2022 Alumni Awards

The Grinnell College Alumni Council has selected 13 remarkable Grinnellians to receive the 2022 Alumni Awards.

The Alumni Award recognizes individuals who embody Grinnell College’s mission of lifetime learning and service. Nominated by their classmates and peers, recipients have distinguished themselves by their service to their careers, their community, and/or the College.

The 13 recipients were celebrated June 4 during Alumni Assembly at Reunion 2022

The 2022 Alumni Award recipients are:

  • Jim Lowry ’61 
  • Kate Stephan Villers ’61
  • Ron Gault ’62
  • Alan Cohen ’72
  • Jodie Levin-Epstein ’72
  • Dick Knapp ’76 
  • Katherine “Kit” Wall ’77
  • Rebecca Quirk ’86 
  • Rhonda Stuart ’86 
  • Sherry Davis Gupta ’88 
  • Karmi Anna Mattson ’97
  • Samuel Sellers ’00
  • Julian Zebot ’00

Jim Lowry ’61Jim Lowry ’61

A nationally recognized workforce and supplier diversity expert, Jim Lowry has opened doors and removed glass ceilings for numerous African Americans and women in the business world. As a senior partner and then senior advisor for the Boston Consulting Group, he leads the firm’s workforce diversity and minority business development consulting practice. Jim was the first African American elected to Grinnell College’s Board of Trustees in 1969 and became a Life Trustee in 1995. He also is in Grinnell’s Athletics Hall of Fame and holds an Honorary Doctor of Laws. 

Kate Villers ’61Kate Stephan Villers ’61

Kate Stephan Villers has brought consumer and community voices into the health reform debate at the community, state, and national levels to help ensure all Americans have access to first-rate health care. In 1998, Kate established a consumer health advocacy organization, Community Catalyst, to engage disadvantaged people and communities to fight for health care justice. The Community Catalyst team eventually established core consumer advocacy networks in every state to challenge structural inequities and build a society where health is a right for all.

Ron Gault ’62Ron Gault ’62

Ron Gault has been a courageous educational, public service, and finance leader on the world stage. At the Ford Foundation, he worked on a broad range of national issues, culminating in a multi-million-dollar community development initiative aimed at providing jobs, housing, and an improved quality of life. He later seamlessly transitioned to investment banking. As managing director at JPMorgan Chase, he took the bank to South Africa following the demise of apartheid, where he helped Black South Africans in banking, law, and related professions gain experience. Ron joined the Grinnell College Board of Trustees in 1987 and became a Life Trustee in 2002. 

Alan Cohen ’72Alan Cohen ’72

With an encyclopedic knowledge of Social Security, Alan Cohen was nominated in 2014 by President Barack Obama to serve on the Social Security Advisory Board. In his current position as senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Alan is focused on federal budget issues and improving economic security for low-income individuals and households. He also has been active with his alma mater by speaking to Grinnell classes, volunteering on his Reunion Committee, and mentoring students who are participating in the Grinnell-in-Washington, D.C. off-campus study semester.

Jodie Levin-Epstein ’72Jodie Levin-Epstein ’72

In grounding public policy debates about labor standards in lived reality, Jodie Levin-Epstein has been a voice for the voiceless. During a distinguished 28-year career at the Center for Law & Social Policy, Jodie worked to reduce and mitigate poverty by advocating on national platforms for nutrition, welfare reform, reproductive health, labor rights, and children. She brought a low-income worker lens into the work-family debate that fostered inclusive policies. Additionally, her capacity to frame the issues and simplify the complex in speeches about poverty have motivated audiences into acting.  

Dick Knapp ’76Dick Knapp ’76

Downtown Grinnell – and by extension Grinnell College – has been the recipient of Dick Knapp’s vision and relentless energy many times over. Knapp has developed large apartment communities in metro Washington D.C., and in recent years began projects to preserve and renovate distressed Section 8 housing occupied by low-income families. In recognizing that Grinnell College would benefit greatly from a bustling downtown with specialty boutiques, services, restaurants, and housing, Knapp acquired, renovated, and re-tenanted eight downtown properties. The resulting businesses also have created a stronger bridge between the campus and downtown.

