In lieu of flowers, Go Blue for Kornblue
Why Michigan? The spirited story behind Ed Kornblue and the memorial fund in his (and his professor’s) honor
I don’t think a day went by that my father, Dr. Ed Kornblue, an extremely proud University of Michigan alum, didn’t wear a Michigan-themed shirt or hat.
He drove maize or navy blue colored cars with a license plate that read Blue-1.
He subscribed to any Michigan academic and athletics magazine that could be mailed to him.
He followed every Michigan game - his favorite being football - but also hockey, basketball, baseball, softball, swimming and tennis.
He had maize and blue pants, Wolverine-like fur hats and jackets, Michigan-themed golf and tennis bags, van tire covers, money clips, coffee mugs, bar accessories and anything else we could get him through the years that Mom would allow in or around the house.
Our Christmas tree was even fully Michigan-themed.
He brought my older brother, Brandon Kornblue, to the Big House for a game before Brandon knew how to write his name.
Then, year after year for a big game weekend, they would stay at the Campus Inn (the hotel where the team stays the night before games) so that Brandon could high-five Michigan players by the buses or in the lobby and ride the elevator up and down with them as they held their pillows and moved from meal room to movie room.
John Kolesar, a wolverine star player in the 80’s with current head coach Jim Harbaugh, under Bo Schembechler, was one of the good ones.
Some of the guys even snuck Brandon and Dad into the locker room or onto the practice field after a game.
I finally got to join in on the fun when I turned 8 years old or so.
Not the locker room part, of course.
We know Dad’s heart pounded proudly when, in 1995, Brandon accepted a walk-on offer to be a placekicker on the University of Michigan football team - even though he had scholarships to smaller schools.
With many talented kickers ahead of him, Brandon would finally have the opportunity to kick a field goal during his senior season, with Tom Brady as his holder.
It was a climactic moment for the Kornblue family.
That same season, Michigan made it to the Orange Bowl and the team traveled to our home turf of South Florida for the Christmas holiday. Brandon asked our folks if he could have a few guys over for a Christmas meal since many of their families weren’t in town yet.
Dad and Mom didn’t skip a beat and soon, eleven talented, fun and truly genuine guys sat around our family table (even Brady was in the house).
You couldn’t have asked for a better Kornblue family Christmas gift.
I was also fortunate enough to attend the University of Michigan – although surprisingly, Dad didn’t force either of us to go there. It was just in our hearts…. which, of course, he had a little something to do with.
Michigan was in Ed Kornblue’s heart so much so that in retirement, he and Mom went back to school each fall.
For nearly a decade, our parents would drive up to Michigan, rent a furnished apartment in Ann Arbor, tailgate every weekend with dear friends (most of them all parents of former players) and sit-in on two to three college courses taught by top notch professors like Gregory Markus and John U. Bacon.
Bacon is arguably one of the most talented writers of our generation with Michigan ties, who has an incredible sense of humor and sense of history.
Bacon remembers the semesters his "senior students," Ed and Andrea Kornblue, sat in on his History of College Athletics class.
“They sat in the first row at Angell Hall, among 150 undergraduates. They always dressed appropriately -- business casual, your dad often wearing a Michigan-themed button down shirt, with maize and blue plaid and/or a block M on the pocket -- showed up early, and took rigorous notes. Once I started calling on them, knowing your dad, especially, would know answers off the top of his head the 20-year-olds wouldn't know yet, he got a little bolder and started asking questions himself or chiming in on answers, or -- my favorites -- side comments. They were always short, appropriate, and clever, funny, or both,” says Bacon.
So, yes... we kids and our spouses and even the grandkids visited my parents in college.
Dad would meet Ann Arbor icons like the late Bud VanDeWege Sr., longtime owner of Moe Sport Shops, for breakfast to talk everything Michigan then meet the rest of us for a Michigan Athletics game of any sort or a walk in Nichols Arboretum.
We also walked the halls of the University of Michigan Medical Center during my Mom's challenging cancer fight.
Fitting that there, we would find some of the world's best doctors who, unlike others, weren't afraid to tackle her case and give her - and us - hope.... and thanks to their surgeries, a few more years together before we would sadly lose her.
Needless to say, on bad days and on good days, our dad was a HUGE Michigan Wolverine fan.
But not just any big fan...or Michigan man.
"As we all know, passion for Michigan runs very deep among the students, athletes, alumni, lettermen, faculty, and even fans. But I can say with complete confidence that no one loved Michigan more than your dad," says Bacon.
And there is a very good reason why.
What made my father so true blue wasn't just because Michigan creates passionate alumni like many other institutions across America.
It was also because the University of Michigan gave him something that no one else could… at a time when he needed it the most.
In the late 1940’s, at the age of 16, Ed Kornblue stepped onto the train in the Bronx, New York.
A few hours later, he stepped off at the Ann Arbor train station on Depot Street, what is now known as The Gandy Dancer restaurant.
Our father studied hard and played hard and found good buddies who not only rebuilt old cars with him, but also built friendships with him that would last a lifetime.
Throughout college, he washed dishes to keep up with the bills.
Some of the dishwashing jobs took place in the kitchen of sorority houses.
Brilliant move, I might add.
And then after a few years, his father suddenly died of a heart attack while at work in a New York City diner. My dad was heartbroken and as the story goes, he went to see the head of the academic counseling office, Professor Arthur Van Duren.
Dad told the good professor that he wouldn’t be able to afford to stay at Michigan without his father’s financial backing.
But that’s when Van Duren and the University stood behind my dad.
They provided a scholarship that allowed our father to stay at Michigan, finish his studies and keep his wolverine dreams alive.
The meeting with Van Duren is a meeting our father kept with him for a lifetime.
It is the conversation that inspired not only Ed Kornblue’s personal contributions to the University of Michigan throughout the years, but also his wishes upon passing to establish a memorial fund and ideally, a scholarship – not necessarily in his own name – perhaps even in Professor Van Duren’s name – to help students who could sure use a little extra help.
“This gift is in honor of Professor Arthur Van Duren, whose empathy and thoughtfulness allowed me the opportunity to continue my studies at Michigan upon the unexpected passing of my father. I wish to repay my gratitude by providing the same opportunity to students who face similar circumstances.” – Dr. Ed Kornblue, 2015
Dad passed away peacefully at home on August 4, 2020 with family love and plenty of Michigan memories surrounding him.
Should friends desire and in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made online by clicking here or sent by mail to the University of Michigan in Dr. Edwin B. Kornblue’s name.
Go Blue for Kornblue.
Even if you’re a Buckeye.
Or a Spartan.
We won’t tell.
Memorial contributions in honor of Dr. Ed Kornblue
may be made payable to: The University of Michigan.
Please indicate on the check that this gift is made
in memory of Dr. Edwin B. Kornblue
The University of Michigan
Attn: Gift and Records Dept
3003 S. State Street Ste. 8000
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1288
Online contributions may be made here
The Kornblue & Hunter families plan to hold a Celebration of Life in
Ed Kornblue's honor when it is safe to gather, hug, toast and...
as Dr. K requested, kindly roast!
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