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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

True Grinnellian: Julie Gosselink

From humble beginnings working at Pagliai’s Pizza to becoming the CEO of the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation, Julie Gosselink uses her energy and grace to juggle her many responsibilities while keeping up with three young children. It is her children, and all future Grinnellians, who will benefit from her work at the Ahrens Foundation, which works to improve quality of life through parks and recreation, education and health.

Born and raised in Grinnell, Gosselink has many fond childhood memories in this town, such as ice skating on her grandparents’ pond and swimming in the city pool.

“[I] loved just being a normal kid and being involved in all kinds of activities,” she said.

Throughout her childhood and adolescence, Gosselink’s grandfather Claude W. Ahrens, founder the Ahrens Foundation, was a prominent figure.

“He was [an] intimidating person, and everyone around him knew he could be very abrupt and matter of fact,” she recollected. “But at the same time he had a very gentle side to him that not a lot of people knew about, and being his youngest granddaughter I had an advantage.”

She also spent time traveling with her family, sometimes accompanying her grandfather on business trips. Among her favorite places was Palm Springs, California, where her grandparents had another home.

Gosselink keeps her grandfather’s motto “Leaving it better” in mind as she runs the Ahrens Foundation. Photo by Susanne Bushman.
Gosselink keeps her grandfather’s motto “Leaving it better” in mind as she runs the Ahrens Foundation. Photo by Susanne Bushman.

In addition to her grandfather, Gosselink found counsel from prominent figures who are affiliated with Grinnell College.

“We had a lot of family friends who were professors and administrators,” she said.

Some of the significant ones include George Drake ’56, former president of the College, Thomas Marshall ’55, vice president for the Development Office, and David Clay, former treasurer and chief investment officer and current board member of the Ahrens Foundation.

“I had family dinners with George and Tom,” Gosselink recalled. “Those men [have] and still continue to have a big influence on me, and were mentors in being in a leadership position.”

During high school, Gosselink worked at Pagliai’s Pizza, and it remains her favorite place to eat in town.

“I have a special slice for it,” Gosselink joked.

After high school, Gosselink attended University of Iowa for two years before transferring to University of Northern Iowa. She then lived in Des Moines for three years before moving back to Grinnell and assuming leadership of the grandfather’s organization.

Gosselink worked as a financial analyst at Wells Fargo Financial before coming back to town, but it was not the best fit for her.

“I wasn’t happy,” she said. “It wasn’t something that I found myself wanting to have a career in.”

It was in her hometown where Gosselink found a job she truly enjoyed.

“I was more interested in being involved in the community because I grew up here,” she said. “I was open to a new challenge and a whole new career path.”

A rewarding career was not the only motive Gosselink had to move back to Grinnell. “I had married my high school sweetheart, we both were from here,” she said. “We both wanted to raise our children here with our families around.”

One of Gosselink’s favorite aspects of her job is the people she works with.

“I enjoy working with not only the staff but [also with] different people in the community,” she said. “I get to meet so many different people who are passionate about different causes.”

Gosselink also finds that the small town community has a rare quality.

“I feel there’s such a collective passion, a collective desire to grow the community in a progressive way,” she said. “There’s a greater good that everyone wants to work together and make things happen.”

“Leaving it better” is the motto of her grandfather and the foundation, and is something integral for Gosselink as she works to carry on her family’s legacy.

“It’s something I think about often, and I think it’s a simple mantra for anyone to live by,” Gosselink said. “It was up to me, my brother and sister to [continue my grandfather’s] legacy and take over the foundation. [My job] is challenging, but with the family legacy I feel a responsibility to be involved.”

Now, Gosselink is setting the bar for the next generation in hopes that they too, will aspire to be a part of the organization.

“[My children] love to come out here to play in the park or hang out in the office,” she said. “The two older ones are starting to ask questions about the foundation, which is a sign.”

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