1830: Iowa Band Established
Congregational minister Asa Turner settles in Iowa and writes a letter to his mission board in the East asking for missionaries to come to Iowa. “The land sales (from the Black Hawk Purchase) are over,” he says. “Settlers have got their titles to earth. Now it is time to secure a title to heaven.” Eleven men hear Turner’s call and organize what becomes known as the “Iowa Band.”
1846: Endowment Begins
At the annual meeting of the Association of Congregational Churches of Iowa, James J. Hill lays down a single silver dollar, asking that trustees protect and grow it, officially beginning Grinnell's endowment. Every first-year student receives a replica medal at New Student Orientation.
1848: Iowa College Opens
Iowa College opens its doors to a rigorous college preparatory program in Davenport, Iowa. The college would soon relocate to Grinnell, Iowa.
1850: First College Students Enter
Iowa College admits its first collegiate candidates. Like at the best eastern colleges, tuition was $24 a year.
1854: John and William Windsor Graduate
Brothers John and William Windsor are the first to graduate from Iowa College. William later recalls that “the free-soil fever ran high in Iowa College” in the years leading up to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.
1861: East College Constructed
The East College building is completed in Grinnell. For several years it houses all of the functions of Iowa College.
1865: George Frederic Magoun Becomes President
As the Civil War ends, George Fredric Magoun is inaugurated as president of the College. He serves until 1884.
1865: Joanna Harris Haines Graduates
Joanna Harris Haines is the first to earn a certificate from the Ladies’ Course and later teaches at the College. Rev. E.M. Vittum explains that the women receive diplomas, but not bachelor’s degrees, at graduation because College officials feel “a little delicacy in declaring that the young ladies [are] bachelors of arts.”
1879: Hannibal Kershaw Graduates
Hannibal Kershaw becomes the first African American to graduate from Grinnell. He later is a teacher, minister, and member of the South Carolina legislature. According to the Iowa College News Letter, Kershaw is “an earnest, conscientious student, a fluent society speaker, and a man whom all respected for his high moral and religious character...
1882: Cyclone Destroys Campus
Ten days before Commencement, a massive “cyclone” (a tornado) touches down in Grinnell, killing 39 people (including two students) and destroying all of the College's buildings. The College yearbook is later named for this event.
1887: George Augustus Gates Becomes President
George Augustus Gates, 38-year-old pastor from New Jersey, is chosen by the trustees to lead the College. During Gates’ administration, Grinnell becomes a pioneering advocate of the Social Gospel movement.
1888: Mears Cottage Constructed
Mears Cottage, the first women’s dormitory on campus, is built and named for Mary Grinnell Mears, an 1881 graduate, wife of David O. Mears, and daughter of the town’s founder, J.B. Grinnell.
1893: Creation of Department of Applied Christianity
The Department of Applied Christianity is established. George Herron, a Congregational minister, is the first professor.
1894: Football team “Champions of Iowa”
1892: Honor G Created
Ernest Atherton 1895 designs the Honor G insignia for athlete’s uniforms. The symbol, a Maltese cross inlaid with a block letter “G,” remains in use today by the athletic department, relatively unchanged since its creation.
1897: Rand Gymnasium Constructed
The E.D. Rand Gymnasium for women is built with a gift from Carrie Rand, an instructor in social and physical culture, and principal for women at the College.
1894: The Scarlet & Black Begins Printing
The Scarlet & Black, Grinnell’s student newspaper, begins printing semiweekly. It contains campus news, notices of meetings, alumni notes, editorials, and some local news. It is still in print today.
1904: Carnegie Library Constructed
Carnegie Library is built with a gift from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. It was one of the few college libraries funded by Carnegie, who was principally interested in supporting community libraries.
1902: Dan Freeman Bradley Becomes President
Dan Bradley, a Congregational pastor from Grand Rapids, Mich., is selected as College president by the trustees.
1906: Herrick Chapel Constructed
Herrick Chapel is built. It quickly becomes home to the vespers services that John H.T. Main began in 1901. The building was named for Stephen Leonard Herrick, an early settler in Grinnell and a local merchant and trustee of the College.
1906: John Main Becomes President
John H.T. Main, a professor of Greek at the College, begins 25 years of service as president of the College after two earlier stints as acting president. He establishes Grinnell as a residential college, building the North and South Campus halls.
1905: Steiner Hall Constructed
The Christian Association “Y” Building is completed. Its name is changed to Steiner Hall in 1959 to honor Edward A. Steiner, a professor of applied Christianity at Grinnell from 1903 to 1941.
1916: Grinnell in China Established
The College establishes the Grinnell-in-China educational mission, a pioneering program in foreign study in Techow, Shandong, that continues until the Japanese invasion in 1937.
1912: Harry Hopkins Graduates
Harry Hopkins 1912 graduates from Grinnell. Hopkins and several other Grinnell graduates later worked on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s team during the New Deal era in the 1930s. Hopkins served as commissioner of the Works Progress Administration, Secretary of Commerce, and later as special assistant to the president during World War II.
1922: Paul MacEachron Appointed
The College appoints its first dean of men, Paul MacEachron 1911. He serves as educational director of Grinnell-in-China from 1916 to 1922. In 1931, the campus ground between Ward Field and the dormitories is named for him.
1924: Morgan Taylor Wins Gold
Morgan Taylor ’26 wins the gold medal in hurdles at the Olympics in Paris. He also wins gold and bronze medals in the 1928 and 1932 Olympics.
1929: Gary Cooper Revisits Grinnell
Film star Gary Cooper ’26 visits his alma mater in Grinnell after dedicating an airport in Newton, Iowa. Cooper later won the best-actor Oscar in 1952 for his role in High Noon.
