Home » President


Why Blog?

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Posted by: Raynard S. Kington

I want to do everything I can to ensure good communication on campus. My first choice is always to meet and talk with you all in person, with time for some questions on your part and some listening on my part. But I realize 1) we can’t always do that, and 2) not everyone will be able to attend such events when we do. So from time to time I’ll share information I think you need to know and ideas I believe are worth thinking about. I welcome your comments — although I can’t respond to them individually, I will review them, and may respond to them generally in this ongoing, online conversation. My first few postings will catch me up from last semester.


Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Since we are still just beginning to know one another and to work together, I think it’s only fair that you have some idea of what I value when making decisions. At an all-campus meeting on Sept. 20, I shared my belief in: Fairness. Fairness is my guiding decision-making principle. And really, it’s a social justice issue. What we’ve worked for and continue to work for in this country is not so much this Supreme Court decision or that constitutional amendment. At our core, we simply want everyone to be treated fairly. In every decision I make, I will ask myself and others if the decision is consistent with basic standards of fairness.Transparency. Fairness often begins with a transparent, well-described process for making a decision or resolving an issue — a process that everyone can understand. Some decisions themselves may be unexpected, but there should be no surprises about how decisions get made; and everyone in our community deserves to understand why decisions are made in a particular way. Confidentiality. I don’t believe in secrets. I do believe very strongly in honoring commitments to confidentiality. Keeping secrets means not revealing information that should be public. Respecting confidentiality means keeping personal information — such as an individual’s personnel records, medical records, and other privileged information — private. Indeed, there is much information that cannot be divulged by law or by college policy. So while our decision-making process needs to be transparent, I won’t violate anyone’s confidentiality for any reason. As a doctor, a scientist, and a medical researcher, I know how essential it is to respect everyone’s privacy. Shared governance. We practice shared governance at Grinnell — many different groups have input into most of our decisions: students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, and others. The great advantage of shared governance is that it promotes inclusion of a rich body of perspectives into decisions. That broad input can greatly improve decisions made, but there still needs to be a person or group who ultimately makes final decisions. Shared governance is not easy, and what it means is often misunderstood. Shared governance does not mean that decisions are ultimately made by popular vote — no complex organization can run that way. I see a large part of my job as taking in and thinking about a wide range of perspectives on important College decisions. It means that a big part of my job is to listen —to listen hard and listen well — to a variety of different perspectives and to make sure that we make the best decision we can. I hope that even in those situations when the final decision is not the choice of everyone in our community, everyone feels that he or she understands the final decision and its reasons and, perhaps most importantly, has had an opportunity to participate in the process. Evidence. As a researcher and a scientist, I believe in making decisions based on evidence whenever possible. And as a sign over one of my colleagues’ desks at NIH read, “The plural of anecdote is not data.” That doesn’t mean I try to quantify everything — there are many very important things that cannot be quantified. But I believe we owe it to ourselves and to the College to do our research and make decisions informed by the best information we can find. Grinnell’s unique culture, values, and mission. That uniqueness drew me here. I believe very strongly that all the decisions we make and I make must reflect that culture, those values, and that mission. I ask you all to help me in making sure that they do.

Thoughts on the Rankings Season

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Posted by:  Raynard S. Kington

Alas, the ranking season is upon us once again. Colleges and universities across the country are ranked on everything from food to politics, from sustainability to hipster-ness, from rigor to partying. Newspapers, magazines, online postings, and blogs follow each release noting which colleges rank where and which has gone up or down to the delight or horror or, rarely, the indifference of those of us with vested interests — administrators, board members, students, alumni — across the nation and, increasingly, around the world.

For many, U.S. News & World Report is ranked among the most important of the rankings. Over the 25 years of the U.S. News rankings, Grinnell has been as high as ninth and volleyed through the top 20 (14, 11, 18), along with many of our peer colleges that have also experienced fluctuations in the rankings — especially as data points such as alumni giving have risen and fallen with the economic times and as the methods for ranking have changed.

Many of you may have read the insightful article by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker last year, “What College Rankings Really Tell Us” about the use and misuse of college rankings. I encourage you to read it if you haven't. While I acknowledge that the rankings serve as one source of information for prospective students and families, Grinnell College does not make institutional, academic, or administrative decisions based on U.S. News or other rating agencies. In 2007, Grinnell President Russell Osgood and 18 other national college presidents signed a statement committing to make institutional data available on college websites, instead of relying on the rankings to distribute the comparative information. Grinnell continues to follow this practice by providing the Common Data Set on our website and welcoming inquiries at any time.

