Alumni Council News

Beyond money: Added connections to Grinnell
Ed Senn

“Scramble the brain, Senn. Scramble the brain!”

Forty years later, this advice from Professor of Biology Irving Y. Fishman sticks with me still. I was struggling to “pith” the brain of a rather unwilling frog with my lab partner, John Malkinson ’79. It was part of an experiment in Vertebrate Physiology meant to test muscle reaction and memory. The frog’s, not mine. Fishman continued, “Son, you’ll never get to step two if you can’t do step one.”

Fishman was a wise and memorable character — a chain-smoking, no-nonsense, coffee-mug-always-in-hand gentleman who proved a reliably daunting foe in the annual horseshoe competition pitting bio majors against bio faculty. He taught us about both physiology and human behavior.

In the intervening years, I’ve somehow moved beyond the medulla oblongata of the Rana Catesbeiana to become the president of Grinnell’s Alumni Council. The job, which is terrific fun despite being a great deal of work, makes me an ex-officio member of the College Board of Trustees. And it includes voting privileges. In October I joined with the other trustees in their unanimous vote to retain our need-blind admission policy and meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for domestic students.

In a sense, Professor Fishman still stood over my shoulder as I voted. Our decision was “step one.” It is necessary for “step two” — ensuring that Grinnell continues to be a strong (and even stronger) institution for the next 50 years. While the trustees have been clear about the necessity of this goal, they’ve been equally explicit in emphasizing the importance of balancing the contributions of endowment support, net student revenue, and alumni giving.

The board is committed to providing Grinnell with the financial stability required to continue as a great institution. But that mission requires the involvement of Grinnell’s alumni community, which needs to take the next steps by engaging with and supporting the College.

Charged with fostering stronger connections between Grinnell and its alumni, the council asks the alumni community to consider a broad-based approach to supporting Grinnell. “Step two” can take many forms, and giving to Grinnell can extend beyond money. If you’re looking for additional ways to assist, we recommend (1) volunteering to interview prospective students via the GRASP program; (2) providing a summer internship for a current Grinnell student; and (3) offering to host a student extern during spring break (alumni volunteers are solicited in the fall). Support can also take the form of wearing some Grinnell bling/gear and gently annoying the person next to you on the plane by talking about the advantages of a Grinnell education!

Alumni financial support is critical, and increased alumni giving is key for providing educational opportunity for all students regardless of their ability to pay.

We ask that you consider joining us in making a financial contribution to the College this year and every year. If you can’t do that, raise your hand to support the College in a new way in 2016. Consider attending Reunion and the Alumni College this year. We’ve created a new group of attendees called the GRAYs (Grinnell Reunion Any Year). There’s no need to wait until it’s your year to come back and check on Grinnell’s path. In any way you choose, we’re sure you’ll find re-engaging with the College in some form both memorable and inspirational.

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