Maximizing Connections

Mary Knuth Otto ’63

As an Iowan who left the state forever after graduating from Grinnell, I’m delighted that my membership on the Alumni Council brings me back more frequently. The most indelible impression that I carried home to Vermont this time is of the vital role played by the Alumni Council in building relationships among all facets of the alumni community.

Grinnell’s Student Alumni Council (SAC) is committed to fostering connections between students and alumni, empowering students to be a part of the wider Grinnell community, and encouraging a commitment to contribute to the College financially and in other ways.  

At this fall’s meeting with SAC, Rick Stuck ’82, chair of the Alumni-Student Connections Committee, stood up and handed 26 Susan B. Anthony dollars to the three SAC members. “In the spirit of James J. Hill,” he proclaimed, “here are 26 coins, given on behalf of the current Alumni Council (one from each member) to mark the beginning of our match of the money raised by you for your senior class gift to the College and our support of your amazing work.” 

James J. Hill was a member of the “Iowa Band” of abolitionists, philosophers, and theologians who founded the College in 1846. Hill’s laying down a silver dollar in front of that inspired brotherhood is a vibrant Grinnell legend. It served at the outset as a fundraising challenge and as a “call to action to begin the tradition of giving time, treasure, and talent” in support of the college they were founding. That gift of the 26 coins to today’s students — and Rick’s recollection of our founding story — was a dramatic reminder that these are the values that can link us together as Grinnellians.

Alumni Council committees also reported on their work toward maximizing connections:

  • The Ad Hoc Committee on Strategic Planning is “discussing efforts to make the work of the council better known to alumni, students, and other volunteers. This includes clarifying the role and scope of the council and the purposes of our activities.”
  • The Diversity and Inclusion Committee, following the November on-campus Multicultural Alumni Reunion, will help launch a new mentorship program to connect underrepresented students with alumni who have had similar experiences and can offer perspectives on the challenges students face on and off campus.
  • The Alumni Engagement and Communications Committee reports that it aims to more actively support the Office of Development and Alumni Relations’ regional programming objectives and to lobby for enhanced communication among all members of the Grinnell alumni community via the College website, the use of social media, and in personal relationships.

Happily, this fall’s Alumni Council meeting coincided with the biennial gathering of Grinnell’s dedicated class agents and class fund directors. Conversations during two joint presentations — one highlighting work on the new Humanities and Social Studies Complex and the other focusing on “Grinnell College identity” — were lively and useful.  Two dinners together — at the Quad Dining Hall for tradition’s sake, and at the new, refreshingly edgy boutique Hotel Grinnell, which now occupies the former Park Street junior high school built in 1921 — were added opportunities for joint planning.

Finally, it was a pleasure to welcome this year’s new council members to our fall meeting: Robert Ruhl ’76, Phillip Hales ’02, Brigham Hoegh ’08, and Graciela Guzmán ’11. Their impressive profiles are available on the alumni website.  

Our Grinnell alumni body is now 20,000 strong and in 50 states and 55 nations. The Alumni Council works hard to build cohesiveness and foster engagement, across miles and years, but it’s a process that now begins among the students on campus, with the creative efforts of the Student Alumni Council. How proud I am to be a Grinnellian!

The Alumni Council is a group of 26 Grinnell alumni and two student representatives working with the Office of Development and Alumni Relations.

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