Katherine “Kit” Wall ’77Katherine “Kit” Wall ’77

An ambassador extraordinaire for Grinnell College, Kit Wall has devoted countless time and talent to promote her alma mater. The skillsets Kit used to develop relationships within the alumni community have also been important to her career. As a communication and community relations professional, she has promoted everything from policy reform issues, nonprofit organizations, and political campaigns to rock shows and media events. Since 2003, she has organized the annual Words to Deeds Changing the Paradigm for Criminal Justice and Mental Health conference.  

Rebecca Quirk ’86Rebecca Quirk ’86

Rebecca Quirk has invested years of energy into Grinnell College and its alumni because she believes in it. An incredibly effective connector of alumni, Quirk has served as a class agent, Alumni Council member, and GRASP volunteer. She is involved in the GRÆY movement (Grinnell Reunion Any/Every Year) and has attended 10 straight reunions. Rebecca worked in public television for 20 years before retiring to Idaho. With her consistent class letters and social media activity, Rebecca has facilitated alums of the mid-1980s sharing life’s moments together.  

Rhonda Stuart ’86Rhonda Stuart ’86

Rhonda Stuart has been open about the challenges she faced as a Black student in the 1980s, and her decision to serve on the Alumni Council was directly tied to wanting today’s students to have a better experience. Rhonda chaired the College’s first Multicultural Alumni Reunion in 2017 and played a pivotal role in two subsequent reunions, which have encouraged many diverse members of the alumni community to reengage with the College. In her professional life, Rhonda practices family law, serving a wide range of clients from her solo practitioner office. 

Sherry Davis Gupta ’88Sherry Davis Gupta ’88

With a huge heart for children and open arms for anyone new to central Iowa, Sherry Gupta facilitates activities that elevate people’s attitudes and behaviors, so they are able to accept diversity and navigate differences more gracefully. As founder and executive director of CultureALL, Sherry and her team bring people together from diverse backgrounds to learn from each other. She recruited first-generation immigrants and trained them as Cultural Ambassadors to share their personal stories, customs, and traditions in presentations to schools and businesses.

Karmi Anna Mattson ’97Karmi Anna Mattson ’97

Karmi Mattson’s enthusiasm for Grinnell College is contagious. She has helped hundreds of Grinnell alumni in Minnesota stay connected to the College in meaningful ways. As chair of the Grinnell-in-the-Twin Cities Alumni Planning Committee since 2008, Karmi has organized 126 alumni events. She has also been a class agent, GRASP coordinator, and Alumni Council member. In her professional career, she joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis as an administrative assistant and worked her way up to assistant vice president, regional outreach and public programs. 

Samuel Sellers ’00Samuel Sellers ’00

Samuel Sellers has found ways to use his love of hip-hop to improve lives. A DJ, MC, and beatboxer, Samuel is best known by his DJ name, Rabbi Darkside. He worked for 14 years in New York City Public Schools evolving from history teacher to teaching artist, developing the rap-based test prep program “Fresh Prep.” He also co-founded the Hip Hop Re:Education Project, a community-based arts organization that uses hip-hop culture to engage marginalized young people. In 2015, Samuel served as a Next Level Cultural Ambassador, facilitating a 3-week workshop in Uganda. 

Julian Zebot ’00Julian Zebot ’00

An expert in the field of probate and trust law, Julian Zebot is also known for his commitment to underserved populations in need of legal representation. As chair of his firm’s (Maslon) Pro Bono Committee, he regularly volunteers his time to represent people who have suffered serious injustices or have lack of adequate representation. A case in point is Julian’s diligent work to vacate the death row sentence of a man in Texas. In 2020, Julian was appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court to serve on the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board.

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Nominations for future Alumni Awards are accepted at any time. To nominate a fellow Grinnellian, visit the Alumni Awards page and complete the nomination form.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive.