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Grinnell College Retains Highest Possible Credit Rating

Moody's Investors Service announced that it has assigned an “Aaa” rating — the highest possible — to Grinnell College's planned January 2017 issue of approximately $113 million of revenue bonds through the Iowa Higher Education Loan Authority.  In addition to the “Aaa” rating, Moody’s also affirmed a stable outlook for the College.

Similarly, Standard & Poor's Global Rating Service (S&P) also assigned the College its highest rating of “AAA,” with a stable outlook.

Both credit rating agencies also affirmed the “Aaa” and “AAA” ratings on the College's existing revenue bonds.

Proceeds from the Series 2017 bond issue will help finance three strategic campus investment projects, including:

  • Renovation and significant expansion of two existing historical buildings to create a new interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Studies Complex,
  • Design and construction of a new Admission and Financial Aid Center, and
  • Creation and partial implementation of a comprehensive campus landscaping plan.

As stated in the agency reports, the Moody’s and S&P ratings are justified by Grinnell's increasingly strong market demand and geographically diverse student body, as well as its exceptionally large balance sheet reserves, which are largely unrestricted, and extraordinary liquidity relative to debt and operations. Both agencies recognized the importance of the College's strong governance and senior management. Attentive fiscal oversight and focused discipline have driven consistently strong operating performance.

"Achieving the highest possible credit rating from both Moody’s and S&P affirms Grinnell’s exceptional financial strength," says Kate Walker, vice president for finance and treasurer of Grinnell College. "It also recognizes the important role effective leadership and governance play in preserving financial sustainability now and for the long term.

"Grinnell is on a positive trajectory in many ways. Institutional investments guided by our vision and strategic plan position Grinnell for continued success despite the many challenges of today’s highly competitive higher ed landscape," Walker adds. "The credit ratings we've been awarded by Moody's and S&P are a testament to Grinnell’s ability to deliver a quality experience for our students today and for generations to come."


Kington Signs Open Letter to President-Elect Trump

President Raynard S. Kington and more than 100 other college presidents from around the country distributed an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump today, urging him “to condemn and work to prevent the harassment, hate, and acts of violence” that have occurred across the nation since he won the election on Nov. 8. Many of these incidents, some of which have been perpetuated in the President-elect’s name, have occurred on college campuses, endangering and frightening marginalized communities.

In the letter, college presidents commit themselves to promoting the values of democracy, human decency, equal rights, freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination, and ask Trump to do the same. They argue that as leaders, it is their responsibility – and the President-elect’s – to “protect and empower” the most vulnerable.

The letter and the complete list of signatories was published in Inside Higher Ed on November 18, and the text of the letter reads:

Dear President-elect Trump,

As do you, we “seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.” In order to maintain the trust required for such productive engagement, it is essential that we immediately reaffirm the core values of our democratic nation: human decency, equal rights, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination. As college and university presidents, we commit ourselves to promoting these values on our campuses and in our communities, and we stand alongside the business, nonprofit, religious, and civic leaders who are doing the same in organizations large and small.

In light of your pledge to be “President for all Americans,” we urge you to condemn and work to prevent the harassment, hate, and acts of violence that are being perpetrated across our nation, sometimes in your name which is now synonymous with our nation’s highest office. In our schools, on job sites and college campuses, on public streets and in coffee shops, members of our communities, our children, our families, our neighbors, our students, and our employees are facing very real threats, and are frightened.

One of the roles of leaders is to protect and empower the most vulnerable. As President-elect, this responsibility rests heavily on you. Let this be a mark of your leadership.

Bucksbaum Endows Growth for ‘Global Grinnell’

Carolyn ‘Kay’ Swartz Bucksbaum ’51Carolyn “Kay” Bucksbaum ’51, former chair and now life trustee of Grinnell College, has committed $5 million to support the expansion of the Global Grinnell Program at the College.

“I believe in the leaders of the College and their vision for the future,” Bucksbaum said. “I want to see Grinnell College increasingly recognized, and measured accordingly, for its leadership among similar colleges in my lifetime.

“The Global Grinnell Program is close to my heart because of my own global views and experiences,” she added. “It is my desire to have others join me in this opportunity to expand the impact of a significant factor that makes Grinnell stand above other colleges.”

