Campus News

2022 Wall Service Awards


Kathryn Railsback ’80, Kimberly L. King-Jupiter ’87, Mamata Pokharel ’07, and Raji Manjari Pokhrel ’08 were selected for 2022 Joseph F. Wall ’41 Alumni Service Awards. Each year, a committee awards the $40,000 prizes to jump-start or complete projects that show creativity and commitment to effecting positive social change. In the past 26 years, the Wall awards have been presented to 64 individuals who contributed their time and talents to 57 diverse projects throughout the United States and 17 other countries. Grinnell has given out more than $1 million to alumni through the Wall award program. 


Go Forth Grinnellian

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.

Board of Trustees

Four new trustees have been elected to Grinnell College’s Board of Trustees. They are:

Judge Jon R. Gray (Ret.) ’73 was appointed to the 16th Judicial Circuit of Missouri as a Circuit Judge in 1986 and was retained in office by voters for four additional terms. He retired from the bench in 2007 and began his current position as a partner with the international litigation firm of Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP, offering mediation and arbitration services to parties involved in civil disputes.

Graciela Guzmán ’11 is the deputy director/political director for Illinois State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas and political director for Senator Omar Aquino.

Bruce Koff ’75 has taught at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and is co-author of the book Something to Tell You: The Road Families Travel When a Child Is Gay. Koff also initiated the first postgraduate certificate program in the nation on clinical practice with LGBTQI+ individuals and families.

Ham Serunjogi ’16 is the CEO of Chipper Cash, a venture capital–backed financial technology company that he co-founded with fellow Grinnell graduate Maijid Moujaled ’14. Their work is motivated by a desire to make a positive impact on their home continent of Africa by leveraging technology and entrepreneurship.

Philanthropic Support Reaches New Heights

Alumni and donor investment in Grinnell’s future continues to gain momentum a year after the College wrapped up its largest fundraising campaign. Total outright gifts, pledges, matching gifts, and planned gifts from July 1, 2021–June 30, 2022, reached $33,916,810. That total is 89% higher than the previous year and the largest annual total since Grinnell’s last campaign began in 2013. Donors’ generous support enables students from different backgrounds to experience Grinnell’s traditions of academic excellence, activism, and personal transformation.

Grinnell Prize

The 2022 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize of $50,000 was awarded to Jai Bharathi, founder and CEO of MOWO Social Initiatives Foundation. An architect and avid motorcyclist turned social innovator, Bharathi is a force for women’s empowerment in India. Her foundation works to address women’s historical lack of access to transportation, which dramatically limited their access to education, economic well-being, health care, and social networks.


2022 Schwab Grant

Lisa Ranahan Andon ’92 is the 2022 recipient of the Lori Ann Schwab ’95 Alumni Grant. She will use the $2,000 award to help build an outdoor cafeteria for Wone Elementary School in the Federated States of Micronesia. Located about 500 miles north of the equator and 3,100 miles east of Hawaii, Micronesia is made up of four island states. Andon served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Micronesia after graduation and went on to marry a native islander. Wone Elementary enrolls 194 students, many of whose family members rely on subsistence agriculture and fishing in one of the most remote areas of the island.


Liberal Arts in Prison Program

Emily Guenther ’07, director of Grinnell College’s Liberal Arts in Prison Program, has been awarded a $60,000 grant from Bard College and the Open Society University Network. The grant was used to support the hiring of Gabriel Ferguson ’22 to serve as a postbaccalaureate fellow; Ferguson will provide academic support for courses offered at the Newton Correctional Facility and a pilot program at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women.

Major Research Instrumentation Grants from NSF

Faculty members Clark Lindgren, Keisuke Hasegawa, Pascal Lafontant, Vida Praitis, Josh Sandquist, and Mark Levandoski were awarded a $499,553 Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Grant from the National Science Foundation to purchase a laser scanning confocal microscope. The grant came only weeks after faculty in the Department of Chemistry also received an NSF MRI grant to purchase a 400Mhz NMR spectrometer. These grants reflect the significance of their research and their dedication to exemplary science education and mentorship.

Fulbright U.S. Student Grants

Mary DaVega ’21, Sarina Kopf ’22, Sarina Lincoln ’21, and Katelyn Mehlhaus ’22 received Fulbright U.S. Student Grants for research/study and teaching English in 2022–23. Grinnell was named a Top Producing Institution for the Fulbright program by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) in 2021.


Our Truths, Our Humanities

Veritas et Humanitas. “Truth and Humanity.” Our seldom-evoked motto is more likely today to prompt critique and conversation than to remain an unquestioned statement. “Whose truth?” we may well ask; “Whose humanity?” we would want to know. Why are these concepts singular? What changes when they become multiple? How do truths change and co-exist? How are numerous humanities honored and championed?

As the College’s website announces, and our students proclaim with their chants of encouragement during games, “Grinnellians ask hard questions and question easy answers.” We ask that of ourselves as well as of the world, and this issue of The Grinnell Magazine invites your inquiry of truth(s) and (the) humanities. Both principles connect readily to experience, and I invite you to think of your experiences, both at and beyond the College, in the narratives and discoveries that await you in these pages.

The Humanities and Social Studies Center presents a generative framework for humanistic inquiry. The HSSC, already affectionately pronounced “husk” by many students, was dedicated on Oct. 1, as one of the very few architectural projects in higher education in the United States focused on the humanities and humanistic social sciences. The teaching and learning experiences of faculty, staff, and students shaped both the community-based process of design and the architectural project of implementation. The concept of “neighborhoods” that foster interactions and exchanges is the dynamic result.

Legal structures, like architectural ones, can change human experiences — especially when different and differing human experiences (in the plural) are acknowledged. Celebrations and the continuing advocacy of Title IX legislation address the inequitable differences of gendered experience, and these pages hold for you some of the stories that are inspiring conversations and realizations on campus in events commemorating Grinnellians’ engagement with this momentous legislation upon its 50th anniversary.

The 2022 Athletics Reunion honored great moments in women’s sports history at Grinnell to mark this anniversary and inducted a new class of Grinnell College Athletic Hall of Fame honorees. Students and alums connected throughout the events, which is always a joy to behold. This year has also seen the return of many reunion classes, most recently the Golden Reunion classes of 1951, 1954, 1956, 1957, and 1958. Welcome back to all!

Our truths and our humanities thrive through change, and I end my welcome to you with a look towards three bright horizons. This fall, our already outstanding student body joined me in welcoming 437 members of the class of 2026 from 43 states and 37 countries. Twenty-nine percent of the U.S. students enrolling in Grinnell College’s class of 2026 identify as domestic Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, including the largest proportion of Latinx students of any entering class in Grinnell’s history. Consistent with the College’s commitment to social responsibility, the incoming class includes the largest proportion of first-generation students in recent years; 16% are the first in their family to attend college.

The class of 2026 will join with the campus community in our strategic planning process.

Its collective impact approach values everyone’s contribution to knowledge and its multiple truths and humanities. Ten generative sessions this fall will inform further collective deliberation, with eagerly anticipated alumni engagement in the spring of 2023.

I am joined in all of this work, all of this promise, and all of these truths and humanities by the remarkable senior leadership team of the College, and notably Dean Beronda Montgomery, whose transformative leadership has engaged multiple constituents and crucial conversations already, and whose presence on campus in the greater Grinnell community creates connection and discovery at every turn. I wish you both in your readership of her profile and in all of the writings in these pages, as they proclaim multiple truths and vibrant humanities.