New Scholarship Fund Honoring Gurira Family Will Support Students From Africa
Photo: Christina Cutlip ’83 (left) with her uncle and aunt, Rogers and Josephine Gurira
Early in his teaching career at Grinnell, Rogers Gurira was pleasantly surprised by an after-class exchange with a student. After scoring 19 out of 20 on her lab report, Susan Duffey Campbell ’78 asked him what she could do to improve in class.
“I loved teaching chemistry at Grinnell College because the students appreciated being challenged,” Gurira says while laughing at the memory. “I had a lot of pre-med students and ones who went on to graduate school in chemistry. They were very hardworking and just a joy to teach.”
Almost a half century later, Rogers and his wife, Josephine Gurira, received another pleasant surprise, this time from their niece. Grinnell College Board of Trustees member Christina Cutlip ’83 and her husband, Mark Cutlip, made a lead gift to establish The Gurira Family Scholarship Fund.
Natives of Zimbabwe (called Rhodesia until 1980), Rogers was a chemistry professor at the College from 1973 to 1983, while Josephine was evening supervisor at Burling Library. Christina came from Zimbabwe and lived with them while she attended Grinnell.
“If it wasn’t for my aunt and uncle, I wouldn’t have known that Grinnell existed,” Cutlip says. “Part of the idea behind the scholarship was to honor them because I know what attending Grinnell has done for me. It’s a way of saying ‘thank you.’ But I also wanted to make sure that people like me — students coming from Africa — get the opportunity that I had. That was the impetus.”
The scholarship will be awarded to students with financial need, with preference given to international students from Africa.
“There is so much need in Africa,” Cutlip says. “It’s important to get some of those students to experience Grinnell. The education they would get here is different. It is a much more global outlook. My hope is they would eventually go back to Africa. But even if they don’t go back, they will leave here with a global mindset.”
Rogers came to the United States on the African Scholarship Program of American Universities (ASPAU), a program started by President John F. Kennedy.
Josephine received a scholarship to study in the United States from the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church.
“The scholarship that Mark and Christina set up is very touching to us because we can relate,” Rogers says. “We are what we are today because of that type of assistance.”
Cutlip majored in economics at Grinnell but took a variety of courses in biology, chemistry, art, music, and sociology as well. She recently retired as the senior managing director for the institutional financial services division of TIAA.
“There is so much need in Africa. It’s important to get some of those students to experience Grinnell. The education they would get here is different. It is a much more global outlook. My hope is they would eventually go back to Africa. But even if they don’t go back, they will leave here with a global mindset.”
— Christina Cutlip ’83
“As you could imagine, coming from Zimbabwe to Iowa at age 17 and being away from home for the first time was hard, so it was good I had family that surrounded me,” Cutlip says. “It was easy to plug into the community because my aunt and uncle already knew people. People
in Grinnell didn’t know my name for a while. I was known as Josephine and Rogers’ niece. The community relationships helped me get an internship at what is now Wells Fargo bank. That’s what got me interested in finance and working for a financial services company.”
Rogers and Josephine have four children, two of which, Chiwoniso and Danai, were born in Grinnell. Danai is an award-winning playwright and actress. She portrayed Okoye in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and
Michonne in The Walking Dead and was a presenter this year at the Academy Awards. Her brother, Taremedzwa Gurira ’94, would later return to Grinnell for college.
The family returned to Zimbabwe in 1983. Rogers spent the next 25 years teaching chemistry at the University of Zimbabwe. He later spent 10 years teaching as an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, before retiring in 2021. Josephine became head of public services of the University of Zimbabwe and the deputy university librarian. She later worked as an adjunct librarian at Bowie State and UW-Platteville, where she retired in 2020.
“My experience at Grinnell’s library was wonderful,” Josephine says. “I still get letters from former students. I started working in the evenings because we had young children. I would go in when Rogers came home at 5 p.m. and worked at the reference desk until the library closed at 1 a.m. The students would say thank you for being a friendly face at the library.”
Cutlip recalls tagging along to the kids’ ballgames and music performances.
“Rogers and Josephine are very passionate about Grinnell, and the time they spent here left a mark on them and their kids,” Cutlip says. “The College took a chance on them in the 1970s. That demonstrated how ahead of the curve Grinnell was. It didn’t matter that they were from Africa or were of color. This is the place the family loved the most. They felt most at peace when they were at Grinnell.”