“Kay Bucksbaum’s generous gift combines her dedication to Grinnell College with the vision and foresight to advance our mission in strategic fashion,” said Grinnell President Raynard S. Kington. “The programmatic support this gift will provide brings an increase in opportunities for students to gain global competence and leadership at a level that will distinguish Grinnell from our peers. We share Kay’s vision to engage other donors in the Global Grinnell Program.”

Bucksbaum said her desire to make this leadership-level commitment was influenced by various aspects of her own life, including having foreign visitors living in her family home, her mother’s world travels and Bucksbaum’s own daughter’s involvement in the international arena.

"Kay Bucksbaum’s generous gift combines her dedication to Grinnell College with the vision and foresight to advance our mission in strategic fashion," said Grinnell President Raynard S. Kington. "The programmatic support this gift will provide brings an increase in opportunities for students to gain global competence and leadership at a level that will distinguish Grinnell from our peers.  We share Kay’s vision to engage other donors in the Global Grinnell Program.”

Accompanying Bucksbaum’s gift is her agreement to serve as honorary chair as the College prepares for a comprehensive fundraising campaign. 

“We are currently organizing the College fundraising priorities in advance of the launch of a campaign, and Kay’s leadership arrives at a pivotal point in the life of this endeavor,” said Shane Jacobson, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations.

 “Kay’s generosity links the legacy of our previous campaign with our renewed effort to invest in students, faculty, staff, programs, and facilities,” he added.

The gift will create two endowments. The first funds the creation of a Chief Global Officer position to promote and ensure an integrated and innovative approach to international education across the divisions of the College. 

The second fund will create a Global Distinctiveness Fund that will enhance programs and student opportunities that continue to bring to life the Global Grinnell Program for each student. The Fund will make possible internships abroad, scholarships for global course work and language studies, and faculty and student research focused on collaborative, international projects exploring global problems and challenges. These additional resources will allow faculty and staff to benefit from opportunities to develop their own contributions to global engagement in their work with students.

“This commitment gives us the chance to pursue an integrated and sustainable global strategy,” said Michael Latham, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College. “Our large and diverse international student population, excellent off-campus study opportunities, inquiry-led curriculum, internship programs, alumni network, and external partnerships around the world have made Grinnell a profoundly international institution.”

“Kay’s partnership allows us to name the Chief Global Officer as soon as possible. This position will oversee the strategic utilization of Kay’s philanthropy, and bring to life the vision to expand Global Grinnell to faculty, staff, and students alike,” Latham added.


2015 Faculty Named Chair Installation Ceremony

Grinnell College faculty, staff, students, and the general public are invited to attend the College's 2015 Faculty Named Chair Installation Ceremony at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 8. The event will take place in Herrick Chapel.

This celebration provides a unique opportunity to honor current named chairs and celebrate the naming of two new designees:

Speaking at the event will be President Raynard S. Kington, Dean Michael Latham, and the newly installed chairs, among others.

Vincent Eckhart

Vincent EckhartA full professor at Grinnell since 2012, Eckhart is a specialist on the evolutionary ecology of plant reproduction, life history, and geographic distribution. His publications include 27 peer-reviewed journal articles and five book chapters and reviews. At Grinnell he has earned seven prestigious grants from the National Science Foundation to further his research and teaching. The most recent grant, a $450,000 collaboration with researchers from Cornell University and the University of Minnesota, supports long-term research on what factors limit species’ ability to survive in unfavorable environments, a topic with major implications for how organisms respond to change.

Eckhart is the first faculty member to be named the Waldo S. Walker Chair in Biology. The late Margaret "Peg" Stiffler, a 1963 Grinnell graduate, endowed the chair in honor of her mentor and lifelong friend, Waldo S. Walker, professor emeritus. Walker served the College for more than 50 years as a professor of biology, dean, provost, vice president and acting president.

Jin Feng

Jin FengFeng, who became a full professor at Grinnell in 2012, is a highly accomplished scholar and teacher who provides exemplary service to her field, her students, and the College. She has developed a body of significant, interdisciplinary work that links literature to history, ethnography, gender studies, and popular culture. The author of three books and scores of articles in English and Chinese, Feng is an invited presenter at conferences around the world and across the United States. This year she received a prestigious Senior Scholar Grant from the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for her most recent project, which explores food nostalgia in the Yangzi River valley.