1931: John S. Nollen Named President
John S. Nollen, who served as a professor of modern languages and as dean of the faculty, is named president of the College. Nollen House, location of the current president’s office, is later named in his honor.
1932: Grant O. Gale Develops Engineering Plan
Grant O. Gale, professor emeritus of physics, develops the 3-2 combined plan in engineering, which makes it possible for students to get two degrees in five years: a bachelor's degree in liberal arts and training at an engineering school. The plan catches on nationally and expands to other fields such as law.
1939: Rand Fire
Rand Gymnasium is destroyed by fire at 2 a.m.
1946: Barracks Provide Veterans’ Housing
War-surplus Army barracks from an air base in Sioux City are brought to campus and placed where the Forum now stands. In 1948, the barracks are converted into a student union. The first floor is used for social purposes, with classrooms and faculty offices on the second floor.
1942: Darby Gymnasium Constructed
Darby Gymnasium is erected and named for John Frederick Darby 1895. As a student, Darby excelled in several sports during the “golden era” of Grinnell athletics.
1940: Samuel Nowell Stevens Named President
Samuel Stevens, dean of the University College of Northwestern University, is named president of the College.
1959: Burling Library Dedicated
Burling Library is dedicated to Lucy B. Burling, a matriarch from Eldora, Iowa, and mother of three Grinnell alumni. She died in 1936. The library is built with $1.2 million in gifts from the entire Grinnell Community. Renovations in the ’80s would result in what Rolling Stone called the “comfiest” library in the country.
1955: Howard Bowen Named President
Howard Bowen becomes the seventh president of the college. A nationally recognized leader in American higher education, Bowen wrote many books on important aspects of education. When the Hall of Science is named in his honor in 1989, Grinnell President George Drake says: “I can think of few people who have done as much as Howard Bowen to advance education at Grinnell, in Iowa, and in the United States.”
1959: Program in Practical Education Established
The college establishes the Program in Practical Political Education, one of Grinnell’s largest and most successful extracurricular programs in the 1960s. Visitors under the program include U.S. Sens. Eugene McCarthy, Barry Goldwater, and Hubert Humphrey, and former presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.
1965: Glenn Leggett Named President
Glenn Leggett, professor of English and provost of the University of Washington, becomes president. His term would see the campus through the tumultuous protests and revolutions of the ’60s and ’70s. He served as president emeritus from 1979–2003.
1967: Martin Luther King Addresses Campus
A convocation entitled “Liberal Arts College in a World of Change” features a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. entitled “Remaining Awake through a Revolution.” He speaks to more than 4,000 people in a packed Darby Gymnasium.
1968: Student Government Association (SGA) Formed
Men’s and women’s hall governments merge into one body to form the Student Government Association.
1970: Dorms Become Coed
Many dorms become coed by floor. Loose Hall experiments with coed housing by room.
1975: A. Richard Turner Named President
A. Richard Turner, an art historian and former dean at Middlebury College, is named president of the College.
1975: “The Zirkle” Installed
Professor of art Louis Zirkle initiated Grinnell’s program of outdoor art with his untitled sculpture, affectionately known to generations of Grinnellians as “The Zirkle.”
1979: George Drake ’56 Named President
George Drake ’56, professor of history and Rhodes Scholar, is named president of the College. He remains president emeritus and history professor emeritus and a popular figure on campus.
1980: Sale of Dayton Television Station
The sale of WDTN-TV in Dayton, Ohio, doubles the College’s endowment. The initial investment was encouraged by trustee Warren Buffet, a friend of Intel co-founder Robert N. Noyce ’49.
1986: Human/Gay Resource Center Founded
Gay and lesbian students form an active group and establish the Human/Gay Resource Center. The center is later renamed the Stonewall Resource Center to commemorate the Stonewall Riots.
1987: Grinnell-Nanjing Exchange Begins
The Grinnell-Nanjing Exchange renews the Grinnell-in-China program begun in 1916 that ended with the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. It supports Grinnell’s nascent Chinese language program.
1991: Pamela A. Ferguson Named President
Pamela Ferguson, a mathematics professor and former dean of the graduate school at the University of Miami, is named the College’s 11th president.
1996: Grinnell Sesquicentennial
Grinnell College celebrates its 150th birthday.
1998: Russell K. Osgood Named President
Russell K. Osgood, professor of law at Cornell University of Law, is named Grinnell’s 12th president. His tenure would see a large amount of building construction and renovation on campus.
2003: East Campus Halls Open
The white Iowa limestone residence halls continue the loggia tradition at Grinnell and allow the College to house a larger student body.
2008: Rededication of Noyce Science Center
Tom Cech ’70, Nobel Prize winner, and Walter Koenig ’58, of Star Trek fame, are among those who celebrate the rededication of Robert N. Noyce ’49 Science Center after extensive renovations. Koenig says “"There's a reason we're called Pioneers. There are no limits on the impact Grinnell has — on us and on the world."
2010: Raynard S. Kington Named President
Raynard S. Kington, former deputy director of the National Institutes of Health, is named Grinnell’s 13th president.
2010: Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize Created
President Raynard S. Kington announces an annual prize program to honoring social entrepreneurs under 40. The prize includes $100,000, half given to the individual and half to his or her organization, and winners come to campus for symposiums and presentations. The first prizes are awarded in 2011.
2020: Anne F. Harris Named President
Anne F. Harris, an energetic leader and gifted teacher, was appointed the 14th president of Grinnell College following a unanimous vote by the Board of Trustees. President Harris joined the College in 2019 as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College. Before her time at Grinnell, Harris was a professor and vice president for academic affairs at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where she also held numerous faculty and administrative appointments over more than 20 years.