As many in the Grinnell community read and talk about the various rankings in this season of rankings, it is important to remind everyone that whether we go up or down on any list, the public rankings are not the standard by which Grinnell College judges itself. We judge ourselves against the best Grinnell College we can possibly be. Our goal should always be to provide the best possible Grinnell education to a diverse and talented group of students who are best suited to be transformed by that education. This means we must continually look for ways to improve our support of our faculty, enrich the learning experiences of our students, and provide the resources and opportunities that set our students up to succeed as active and contributing citizens of a global community.

The College is in the midst of a strategic planning process, seeking input and ideas from a broad range of stakeholders. This plan will guide Grinnell’s future while remaining true to our heritage and mission that values undergraduate teaching and research, diversity, and innovation in programs such as the First-Year Tutorial, study abroad, the Grinnell Science Project, and Writing Across the Curriculum.

We can all take the opportunity prompted by the release of ratings to think deeply about what we are as an institution and community and what we aspire to be. Most importantly, let us commit ourselves to engaging in a lively deliberation during the coming year that will lead to a concrete plan to become the best Grinnell College that we can be.


Innovating in a Recession

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)


The more times change, the more times demand — and reward — thoughtful innovation. Here are some thoughts on three innovative new steps we’re taking to better position the College for the future.

Defining our identity in new ways

On Nov. 29, we announced the creation of the new Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize. Following that announcement, some people have asked me why the College is undertaking an expensive new initiative now, in such challenging financial times. That’s a legitimate question. It's true that we’re facing tight times — all colleges are. Although Grinnell is in good shape overall, we have to adapt to a new financial world. The worst thing we could do, not being in real crisis, is to hunker down and stop doing new things. We have to reallocate resources in all sorts of new ways to do a better job of meeting the College’s mission in the future. The Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize is part of a broad plan to define the identity of this college based on its unique features. One of the strongest and most indelible of those is that Grinnell prepares students to change the world for the better. A focus on social justice in one’s life can mean anything from becoming a really aware and engaged citizen, to bringing a strong sense of ethics and community and accountability to running a business, to running a large social movement. We want to tell the world about that aspect of the College’s identity so we can continue to attract the kinds of people to the College who can best take advantage of that part of our mission and help move it forward. We decided we’d rather offer a prize that advances useful work and contributes more to the mission of the College than do other equally expensive things to build our prestige. There are large educational and social benefits of the prize: We’ll involve students in defining the concept and running the annual symposia, and give them, at a young age, a great deal of one-on-one exposure to outstanding people who are doing creative things to promote social justice. We can bring prospective students to the prize symposia to show them what the school stands for. We envision creating relationships with organizations that prizewinners are involved in, which could result in internships and other student learning experiences. We’re thinking about an online journal that focuses on young innovators. These kinds of synergies pull together three themes at the core of Grinnell’s mission: education, positive social change, and youth. That makes the prize a creative way to achieve many of the College’s goals even in a time of tight money — and to strengthen our future. Also, it’s in our best interests to be a good community member, and this is one of our contributions to the global community. We can never guarantee outcomes — from this effort or any other effort — but we can make thoughtful decisions, we can take reasonable risks in exploring new avenues, and perhaps most importantly, we can continue to learn as a community what makes us distinctive and how we can further our mission.

Understanding the College’s financial dynamics

One of the things we need to do differently and better is to explain our need for resources given our endowment. We need to tell people how much money is coming in, how much is going out, and why we use our resources the way we do — because without broader support from our community and our alumni, we’re not going to be able to help future students in the way that we’ve helped our alumni. We don’t want to — and we won’t — decrease our support for our students, but there’s a price for that, and we’re going to have to work harder to get resources for it. We have many students who have real need. And we have real need to offer merit aid as well, so that we have a balanced student body. Plus, in tough economic times, even students who originally came here with significant resources have seen those resources diminish — sometimes dramatically. Also, our alumni and other donors have been more careful recently about long-term donations. So, we need to put together a thoughtful, long-term plan to advance our core mission that is sustainable for the long haul.

Engaging our alumni in the ways they want to engage

We need to engage creatively with our alumni’s great passion for the College — even with those who are not in a financial position to give money at this particular point in their lives. Many of our alums go to grad school or into social services, education, or other fields that don’t generate large incomes early on. I want to offer all alumni a menu of options that allows us to recognize them and at the same time makes it easier for them to contribute not only dollars, which we want and need, but also time and talent. Many institutions’ rolls of giving list donors according to levels defined entirely by dollars, and I don’t think that’s fair. In some cases a commitment of time or other resources can be at least as valuable. We’ll share that menu of options with alumni soon — we hope in the spring of 2011. Meanwhile, I encourage you all to join me in thinking of innovative ways for Grinnell to continue to be the best it can be at achieving its unique mission.

