Energized by the Student Alumni Council

Mary Knuth Otto ’63

Hearing from the Student Alumni Council (SAC) is always a highlight of both our fall and spring Alumni Council meetings; the students’ ideas, enthusiasm, programs, and organizational abilities are inspiring. SAC became an organization on campus in 2013, emerging from an earlier organization, the Student Alumni Association (SAA), created in 2000. Founding students of the SAA had recognized that they and their peers were losing a sense of identity with their class years and with the history of the College. SAC has built on that mission and expanded its activities.

According to its mission, SAC is “a student-run group that fosters connections between students and alumni, empowers students to be a part of the wider Grinnell community, raises awareness about Grinnell’s history and traditions, and works to develop a culture of service and philanthropy among current students. SAC fosters an atmosphere that guides students through their transition to life after Grinnell, bestowing a sense of pride in the community and a commitment to give back with their time, talent, treasure, and ties.” 

This year’s co-presidents are seniors Emily Zaffiro ’19 and Jonathan Gilmour ’19. The group has 22 members and an adviser, Mitch Wolff, assistant director of student programs in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. 

Gilmour shared with me by email why he participates in SAC: “My passion for meeting and connecting with Grinnellians of all years led me to SAC, and the ability to foster relationships between students and alumni keeps me excited and involved. I want to use the tools with which I’ve been equipped here at Grinnell to help others experience the same life-changing journey that I have been privileged to undergo here in the cornfields.”

SAC’s efforts each year include the following:

  • Helping with the Medallion Ceremony held in Herrick Chapel for all incoming students during New Student Orientation Week. Entering students are given a medallion that replicates the silver dollar donated to the College by James J. Hill in 1846. The script on it informs them that the medallion “symbolizes the possibilities you have as a Grinnellian.”

  • Sponsoring National Philanthropy Week on campus each November, a time to acknowledge and celebrate the generous contributions of alumni, faculty, staff, parents, corporations, and friends of the College to the student body.  

  • Organizing the Arctic Lights event on campus. On a chilly evening in late fall, a large group of students gather on North Campus in front of Gates Hall for a ceremonial lighting of the tower in brilliant blue and to enjoy music by the a cappella group the G-Tones, along with hot drinks and fresh baked goods.

  • Working to facilitate the Class Ambassadors Program in partnership with the Student Government Association. The program is designed to promote connections among classmates and to the College in general.  

  • Supporting the senior class gift co-chairs in organizing their class’s fundraising efforts. Aided by the generosity of the late Stephen Kent ’67, who, when he was a member of the Alumni Council, challenged graduating seniors to donate to the College by matching their efforts, the senior gift has become a well-established tradition. Over the years, the Alumni Council has continued Kent’s practice and matches all senior class gifts dollar for dollar.  

I look forward to the possibility of welcoming members of the Student Alumni Council into membership on the “senior” Alumni Council. They all will have a lot to offer. 

The Grinnell College Alumni Council supports purposeful, lifelong relationships among Grinnell alumni and between the alumni and College communities.

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