UAF community mourns Fairbanks woman's death
by Chris Freiberg /
Nov 25, 2009 | 4349 views | 1 1 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FAIRBANKS - The death of a long-time University of Alaska Fairbanks employee, apparently at the hands of her own son who was then shot by an Alaska State Trooper, has deeply saddened the university community and those who knew them.

Kathryn Gruenig, 66, was serving as assistant to the director at the Institute of Northern Engineering at the time of her death. She also had worked in several other departments at the university over the years.

“Kathy was well known by all who worked with her as a kind, caring, and generous person,” said Dan White, the director of the Institute who worked closely with her. “She will be sincerely missed by us all.”

Kathryn Gruenig was known for her careful attention to detail and devotion to students and faculty, White said.

"Since her death, I have received many calls and emails from people around the state expressing their regret and sharing with me their experiences with Kathy,” White said. “For example, I received the following e-mail, ‘Kathy hardly knew me but went out of her way to make me feel welcome. She was a special person, very competent and caring.’

Kathryn Gruenig’s son, 38-year-old Thom Gruenig also worked in a variety of jobs at the university, including as a lab instructor in the journalism department and at the University of Alaska Technology Center.

At the time of his death Tuesday, he was working as a field operations supervisor for the 2010 Census, according to an online resume.

He was born Earryn Depace Wylie, but had his name legally changed to Thom DePace Wylie Gruenig in 1997. Gruenig had been going by that name for about 12 years, but was ordered by a judge to put all his legal documents under one name in 1996 following a conviction for felony theft for burglary.

Gruenig pleaded no contest to stealing $30,000 worth of computer equipment from a UAF building with two other men in 1992. He was sentenced to 18 months probation, which he completed successfully, according to court records. He had no other criminal record.

Brian Fox, who was an occasional guest on Thom Gruenig’s KSUA show “Experiment Alpha” in 2000, said that he was shocked to hear that Thom Gruenig was killed after coming at a trooper with a knife.

He described the onetime radio show host as outgoing and generally calm.

“If he killed his mother, that would be out of there,” Fox said. “That’s not him at all.”

Fox said Thom Gruenig’s radio show was a mix of conservative talk and music from student artists. The two lost touch around 2002, he said.

UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers sent an e-mail to staff Tuesday night reminding them that grief counseling is available if they need it.

“Our condolences and deepest sympathies go out to the Gruenig family and to friends of both Kathy and Thom,” he wrote.

Contact staff writer Chris Freiberg at 459-7545.

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November 25, 2009
Kathy was kind to me at a time that I needed kindness. encourages a lively exchange of ideas regarding topics in the news. Users are solely responsible for the content. Comments are not pre-approved by News-Miner staff. Please keep it clean, respect others and use the 'report abuse' link when necessary. Read our full user's agreement.