Advisory: The case for a new medical college admission test

Friday, Apr. 6, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA - Who: Grinnell College President Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D., available to comment on New England Journal of Medicine article released today: “Building a Better Physician — The Case for the New MCAT”  

What: The case for evaluating the behavioral and social sciences in medical entrance exams and education

  • Kington is co-author of an article that supports changes in the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) by 2015 to include evaluation of knowledge in the behavioral and social sciences and critical analysis and reasoning.
  • It is not enough for physicians to understand “hard” sciences like anatomy or pathology. Today’s doctors need to understand the role of behavioral and social factors in wellness and outcomes. For example, how can a patient from a high-crime neighborhood get exercise to manage diabetes?
  • Health behaviors and social circumstances help explain a substantial portion of life expectancy differences among groups defined by income, race, sex, or age.
  • The proposed revisions to the MCAT recognize that physicians need foundational knowledge in the behavioral and social sciences similar to that expected in the basic sciences.
  • Kington can address the ties between social factors and physical health; issues of social justice and wellness; and the importance of broad-based preparation for aspiring physicians.
  • He previously served at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including as NIH Principal Deputy Director and NIH Acting Director, NIH Associate Director for Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, and Acting Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.  Prior to NIH, he was a division director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he led the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), one of the nation's largest studies assessing the health of the American people. 

Contact: To interview Raynard Kington, Grinnell College, contact Jim Reische, communications, reischej@grinnell.edu, 641-269-3400; to interview co-author Robert M. Kaplan, NIH, contact Ann Benner, annb@nih.gov, 301-594-4574; to interview co-author Jason Satterfield, contact jsatter@medicine.ucsf.edu.


Presidential History of Grinnell College

  Event Date Event Title Event Description
Grinnell College President George F. Magoun 07/19/1865 President George F. Magoun The Rev. George F. Magoun is inaugurated as the College's first president. Magoun serves 19 years and "rules the College with autocratic dispatch." Magoun teaches until 1890. "Never would the College have a more magisterial presence in the presidential chair," wrote Joseph F. Wall '41 in his book, "Grinnell College in the 19th Century." Inauguration Address: "Inaugural Discourse"
President George Augustus Gates 06/21/1887 President George Augustus Gates George Gates becomes the College's second president. During Gates' administration, Grinnell becomes a pioneer in the preaching of the Social Gospel. At his inauguration, Gates is a "slender young man [who] looked even younger than his 36 years-more like a junior instructor or even a mature college senior," wrote Joseph F. Wall '41 in "Grinnell College in the 19th Century." Inauguration Address: "Inaugural Address"
President Dan F. Bradley 06/11/1902 President Dan F. Bradley Dan F. Bradley, a Congregational minister from Michigan, becomes the College's third president. He resigns in 1905. In his book "Grinnell College," John Nollen wrote that Bradley "was an excellent preacher, though without the exuberance of Gates or the fiery eloquence of Herron. … The fine trees on the Grinnell campus, many of them planted by his hands, bear witness to his love of natural beauty." Inauguration Address: "Inaugural Address"
President John Hanson Thomas Main 06/12/1906 President John Hanson Thomas Main John Hanson Thomas Main is inaugurated in June as the College's fourth president. He is the first president without a ministerial background. He came to Grinnell in 1892 as a professor of Greek. His presidency lasts for 25 years, ending at his death in April 1931. Inauguration Address: "Inaugural Address"
  04/01/1931 President Main Dies in Office President John Main dies in office. At his memorial service, Professor Harry W. Norris says, "President Main personifies to me the driving force of ideals. … Such men are never daunted by disaster, never frightened by fear. … They may perish in the attempted fulfillment of their plans, but at least they hand the torch to light the way through the dead wood of tradition."
President John S. Nollen 02/11/1932 President John S. Nollen John S. Nollen becomes the College's fifth president. He first came to Grinnell in 1893 as professor of modern languages. In 1920, he became dean of the faculty. John Main says of his friend Nollen, "He is a man of large sympathies and appreciates thoroughly the claims of all the subjects embraced in the college curriculum. … He is sane, easily approached, sympathetic, and quick to appreciate in difficult situations the exact thing to do." Inauguration Address: "Inaugural Address"
President Samuel N. Stevens 10/25/1940 President Samuel N. Stevens President Samuel N. Stevens presides at the College through World War II, which brings hundreds of young officers and servicemen to campus for training. His 14-year tenure also includes the Korean War. Inauguration Address: "Inaugural Address"
President Howard Bowen Appointment Announced 11/13/1955 President Howard Bowen Appointment Announced President Howard Bowen, a Keynesian economist, comes to Grinnell from a position as dean at the School of Commerce at the University of Illinois, where the Chicago Tribune called him a "continual storm center" of controversy. The S&B, noting this remark, replies, "It seems that whatever the Tribune says against Bowen convinces both students and faculty that Bowen will prove to be one of the best presidents that Grinnell has had." Inauguration Address: "The Free Mind"
President Glenn Leggett 04/17/1966 President Glenn Leggett Glenn Leggett is president at Grinnell from 1965-75, which neatly bookends the heyday of campus activism and revolt. During his presidency, the College lives through nude protests against Playboy magazine, the shift to coed dormitories, the change to an open curriculum, and the protests against the Vietnam War that led to a premature end to the school year in 1970. Inauguration Address: "The Importance of Being Earnest"
President A. Richard Turner 04/12/1975 President A. Richard Turner According to the S&B, when Turner is inaugurated in April 1975, he creates the first "Skip Day" by granting students a day off in honor of his new presidency. The tradition of Skip Day is no longer associated with presidential inaugurations. Inauguration Address: "In This Place, In This Hour"
President George Drake '56 05/04/1980 President George Drake '56 President George Drake '56 becomes the first Grinnell alumnus to serve as the College's president. The Rhodes scholar and champion miler holds the presidency for 11 years. After stepping down from the office, he serves in the Peace Corps before returning to the Grinnell history faculty. Inauguration Address: "The Future in the Past"
President Pamela Ferguson 10/12/1991 President Pamela Ferguson Assumes Office President Pamela Ferguson becomes Grinnell's 11th, and first female, president. In 1997, at the end of the Ferguson administration, the admission office receives more applications than ever before, the endowment is up, and the Grinnell Campaign has nearly reached its $75 million goal. Inauguration Address: "A Modest Approach to the 21st Century"
President Russell K. Osgood 10/10/1998 President Russell K. Osgood Osgood assumes the presidency in 1998 and leads the College through a comprehensive campus planning process in 1999. The results guide the ongoing renewal, improvement, and expansion of the campus, consistent with the mission, vision, and goals of the College. Inauguration Address: "Challenge and History"
President Raynard S. Kington 08/01/2010 President Raynard S. Kington, M.D. President Raynard S. Kington will become Grinnell's 13th president on Aug. 1, 2010.

