Committed to the Common Good

Celebrating 175 Years of Grinnell College, 1846 to 2021

June 04, 2021

Michele Regenold '89

How much has Grinnell College changed over 175 years? In the details, quite a lot has changed, but in the essentials — like standing up for your beliefs — not so much. Exploring issues of purpose, responsibility, and justice has been part of the Grinnell ethos since the beginning.

  • Handwritten document laying out the original articles of association by the new Iowa College

    Iowa College got its start in 1846 in the young city of Davenport, on the Mississippi River. The city grew rapidly, which caused some problems. In addition to the city cutting streets through campus, the opinions of many of the newer residents on the “great political issues of the day — temperance and abolition — were antithetical to those of the college personnel.”* 

    See the full document on Digital Grinnell.

  • Newspaper clipping showing J.B. Grinnell's home

    About 120 miles west of Davenport, an abolitionist, Congregational minister, and consummate promoter named J. B. Grinnell had big plans. In the 1850s he not only founded a new town; he also set aside land for Grinnell University. Grinnell knew of Iowa College’s difficulties with Davenport and worked hard to persuade the trustees to move the school to his new town. In 1858 the Iowa College trustees voted to do just that. 

    This clipping is part of the Special Collections and Archives on Digital Grinnell.

  • Black and white photo of a possible temple in China, next to a pond

    A Grinnell alumnus, A. B. DeHaan 1906, who served as a missionary in Shantung Province, China, proposed that Grinnell provide “Christian education” there. Grinnell-in-China was enthusiastically approved by President John H. T. Main and support was provided for alumni to teach in girls’ and boys’ academies. The program lasted from 1913 to 1933.

    John Forrest Chapman 1924 took this photograph during his time with the Grinnell-in-China program in Techow (Dezhou), China.

  • World War II troops listen to a woman at their center, speaking in a microphone

    Military service is another way Grinnellians practice social responsibility, especially in war time. During World War I, the College provided space for a Student Army Training Corps. In World War II, the College hosted military units, including an Officer Candidate School. And in 1951 in response to the Korean War, the College established an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, which lasted about 20 years.

    The woman in the center of this photograph is Ann Goplerud 1939. During World War II she served in the Red Cross and sang at hospitals and for troops moving out. She became incredibly popular and even earned the name “Ann of Iowa.” She also served in the Red Cross during the Korean War. Her papers are housed in Special Collections and Archives.

  • White crosses cover central campus in a B&W image

    In the 1960s, Grinnell students used their voices as thoughtful, active citizens of the world to protest injustice. They were invested in civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, nuclear proliferation, and the Vietnam War. (See this Grinnell Magazine story, Legacy of Activism, about the history of Concerned Black Students.)

    Students protested a visit by a Marine recruiter in 1968 by placing white crosses.

  • Students stand with their arms around each other before releasing their balloons as a peace demonstration protesting bombing in Libya, 1986.

    Grinnell students become activists in support of many causes. Environmental advocacy picked up steam in the 1990s and 2000s. (See this Grinnell Magazine story, Solving Wicked Thorny Problems, about the lasting impact of a student-powered environmental advocacy group.) 

    Students stand with their arms around each other before releasing their balloons as a peace demonstration protesting bombing in Libya, 1986. 

  • President Kington places a medal over the head of Shafiq R. Khan

    In 2011, Grinnell named the first two winners of the Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize. The winners come to campus to share their stories and experiences. Students get a chance to learn more about how non-profits function and how the winners’ organizations contribute to the common good in their own, unique way.

    In 2019, President Kington presented the Grinnell Prize medal to Shafiq R. Khan.

  • Chaz Del Mar '22 and David Calvert '75

    Acting socially responsible is a common trait for Grinnellians, but how does that translate into preparing for a career that matters? In the 2010s, the Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS) developed an innovative model for assisting students. From students’ first semester to their last, the CLS helps them connect their interests to their future success. The CLS offers advising that begins during students’ first semester and career exploration including Industry-focused programming through seven distinct Career Communities. The CLS also offers grants that enable students to take career-building, but unpaid, internships to enhance their skills. Additional grant funding is used to send students to professional conferences and to help them purchase interview attire.

    Chaz Del Mar ’22 interned with David Calvert ’75, director of strategic partnerships for Youth Action Youth Build of East Harlem in Harlem, New York, during summer 2019. (Photo by Andy Kropa)

  • 3 students studying in the HSSC atrium

    In 2020, the year the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe and sent economies reeling, Grinnell demonstrated its commitment to student access by establishing a no-loan initiative. The College eliminated student loans from its financial aid packages and replaced them with scholarships. 

    Students shown studying in the Humanities and Social Studies Center Atrium.


* Note: Quotations are from Grinnell College in the Nineteenth Century: From Salvation to Service, written by Joseph Frazier Wall ’41

Color photos are by Justin Hayworth, staff photographer, except where noted.

Historic photos and documents (except where noted) are part of the Special Collections and Archives, Burling Library, Grinnell College. Most of the images here are available on Digital Grinnell.

The Iowa map showing the Indigenous Peoples' land cessions is by the State Historical Society of Iowa.

Digital Grinnell contains text views of the Articles of Association and When Josiah Grinnell’s Home Concealed John Brown’s Guns.

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