Alumna Pledges $4 Million to Start Global Learning Program

April 07, 2015

Susan McCurry  ’71, a member of Grinnell College’s Board of Trustees, has pledged $4 million to the College.

McCurry’s gift, a portion of which will come from the Roland and Ruby Holden Foundation, will establish the Global Learning Program at Grinnell College.


“Susan McCurry’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 Global Learning Program will provide students at all levels and in all academic departments with opportunities to gain global competence and leadership in ways that distinguish Grinnell from our peers.”

According to Kington, the Global Learning Program (GLP) will have three core components – GLP Tutorials, GLP Designated Courses, and GLP Scholars Fellowships. Describing the GLP as a comprehensive set of international learning experiences, Kington added, “The Program will strengthen the international dimension of courses in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, as well as the Grinnell faculty’s international knowledge.”

Kington emphasized that GLP Tutorials particularly reflect McCurry’s desire to create global study opportunities for first-year students. Under the GLP Tutorial program, 25 first-year students will participate in interdisciplinary tutorials that include a four-week, multi-country travel component for comparative studies.

“The necessary critical thinking and inquiry based learning disciplines from GLP Tutorials will prepare students for the four-week travel component,” said Susan McCurry. “We expect the travel experience to influence the student’s course of studies for the next three years at Grinnell and beyond. The opportunity to foster interest in internships abroad as well as future careers may develop from the Global Learning Program. We envision many lifelong benefits from GLP and are enthusiastic about being part of launching this international program.”

The Global Learning Program will be directed by the Center for International Studies (CIS), in cooperation with the Dean of the College, and individual academic departments. It will be staged over a 10-year period. Faculty members are currently building the architecture for classes to begin next spring.

“This outstanding gift puts Grinnell in the forefront of international education,” said CIS Interim Director David Harrison. “By permitting Grinnell faculty to take students on course-embedded trips to multiple sites outside of the United States, the Global Learning Program provides a set of learning opportunities that no other liberal arts college can offer. Simply put, the gift liberates the creative energy of faculty and students alike to make the world their classroom.”

Susan McCurry graduated from Grinnell College with a B.A. in psychology. From 1971 to 1975, she held several positions as director of pre-schools and day care centers while she continued her education in early childhood development and administration in San Diego.

In 1978, she joined the family business as Chief Financial Officer of Holden’s Foundation Seeds, Inc., headquartered in Williamsburg, Iowa. She also served as Secretary/Treasurer for Hawaiian Research, Ltd., in Molokai, Hawaii. Both companies specialized in seed research and development. She remained involved in the company until it was sold in 1997.

“Our parents had a long history of international business relationships and travel. All of our family benefitted from their experiences and knowledge,” McCurry added. “They emphasized the value gained from international site exposure. We believe the travel component of the GLP will offer a worldwide learning laboratory for students.”

McCurry was elected to the Grinnell College Board of Trustees in 2003. She also serves as a board member for the Holden Family Foundation, Highland Ridge Retirement Community, and the University of Iowa Cancer Advisory Board. She is also a trustee at the Naples Children and Education Foundation. She resides in Naples, Florida, and Coralville, Iowa.

“We are extremely grateful for Susan McCurry’s investment in the future of Grinnell College,” said Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Shane Jacobson. “It is a demonstration of philanthropic leadership that aligns perfectly with the core values of the college.”

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