Special thanks to Catherine Rod in the Grinnell College Archives for her contributions to this project.

This article appeared as a web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Spring 2010.

Choosing Grinnell's future

In July 2011, as he concluded his first year at Grinnell, President Raynard S. Kington charted a 31-city regional alumni event schedule — starting in London in July 2011 and concluding in late-May 2012 in Seoul, Korea. At each stop, Kington delivered his “Choosing Grinnell’s Future” message, plus current news from campus.

Grinnellians seemed to appreciate the outreach. “Please convey to Dr. Kington my thanks for his trip to Denver to meet with Colorado Grinnellians. Although I read his remarks in a recent issue of Grinnell Magazine, it stimulated more thought on my part regarding how (and why!) I support Grinnell,” wrote Nancy Gallagher Mendenhall ’64 from Denver.

“This was such an inspiring event. I think alums, overall, feel that President Kington is making an effort to reach out, and that in turn creates a desire for alums to give back,” Margaret Higginson ’01 said about the Seattle event.

“This was an excellent way to meet alums in the area; I had no idea there were so many! Dr. Kington’s speech also made me feel more connected to what’s going on at Grinnell currently,” said Laura Wilson ’10, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Most cities on the alumni event schedule bested both 10-year average attendance and historical event records.

Details of next year’s tour will be posted on the Loggia soon.

Choosing Grinnell’s Future

Listen to Kington's message on Choosing Grinnell's Future, recorded live in Iowa City, Iowa, or read the transcript of Choosing Grinnell's Future.

You can also read "Choosing Grinnell's Future," in The Grinnell Magazine, Fall 2010, pages 10–17.

President Kington Signs the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment

Tue, 2011-10-11 14:31 | By Anonymous (not verified)


"I have asked that this kick-off also be the occasion for affirming publicly Grinnell College’s commitment to sustainability and to respectfully honoring the natural resources and life that we have inherited and with which we co-exist. This spring, the college formed the Environmental Responsibility and Sustainability Advisory Committee to further Grinnell College’s goals of environmental responsibility by assessing current conditions, policies, and actions and advising the community and me on strategies for furthering those goals.

"Our strong traditions of social responsibility and action, personal responsibility, and self-governance demand that we play our part in finding and implementing solutions to climate change and environmental degradation. These endeavors will require the institution of policies that govern new construction and renovation, consumption and recycling, and a host of behaviors, both at the College and in the larger community.

"Today I am signing the “American College and University President’s Climate Commitment.” The commitment requires that we create a plan for reaching carbon neutrality. We are joining 668 other colleges and universities."