Two alumni from the Class of 1908 established the Orville and Mary Patterson Routt Professorships of Literature. Orville Routt went on to serve as president of Scripps College. Mary Patterson Routt was a renowned national columnist and journalist and long-serving trustee of Scripps College. This professorship is a living example of the deep appreciation they had for Grinnell College.


Board of Trustees names new leader, trustees

Patricia Jipp Finkelman Patricia Finkelman '80 ’80 has been elected chair of the Grinnell College Board of Trustees, which also has named several new trustees.

Finkelman has been a member of the board since 1998 and a life trustee since 2014. She earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Grinnell and an M.B.A. from Yale School of Management. A former health care policy and reimbursement consultant, she serves as an active community volunteer in central Ohio.

Two new trustees and an ex-officio trustee have been named to the College's governing board, which meets formally three times during the academic year. The new trustees are:

Michael Kahn '76Michael Kahn ’74 is senior managing director at TIAA-CREF, a national financial services organization and the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields. He plays a principal role in the company’s mergers and acquisition activities and has also served in other major roles with the company, including president and chief executive of TIAA subsidiary Kaspick & Co. and chief operating officer in launching TIAA’s third-party asset management business, TCAM. Kahn, who received his bachelor's in music, has worked on community outreach efforts for several nonprofit groups and sponsored more than 40 summer internships for Grinnell College students while mentoring countless other Grinnell students and young alumni.

David Maxwell '66David Maxwell ’66 retires June 30 after 16 years as president of Drake University, where he also held the title of professor of literature. After his retirement, Maxwell will be an Association of Governing Boards senior fellow, serving as a thought leader and adviser to AGB and its member institutions. Maxwell also has been president of Whitman College, as well as a faculty member and dean of undergraduate studies at Tufts University for 18 years. Before joining Drake University in 1999, he was director of the National Foreign Language Center in Washington, D.C. In addition to his bachelor's in Russian area studies, Maxwell holds a master’s degree and doctorate in Slavic languages and literatures from Brown University. He will begin his service on the Grinnell board in the fall of 2016.

Ed Senn '79Ed Senn ’79 serves as an ex-officio trustee in his role as president of the Alumni Council for 2015-16. Senn, who earned his bachelor's in biology from Grinnell, has been a member of the council since 2010, and has volunteered for the College in many ways, including hosting interns and recruiting prospective students. He established the Katie Brown Anderson '49 and Mary Lou Brown '56 Experiential Learning Endowed Fund, which helps recruit top students and support them as they prepare to graduate. Senn began his career as legislative director for U.S. Rep. Tom Tauke (R-Iowa). He later served as federal lobbyist for NYNEX, Bell Atlantic and Verizon Communications, where he is now vice president of state government relations.

Maria Tapias Selected for Leadership Academy

Maria TapiasMaria Tapias, associate dean of Grinnell College, is one of 28 mid-level administrators in higher education nationwide selected by the Council of Independent Colleges to participate in a year-long Senior Leadership Academy.

The program, which is for administrators in higher education who are nominated by their institutions, is designed to prepare prospective leaders to assume positions as the chief officers in higher education. As a program participant, Tapias will hone her campus leadership skills by developing a professional experience plan and attending two seminars held in the Washington, D.C., area.

Tapias, who holds degrees in cultural anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, serves in several capacities at Grinnell. In the office of the dean, she serves as associate dean of the College and the president’s senior adviser for diversity.  She is also associate professor of anthropology, having taught in the anthropology department since 2001.

During her time at Grinnell, Tapias has served in numerous roles, including interim chair of the department of Spanish, chair of the department of anthropology, and chair of the Latin American studies concentration. She was a visiting scholar at the Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies at the University of California-San Diego in 2004. Her research interests include women’s and infants’ health, the anthropology of emotions, transnationalism, and Latin American studies.

Tapias was selected to participate in the program from a diverse pool of applicants. “Competition for the available places in the program was intense,” says Richard Ekman, president of the Council for Independent Colleges, “and the review committee and I believe that Ms. Tapias has the potential for highly effective leadership in a position of senior responsibility on campus.”