Grove City College is mourning the passing of Trustee Chair Emeritus David R. Rathburn ’79, a man who left an indelible mark on the College as a student, alumnus, benefactor, and leader.
Rathburn, of Keswick, Va., died Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, after a long battle with cancer. He was 66.
During 28 years of service on the Board of Trustees, Rathburn led Grove City College through an era of unprecedented growth and change and generously supported the College’s vision, mission, and values. When he stepped down in 2020, the Board granted him Chair Emeritus status.
College leaders eulogized Rathburn as a leader of vision and capability who had an enormous impact on his alma mater.
“The transformative impact of David’s leadership cannot be overstated. He skillfully guided the Board of Trustees into a new era of effective governance by introducing strategic planning, prioritizing endowment growth, and encouraging more extensive board deliberations on key issues,” said Edward D. Breen ’78, Trustee Chair. “David boldly embraced opportunities for improvement while maintaining an unwavering commitment to Grove City College’s cherished values. His wise counsel will be greatly missed.”
“David’s exceptional intelligence, boundless energy, amazing generosity, consistent respect and heart-felt compassion for others, and unshakable faith in God’s grace are attributes rarely found in one leader,” College President Paul J. McNulty ’80 said. “He will long be honored by the College community alongside the names of Ketler, Pew, MacKenzie, and the other greatest leaders of Grove City College. I will always appreciate his kind friendship and support.”
The College will hold a memorial service for Rathburn on Sept. 12 in Harbison Chapel on campus.
Rathburn was elected to the Board in 1992 and was named its Chair in 2003, becoming the youngest person in College history to serve in that role. At that time, he was already serving as interim president of the College after the retirement of seventh President Dr. John H. Moore. Rathburn led the Board for 17 years.
During his 28 years as a Trustee, Grove City College extricated itself from the federal student loan program, became one of the premier Christian colleges in the U.S, raised half a dozen new buildings – including Rathburn Hall, the Christian activities building – and established a robust network of spiritual and financial support.
After graduating with degrees in accounting, business administration, and political science in 1979, Rathburn went to work for Price Waterhouse before joining Hopeman Brothers Marine Division of AWH Corp as assistant to the president. In 1991, at the age of 33, Rathburn was named president of the company and led it for 22 years before forming marine interior outfitter US Joiner LLC. After selling US Joiner in 2011, he served as vice chairman of Trident Marine Systems.
As a student, he was a leader in the Student Government Association, played varsity soccer, was sports director and a broadcaster on campus’ WSAJ radio station, sang in the choir, was inducted into ODK leadership honorary, and belonged to the Nu Lambda Phi fraternity.
The College honored Rathburn with its highest awards. He received the institution’s Jack Kennedy Memorial Alumni Achievement Award in 2001, and in 2020 he was named the winner of the prestigious Distinguished Service Award.
Rathburn was active in industry and community service organizations, including serving on the boards of Allied Industries Committee for the Shipbuilders’ Council of America, Junior Achievement, United Way, and the Virginia Institute of Autism. He was an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church USA.
He is survived by two sons, Mark ’08 and Tyler ’18. For complete obituary information, visit legacy.com.
Memorial gifts can be made to the David R. Rathburn '79 Memorial Scholarship Endowment at Grove City College. Visit gcc.edu/impact150 for more information.