In Remembrance: John E. Groman ’67 Died on August 24 2019

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John Edward Groman, 74, of Brays Island Plantation, Sheldon, South Carolina, and formerly of Dover, Massachusetts, died on August 24, 2019, after multiple illnesses. John graduated in 1963 with highest honors from St. Paul’s School, Concord, New Hampshire. He then matriculated at Yale University (Jonathan Edwards College) and graduated cum laude in 1967. Later that year, he began an MBA program at Harvard Business School, from which he graduated in 1969 as a Baker Scholar. John always credited his successful career to the excellent education he received at these academic institutions, and he was a loyal and generous alumnus who often chaired different class events and fund-raisers.

John was born in New Britain, Connecticut, on May 24, 1945, to the late Walter and Mary (Zelek) Groman.  The parents were hardworking people of modest means who instilled in their four children a strong work ethic and the importance of a good education.

When John’s sister Janice moved to New York City as a teenager to study ballet, she lived with a prominent Manhattan family who introduced the Gromans to St. Paul’s School.  John was competitive there both in academics and athletics. He was also rumored to have held the school’s record for highest number of demerits for his antics.  

In 1969 John and three of his Harvard classmates cofounded Fraternal Systems, Inc. which became Epsilon Data Management. Epsilon developed and managed sophisticated database communication systems for fraternities, academic institutions, nonprofits, membership groups, and religious and political organizations, as well as for-profit corporations. It was Epsilon that created the first affinity program for airlines known today as “frequent flyer programs.” His friend and former colleague Steve Cone said, “John was a brilliant strategic thinker and was the creative force behind the personalized direct mail which helped our clients increase both memberships and fund-raising. Today, in large part because of John’s marketing excellence, Epsilon is still the largest direct-response agency in the world.” 

In 1990 American Express acquired Epsilon. John’s role always focused on creative and strategic marketing, and American Express leveraged John’s brilliance and had him consult with Amex clients across America and the world. 

John was a highly sought-after speaker for his cut-to-the-chase intuitive understanding of direct marketing. He instinctively knew how to motivate donors and supporters. In fact, he had a button in his office that said “Mahatma,” which translated means “deep-souled.” Groman always aimed for the soul.

In 1993 he founded Bella Santé, a collection of highly successful luxury day and medical spas in the Boston area.  

John was a man of great complexity. When news of his passing started to spread, his wife of 45 years, Cara (Finnegan) Groman, began hearing from friends and colleagues who had benefited from being in John’s force field: They called him a genius, provocative, inspirational, irascible, ambitious, loyal, driven, loving, generous, opinionated, supportive, brusque, intense, and somewhat frightening. One friend said if John were an animal, he’d be an armadillo: hard outer crust and soft on the inside. John was a study in contrasts.

John had two drives: to make money to improve his family’s life, and then to give money away to improve the lives of others.

In addition to his wife, Cara, John leaves two children, Madeline Groman Richard and her husband Shawn; a son, Andrew, and his wife Hadley (Meenan); three grandchildren: Henry, Amelia, and Charlie; and two brothers, Walter and David. In addition to his parents, John was predeceased by his sister Janice.

Contributions in his memory can go to your alma mater or to Recovery Journeys, Inc. (P.O. Box 384, Sheldon, SC 29941), an organization John and Cara founded to provide rich experiences and support for people suffering from addiction, poverty, and other factors that limit personal growth. 

—Submitted by the family.

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