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The Scarlet & Black

Senior Class Gift Committee fundraises for Jack Gustafson ’19 on-campus memorial

By Montserrat Castro Gomez

Every year, the Senior Class Gift Committee encourages seniors to donate to a certain fund, organization or project that holds significance for the class. This year, the senior class decided on choosing a gift that would honor Jack Gustafson ’19, who passed away last spring while studying abroad in Freiburg, Germany.

During the summer of 2018, Michelle Gustafson, Jack’s mother, reached out to the College and expressed her interest in creating a Memorial Fund. After the Senior Class Gift Committee (SCGC) holistically agreed to take on the project, Jack’s closest friends on campus created a specific committee for the memorial and have been looking at different options through which to honor him and assure his permanence in Grinnell.

Carrie Stallings ’19, Jack’s best friend and a member of the Memorial Committee, explained that the process has been a slow one. Last semester, students voted to pass a student initiative proposing to name the Ceramics Studio in South Campus loggia after Gustafson. Ultimately, though, the initiative was unable to come to fruition because those who proposed it were unable to meet the College’s financial expectations.

The committee, formed also by Myles Becker, Sarah McCarthy, Henry Jantzen and Patrick Sheehan-Klenk, all ’19, met for the first time this week following a year of ongoing issues and conversations about the memorial. The meeting allowed the committee to reach a final decision on what the memorial will actually entail.

The memorial will be placed in the Sue Berne Terrace, one of Gustafson’s favorite places on campus. It will consist of a rosebud tree, also Gustafson’s favorite, planted in the terrace with a plaque. The plaque, in addition to his name and class year, will potentially include a quote from Gustafson’s father, “All were better for knowing him.”

“[That quote] is something that really resonated with everyone because he was such a positive human being. He was legitimately the nicest person I think I’ve ever met, and he was a friend to anyone,” Stallings said. She is also searching through Gustafson’s annotated copy of The Practical Cogitator, his favorite book, for a small line to add to the plaque.

The committee is comprised of students who knew Jack more intimately and can make decisions on his memorial accordingly.

“It’s definitely not a responsibility that I wished upon anyone. It’s really hard. But simultaneously, I think everybody from every capacity that’s been involved in it has been really thankful to have the opportunity to take their grief and make something really meaningful out of it,” Stallings said.

The total cost of the memorial will be $5,000, which goes towards future maintenance of the space and memorial. “The money is used as a means to maintain the space of the memorial for basically an infinite amount of time. If the tree were to get ill or had to be replaced, we’d be guaranteed that it could be taken care of for however long Grinnell College is open for,” said Bryce Lew ’19, a member of the SCGC.

Michelle Gustafson donated the first $1,000 to the fund, and the rest has come from fundraising done by the SCGC. The committee has been hosting monthly events in order to fundraise and plans to host a senior gala closer to graduation.

Although the Senior Class Gift is a way to encourage class participation among seniors, students from other class years, as well as faculty and staff, are able and encouraged to donate to the Memorial Fund for Gustafson. Donations can be collected through personal contributions to the SCGC or through Venmo, using the username grinnell2019 and indicating that the donation be put towards Jack’s memorial.

The Senior Class Gift Committee is collecting donations to construct a memorial for Jack Gustafson ’19 in the Sue Berne Terrace. Contributed photo.


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