Supporting a Career Community Model

Penny Bender Sebring ’64 and Charles Lewis Establish Second CLS Career Community
by Luke Saunders ’12

For many students on campus and many recent alums, the names Sebring and Lewis are synonymous with a performance hall — the place they saw Anoushka Shankar perform, or where they presented a Mentored Advanced Project, or where they sang with the Grinnell Singers. Life trustee Penny Bender Sebring ’64 and her husband, Charles Ashby Lewis, are the people behind that hall and many other spaces on campus. Consistent donors since the mid-1980s, Sebring and Lewis have made major contributions to the construction of the athletic complex, Grinnell’s fine arts, and a number of endowed scholarships. 

Over the past five years, they have advocated modernizing what became the Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS). That modernization has been conceived and is being led by Mark Peltz, Daniel ’77 and Patricia Jipp ’80 Finkelman Dean of Careers, Life, and Service, starting with the creation of career communities (initially called “Career in” programs). 

Sebring and Lewis helped CLS create its first career community, the Education Professions Community (Ed Pros) in 2013. Their combined gifts of $900,000 launched and sustained Ed Pros, and their latest gift of $450,000 will launch the Business and Finance Community, bringing their total contributions to CLS to $1.35 million. Grinnell is not the only beneficiary of Sebring and Lewis philanthropy. The couple has established similar education professions programs at two other schools — Lewis’ alma mater, Amherst College, where he is a trustee; and the University of Chicago, where he is also a trustee. 

Grinnell’s new Business and Finance Community aims to help both students and recent alumni build networks and realize the potential of their education when considering careers in finance, consulting, advertising, and related fields. Students who join this community will gain access to specialized advising, have opportunities to attend workshops and seminars through strategic partners such as the Harvard Business School’s HBX Credential of Readiness Program, and connect with employers and alumni in business and finance.

The CLS is planning ultimately to have seven career communities and a robust internship program. The College’s longstanding pre-med advising program is being re-purposed to become the Health Professions Community, the third career community. There will be four others: Arts and Communications, Science and Technology, Government and Social Service, and Law. “These communities will provide social capital for first-generation and low-income students that they wouldn’t otherwise have, offer a new type of group on campus, and act as an intellectual and financial primer in addition to offering career advice,” says Lewis. 

Sebring and Lewis are excited to see where these new communities will take students. “Chuck and I are extremely pleased with the efficacy of the Ed Pros Community under Ashley Schaefer’s leadership,” says Sebring. “We believe that the career-focused community model provides powerful opportunities for students and alumni to apply their liberal arts education for both personal success and society’s benefit.”  

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