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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

The Importance of Alumni Council


By Howard Schein ‘66

I’ve been a member of the Grinnell Alumni Council for three years. The Council works to foster connections between Grinnellians and much of the Council’s action is through our subcommittees. The two committees I’ve served (Diversity & Inclusion and Student Connections) directly address student issues. I’m a ‘66 alum with two alum daughters (‘08 and ‘12), and I am totally and absolutely sure that the Grinnell College I attended is not the current Grinnell. But, I’m pretty sure that today’s Grinnell has very much evolved along a direct pathway, guided by Grinnell’s mission statement and core values. Grinnell’s core values haven’t changed, but fiscal and societal contexts differ by eons. My four years’ tuition/fee bill, sticker price in today’s dollars ($81K) is nowhere near your sticker price (around $260K), we wrote our papers on yellow legal pads and manual typewriters, and we surely didn’t have the kind of support services that now exist.

The Alumni Council is not a policy-making group. The Council does give advice, when asked — and when not asked, but our primary activities follow our mission: making connections between alumni, students, and the College.

We want to connect with you to share our experiences and to help you move in directions that fit. Externships are a wonderful way to do this and have the opportunity to meet alumni. How do physicians really spend their time? Do marine biologists get to dive and play with dolphins? That’s what I thought. No one told me that the real action was in 4 inches of mud where my research critters lived. I wanted to scuba dive. Maybe I should have found a way to live by the ocean, but in another profession? No one talked to me about that.

Seeing Grinnell through my daughters’ experiences and through the eyes of the many current students that I know, I see gobs of differences between then and now, but I also see some very important long lasting themes that I’m committed to pursuing.

I frequently travel 200 miles to see a shoulder specialist. When I went on line to choose a doctor, Jeff Greenberg’s “I went to Grinnell College,” sealed the deal. Jeff is great. We vibe. He cares. He’s past president of Alumni Council, which put him on the Board of Trustees for a year, and he’s getting an alumni award this May. He talked me into applying to be a Council member. Like many alums, Jeff’s connections are for Grinnell’s present and for Grinnell’s future. Over Grinnell’s spring break, he introduced me to his Grinnell extern. How lucky she is to work with one of the Midwest’s more highly regarded surgeons.

One of my biggest treats is when my daughters bring their Grinnell buddies home for visits. The conversations are insightful, vibrant, challenging, and fun.

These are the pillars of my Grinnell experiences and vision: Community, Connections, Core Values of Social Justice/Public Service, Intellectual Development, Articulate Expression in a Variety of Ways. (e.g., written, spoken, artistic).

The inclusive community that Grinnell fosters adds aspects of depth to personal and professional experiences. The friends that we make span gender, socio-economic, geographic, and racial dimensions. Make the stretch: find Luna Lovegood and jump out of your comfort zone. That’s where the magic happens. And with these friendships come challenging new ways of looking at the world from a great variety of perspectives and ways to help us develop empathy, a vital part of a liberal arts education

For 35 years I directed a residential learning community at the University of Illinois. It’s a dorm of 650 that is modeled to be a small, liberal arts college. Grinnell was my model. I recruited many University of Illinois faculty who are Grinnell alums to teach in this program.

What I strive toward creating, recreating, and constantly growing is to provide an educational setting where students can grow and find their own voices. As a member of the Alumni Council, through the Student Connections and Diversity and Inclusion Committees, and in close liaison with the Grinnell Student Alumni Council, I hope that we and other alumni are enhancing the student experience by offering wisdom of hindsight, opportunities, and community.

Alumni Council members are also online via Grinnell Connect where alums offer jobs, internships, mentoring possibilities, insights from seasoned perspectives. We love connecting with other Grinnellians. So check it out at

The Alumni Council is an important organization that often flies a bit under the radar. We do valuable work that helps to bridge the age gap between alumni. The Alumni Council works in many different directions to build relationships between alumni, students, and the College. Whether through mentoring students, serving on a regional activities planning committee, or giving back to the institution financially, I surmise that most alums give back to Grinnell out of love and respect for what Grinnell has helped them to accomplish, a belief in Grinnell’s mission, and with the desire that all students are included and thrive in our Grinnellian community.

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