William Groh mans the front desk at UMB Police and Public Safety’s Pine Street Annex.

Police and Public Safety celebrates the remarkable service milestone of its beloved security officer whose tenure at the University began in 1964 and includes 30-plus years as a police officer.

Photo: William Groh works at UMB Police and Public Safety’s Pine Street Annex.

When William Groh got a job as a University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) security officer in 1964, he was told it might be on a temporary basis. But one month turned into two months, two months turned into six months, and six months turned into … 60 years.

During that time, Groh has seen UMB’s security personnel grow from 15 officers who patrolled the parking lots into UMB Police and Public Safety, a professionally run department of about 190 employees. He has watched building upon building constructed as the University expanded. And he has helped countless colleagues along the way by training them, bringing them snacks, or cheering them up on a trying day.

“I love the University, and to watch the department grow to what it is today, it’s wonderful,” said Groh, who will turn 79 in July. “Since I lost my wife [Bonnie] 10 years ago, UMB has really become home for me. Going back to my house, it just isn’t the same. But being here with the people that I know and trust, I’m happy.”

On June 6, two days before the 60th anniversary of his first day at UMB, Groh was recognized for his service by his Police and Public Safety colleagues. More than 30 people attended the celebration in the Pine Street Annex’s Roll Call Room, which was decorated with balloons, streamers, and a “Cheers to 60 Years” banner.

(See a video about the celebration below or on YouTube.)

Thomas Leone, MSL, assistant vice president for public safety and chief of police; Vanessa Harrington, MS, SHRM-CP, executive director of security and compliance; and three assistant chiefs — Chad Ellis, MSL; Tonya Bell, MS; and William Folden — took turns talking about Groh before other employees praised their long-serving colleague.

Harrington began with a PowerPoint presentation highlighting facts from 1964: a gallon of gas cost 25 cents, the average cost of a home was $20,000, “Gilligan’s Island” debuted on TV — “I was in love with Mary Ann,” Groh said with a smile — and the Ford Mustang was introduced at the price of $2,300. Harrington then cued up a video from Dawn M. Rhodes, DBA, chief business and finance officer and senior vice president, who was unable to attend in person.

“I want you to know that I’m thankful that you represent Administration and Finance and the public safety department in the manner in which you do,” Rhodes said of Groh. “You are an example of what we want our UMB employees to be in terms of your dedication, your service, and your commitment to customer service.”

‘He Is Just a Great Person’

Leone thanked Groh for being a valuable part of the Police and Public Safety team and for welcoming him “with open arms” when he arrived at UMB nine years ago.

“I would always see Mr. Groh helping out the younger security officers. He would give people rides home. He would bring them to work. He would bring them snacks,” Leone said. “He just tries to make everything a little better for everybody. And when we talk about service excellence and customer service, Mr. Groh embodies that every day with what he does in our community.”

Ellis and Bell echoed Leone’s sentiments.

“Something that I’ve learned from you day to day in our interactions — when you often make me smile when I don’t feel like it, or when you uplift me when I need it — is your sense of duty and the pridefulness and how you present yourself every single day,” Ellis told Groh. “For that, I am grateful, and we are all grateful.”

Said Bell: “He was my first field trainer, and he was always so professional. He is just a great person, very friendly, and willing to put in time for anybody who needs any kind of help. I’ve learned a lot from him. He has absolutely been a model for how you act as a man, as a police officer, and as a security officer.”

Groh, who was born and raised in Baltimore, received a certificate of appreciation from UMB, and Folden presented him with a copy of a Maryland Senate resolution recognizing his 60 years of service to the state that was signed by Senate President Bill Ferguson, JD ’10.

“It’s not very often that you see somebody who has literally a lifetime of service to one community,” Folden said. “And that speaks volumes about Mr. Groh, about who he is, and about the life he’s lived. It’s really, really impressive.”

Pride and Purpose

Groh said he’s a history buff in general and of UMB police in particular. He wrote about the police department’s history for UMB’s CATALYST magazine in 2021, detailing its growth, the major changes it has seen, and the chiefs who have led the department.

He said he’s proud of UMB’s record of having low crime compared to the rest of Baltimore, attributing it to the dedication of his Police and Public Safety colleagues.

“Crime in the city has always been up and down, up and down, up and down,” he said. “But if you look at a map of the city that shows the crime statistics, you’ll see yellow, orange, red, and then there is a little green spot — that’s UMB, because we keep the crime down.”

Groh spent more than 30 years as a police officer before moving back into a security officer role. He currently mans the front desk at the Pine Street Annex after spending many years as a security officer at Pharmacy Hall. He said he has no plans to retire.

“Just being here gives me a purpose,” Groh said. “When I get up in the morning, I put my feet on the floor, thank God that I’m alive, and then come to work. It was difficult after my wife passed away, but this place kept me going. The people here kept me going.

“I always wanted to serve and protect. That was a life ambition,” he added. “When I was a child, I wanted to be a police officer, and UMB gave me that opportunity. I can’t just close that door and say, ‘Hey, enough is enough.’ I still think I owe the University some more.”

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