Two-time Michigan State University alumnus Frank J. Gruber IV received the Richard Kaywood Memorial Award from the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association (ADTSEA) and AAA earlier this year. The award celebrates individuals who have made outstanding contributions to driver and traffic safety education. Gruber is the 32nd recipient of the national and prestigious award.
The honor—and his career—can be traced back to his father, Frank Gruber III, who was a driver education teacher and a high school industrial arts teacher. It was a career path Gruber would more or less follow throughout his life.
After earning an undergraduate degree, Gruber came to MSU to study in the College of Education and to immerse himself in research on driver and traffic safety. His 1972 dissertation—”A Determination of Fundamental Concepts to be Used in a Parental Involvement Program in Driver Education and their Relationship at the Secondary Level”—was a nationally validated listing of concepts that should be included in parental involvement programs. His research holds relevance today as parental involvement (which includes things such as parental supervision of teen driving) is a key component of many driver education courses.
“Had MSU not been there, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” said Gruber, M.A. ’69 and Ph.D. ’72 (Secondary Education).
After graduation, Gruber went on to have an impactful and wide-ranging career in driver and traffic safety education.
He has held a variety of roles, including high school and adult driver education teacher, educational consultant for the Illinois Department of Education and researcher and project director for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) grants.
In 1978, Gruber accepted a position at Northern Illinois University (NIU), teaching and conducting research in traffic safety. During his tenure, he served as professor and chairperson for the Department of Technology in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. Among his achievements, he coordinated NIU’s Traffic Safety Education Endorsement Program for Illinois high school driver education teachers. This program has prepared many educators to teach thousands to become safe and vigilant drivers.
Another way he built on his MSU degrees was by serving as a dean of International Studies and Programs at NIU, where he administered 25-30 overseas, faculty-led academic programs. In addition, he designed and led one program at the master’s degree level in Industrial Safety Management for fire service personnel in Caracas, Venezuela.
Gruber has served on the national Board of Directors for ADTSEA and as the president of the Illinois High School & College Driver Education Association.
Though he retired from NIU in 2002, Gruber has maintained his commitment to driver education and safety by serving as the director of the Traffic Safety Institute at NIU, and by consulting in traffic, school, community and occupational safety, as well as serving as an expert witness in accidents cases in these areas. He participated in the development of the 2017 model training curriculum for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Teaching Task Instructor Preparation Program, which was designed to train future instructors for driver education across the U.S.
Gruber was presented with the Richard Kaywood Memorial Award in July 2017 at the annual ADTSEA conference in Sacramento, Calif.