our clients, and Jim’s training for our caregivers helps them know what to do and how to involve family and significant others.”

Throughout his career, Jim has tried to improve the quality of care and professionalism of the caregivers. That his vision is being fulfilled to establish an academic endowment to educate future professionals working with an aged population is beyond gratifying.

“I want to prepare young people for the field in the expanding issues of aging. Currently I see caregivers are not trained properly - they may get a short-term course, but aren’t required to show they have training. Aaron at Queen City Homecare is one of the few requiring training and teaching caregivers how to do and update care plans.

“I was impressed by the interest I saw and the encouragement I received by the UC administration when we were discussing the possibility of the endowment fund.”

Coordination of disciplines in the area of geriatric care is something Dr. Van Loon feels is an advantage at a large institution such as UC. “More and more we are trying to position what we do in collaboration with other disciplines and common clinical training, so we can learn to work in a team and view a person as a whole. Work force development is very important in providing education for a career path.”

The fact that the field of geriatric care is one offering increasing job opportunities and can be paired easily with allied healthcare disciplines hopefully will increase its appeal to students. “I’ve been trying to develop an internship program at Queen City Homecare to introduce students to working with an older generation,” says Aaron Stapleton. “We currently work with the School of Social Work and want to grow that relationship and be part of that educational process any way we can, to entice individuals to want to care for older adults.”
Aaron has wholeheartedly supported the establishment of the endowment, committing to “send in quarterly donations to the fund, personally donating and reaching out to people to donate.”

“Over the course of the next months I will be ‘fund‑raising’!” says Jim who, Dr. Van Loon observes, “is very modest - he had to be talked into having his name attached to the endowment, but we felt it was important for the social work community to have an example.”

“Once fully funded [at $2 million], there will be a permanent fund for aging education,” explains Brian Hurst. “The great thing about philanthropy, as with Jim, is the person has passion.”

One person who echoes these sentiments is Jim’s nephew Brian Gruber, who was one of the first to step up and make an early contribution to the endowment fund. He was so enthusiastic to support his uncle in this endeavor, even offering additional fund‑raising support.

Recently, as the recipient of two awards, Jim’s contributions were deservedly recognized. The University of Cincinnati Foundation bestowed upon him membership in the Herman Schneider Legacy Society, which “honors a man of bold vision - Herman Schneider, Ph.D., a dean and president of the University of Cincinnati at the turn of the [last] century. As the originator of cooperative education, Dr. Schneider created a legacy that continues to enhance the UC experience today.”

The University of Cincinnati also celebrated Jim “in grateful appreciation for [his] generosity in establishing the James Gruber Fund for Aging Education. University of Cincinnati School of Social Work 2017.”
“Jim has been working with older adults for years and knows the needs,” observes Aaron.

To make a tax-deductible donation to The James Gruber Endowed Fund for Aging Education, please send a check - made payable to the UC Foundation, with the James Gruber Endowed Fund for Aging Education written in the memo line. - to The University of Cincinnati Foundation. P.O. Box 19970, Cincinnati, OH 45219; OR you may go to https://giveto.uc.edu/give and type in the James Gruber Endowed Fund for Aging Education in the “other” box.

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