M. Anne Spence, a 1966 graduate and a member of its Board of Trustees, has pledged a gift to the College of $300,000, one-half of which will establish a fund in honor of two of her high school teachers.

The Elson-McGinty Fund will be used to subsidize interdisciplinary team-teaching by faculty in Classics with their colleagues in other departments. It will also provide summer fellowships for students who wish to take accelerated summer courses in Latin or Greek so that they can take advanced courses in Classics at Grinnell.

The remaining balance of Spence’s commitment directs equal amounts toward the campaign to renovate Alumni Recitation Hall/Carnegie Hall, the Pioneer Fund, and the 1966 Reunion Fund.

“Anne Spence’s generous gift exemplifies reflective, outcome-based philanthropy,” said Grinnell President Raynard S. Kington. “In honoring those who inspired her intellectual growth, Anne is ensuring that deserving students have access to interdisciplinary experiences that will greatly appreciate in value over their entire lifetimes.”

Spence created the Elson-McGinty Fund in honor of Nathan Hale High School (Tulsa, Okla.) teachers Janet Elson and Martin McGinty. According to Spence, teachers Elson (English) and McGinty (history) fired her curiosity and instilled in her a motivation for lifelong learning.

“Through their enthusiasm for literature and for history, these two outstanding high school teachers brought their subjects to life for me in very special ways,” Spence says. “Although I was exposed to the Classics at Grinnell 50 years ago, I didn’t truly appreciate the relevance for today. Selected readings in the last couple of years brought me to an "ah-ha" moment, revealing the myriad of connections between that ancient period of our history and issues we face today. At a time when other institutions are dropping the Classics, I am thrilled to invest in students’ understanding of them now, not later in their lives.” 

Anne SpenceSpence, a Nathan Hale High School alumna, graduated from Grinnell College in 1966 with a degree in biology. After earning a Ph.D. in human genetics from the University of Hawaii in 1969, she received the National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina. She is professor emerita in the Department of Pediatrics, University of California, Irvine.

The Elson-McGinty Fund will have an immediate impact on three Grinnell students who exemplify the ways in which Classics coursework enhance scholastic and career goals: Ella Nicolson ‘18 is a first-year student who has already taken 300-level Latin. She will add the study of Greek this summer in order to accelerate her work on a Classics major as she also pursues a major in economics. 

“The support that the Classics Department has given me to follow my dreams and goals simply reaffirms to me that Grinnell is the right place for me,” Nicolson says. “It's something I would not have imagined myself doing before coming here, but now, with so much support behind me, it's an opportunity I can't wait to explore.”

Sarah Hubbard ‘17, a second-year studio art major with coursework in Latin, also has decided in favor of a major in Classics. Summer coursework in Greek will aid in that pursuit and allow her to engage in an off-campus study program in Rome during her senior year.

Second-year student and philosophy major Elijah Giuliano ‘17 does not expect to major in Classics. The study of Latin will accommodate his move into 300-level literature courses, assist in the study of medieval and early modern philosophers, and will provide intellectual preparation for law school.

“Anne Spence’s gift to the Department of Classics — the Elson-McGinty Fund — presents a tremendous opportunity for enhancing the role of Classics on Grinnell’s campus,” said Monessa Cummins, chair of the Classics Department,.“With our colleagues in other disciplines we will be developing new contexts for teaching Classics.  This initiative reflects Anne’s ambition to extend the reach of Classics from its traditional place at the heart of the liberal arts curriculum into direct encounters with modern disciplines and issues.”

The Classics program at Grinnell encompasses study of the Greek and Latin languages as well as the history, literature, art, archaeology, mythology, and philosophy of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. Students can study in Athens and Rome. Majors in classics go on to careers in many fields, including education, law, medicine, scientific research, business, and librarianship.

“Our memories can easily be filled with the impact teachers have on our lives, and Anne Spence has taken the impressive step to honor those who changed her life,” said Shane Jacobson, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations. “This pledge not only honors the past, the investment will  also help ensure that the excellence of a Grinnell education remains strong because of the role of our facilities and programs.”

Spence’s pledge includes direct support for the ARH/Carnegie facility campaign. This facility houses the Classics Department. The ARH/Carnegie campaign will support an upgrade to buildings dedicated in 1916 and 1905, respectively, and that have not been thoroughly renovated in decades.

Anne Spence was elected to the Grinnell College Board of Trustees in 2001. She has served as associate dean in the graduate division at University of California, Los Angeles and vice chancellor of academic programs at the University of California, Irvine. An active teacher, she led research in human genetics that focused on neurological and physical birth defects. She has been a member of the American Society of Human Genetics, the Genetics Society of America, and the Behavioral Genetics Association. In 1979, Spence received the Woman of Science Award at UCLA, and Grinnell awarded her an honorary degree in 1999. In 2001, she received the annual leadership award from the International Genetic Epidemiology Society.

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