Gilbert Melville Grosvenor

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Gilbert M. Grosvenor
Gilbert Melville Grosvenor

(1931-05-05) May 5, 1931 (age 88)
Washington, D.C., United States
Alma materYale College, Class of 1954
OccupationChairman Emeritus, National Geographic Society
Donna C. Kerkam (m. 1961)
Mary Helen Wiley Jarman (m. 1979)
Parent(s)Melville Bell Grosvenor, Helen Grosvenor (née Rowland)
RelativesEdwin S. Grosvenor, brother
Gilbert H. Grosvenor, grandfather
AwardsPresidential Medal of Freedom (2005)

Gilbert Melville Grosvenor (born May 5, 1931) he is the former president and chairman of the National Geographic Society after having served as the editor of National Geographic Magazine.[1] In 2011, he retired after 23 years as Chairman of the Society.[2]

Grosvenor has received 14 honorary doctorates and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for his leadership in geography education. "As the world grows smaller and more interdependent daily, our country's future absolutely depends on our ability to see the connections between ourselves and our global neighbors," Grosvenor told an interviewer recently.[3]


Born in Washington, D.C., Grosvenor is the son of Melville Bell Grosvenor and the great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell. He received a B.A. in psychology from Yale University in 1954. Between his junior and senior years, he volunteered in the Netherlands in efforts to recover from the North Sea flood of 1953 and co-authored an article that was published in the National Geographic. "Although I'm not sure I realized it at the time, it changed my life," Grosvenor recently recalled. "I discovered the power of journalism. And that's what we are all about—recording those chronicles of planet Earth."[4] He subsequently joined the staff of the magazine as a picture editor.

In 1970, Grosvenor assumed the position of editor of National Geographic Magazine,[1] he served as editor until 1980, when he became president of the National Geographic Society, additionally becoming chairman of the board of trustees (on which he served from 1966 to 2014) in 1987. He retired as president in 1996 and chairman in 2011, since which time he has served as an honorary director of The Explorers Club.

In 1996, Grosvenor was awarded a Gold Medal by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and the Scottish Geographical Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.[1][5]

Grosvenor was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, by President George W. Bush on June 23, 2004.



  1. ^ a b c Lanken, Dane. "The bee in Grosvenor's bonnet", Canadian Geographic, Vol. 116.6, November–December 1996: pp. 95-96.
  2. ^ Heath, Thomas (October 27, 2010). "Gilbert Grosvenor steps down as National Geographic Society chairman after 23 years". Washington Post.
  3. ^ "Interview of Gilbert M. Grosvenor". The Gilbert M. Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education.
  4. ^ "Why National Geographic Is a Family Affair". February 15, 2015.
  5. ^ Royal Scottish Geographical Society Awards and Medals Archived February 12, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "The Water Crisis". Huffington Post.

External links[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Robert E. Doyle
President of the National Geographic Society
March 1980 – 1996
Succeeded by
J. Reginald Murphy