The frequent call to action, “Go Forth Grinnellian,” carries deep connotations of how a Grinnell College education leads to a life of meaning and purpose. It encapsulates the distinct nature of the Grinnell education in and outside the classroom. Our commitment to fierce inquiry, a global perspective, a tradition of social responsibility, and connection and community shapes our actions and forges our graduates into people who make a difference.
In this issue, you’ll read our tributes to two true Grinnellians, George Drake ’56 and Edith Renfrow Smith ’37, DHL’19. In their “going forth,” both of their lives demonstrate the impact that their education had on them and — in turn — their impact on their students, peers, families, communities, and broader institutions. Both have been agents of civic trust, through their examples and their leadership.
George Drake’s passing on Oct. 15, 2022, has been felt deeply by the global Grinnell community. Professor Drake served Grinnell College in every way possible, as a student, an athlete, a faculty member, a president, an ambassador, a trustee, and in his daily example of what it means to be Grinnellian. As someone who personally benefited from his knowledge and wisdom, I know how valuable and special he was to people here in Grinnell and around the world. Fittingly, the tribute to Professor Drake in this issue of Grinnell Magazine was authored by his daughter, Melanie Drake ’92.
In December, we announced that the core residential building of the Civic Engagement Quad will be named for Edith Renfrow Smith. In the summer of 2022, a group of faculty, students, and alumni approached me about the possibility of this historic naming. Grinnell’s oldest living and first Black alumna, Mrs. Renfrow Smith has reached the age of 108 and looks back on a life that — as I learned — makes her the absolute right choice for this honor. A Grinnell native, she grew up in town, “recruited herself” to the College, completed her degree while working as a secretary at the College, and went on to an illustrious career of teaching and mentoring in Chicago. Her love of Grinnell and the College acknowledges imperfections and is backed by a fierce determination to do better. I urge you to learn more about her and view the video about her life and legacy.
Today, “Grinnellians Go Forth” into our community, partnering with more than 20 community organizations to serve students in the Grinnell-Newburg school district, initiating community-based projects related to the humanities. Grinnell College students ignite an interest in college by bringing students from preschool through sixth grade to campus for hands-on learning. These are just some of the ways that Grinnellians help Grinnellians — at the College and in our community. This fall, the College awarded $21,274 through the Grinnell College Community Mini-Grant Program to four community-based initiatives. In December, the Pioneer Bookshop donated 10% of sales to support middle- and high-school libraries in the Grinnell-Newburg Community School District. And Build a Better Grinnell received a $200,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge Grant, which is funding its current assessment of community needs.
I continue to be inspired by Grinnell faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends in all the partnerships they create and nurture and all that they make possible in our world. Thank you, each of you, for going forth.