Alumnus flips Colorado farmland to create Grinnell biology endowed chair

Mar. 15, 2019 — A planned gift of $4.25 million from a Denver-area cardiologist and farmer will honor his father’s legacy at Grinnell College while benefitting future biology students.

The gift from Carlos Mendoza ’72 will create the Dr. Guillermo Mendoza Endowed Chair. The new position in the biology department will be awarded in the future to a faculty member with exceptional academic, scholarly, and teaching achievements.

Carlos Mendoza ’72
   Carlos Mendoza ’72

Those qualities also suitably describe Guillermo Mendoza who served as a biology professor and pre-med adviser at Grinnell for 34 years. Guillermo helped shape the lives of countless students who went on to careers in the science and medical fields, including Carlos and his older brother, Guillermo R. Mendoza ’68.

“We lived on the edge of campus,” Carlos says about his time growing up in Grinnell. “We talked about the College at the family dinner table and attended Grinnell functions. Because the College was a huge part of my life as a kid and a young adult, the decision to give to Grinnell is a gratifying way to pay back and acknowledge the pivotal role the College played in our lives as a family.” 

After graduating from medical school and completing his training, Carlos Mendoza voluntarily enlisted and served in the Army for three years as a staff cardiologist. Then followed 30 years in private practice. In 2012, he retired from medicine to his 200-acre farm north of Denver where he remained busy with successful hay and llama-breeding businesses. 

About two years ago, Mendoza got a letter from the College describing how a couple used a charitable trust vehicle for their retirement planning. 

“I looked at that letter and said to myself ‘excellent, this idea fits me perfectly,’” Mendoza says. 

While working as a cardiologist, Mendoza was living in a typical house in a Denver suburb. He wanted space for his dogs and a change of scene, so he started looking for a 5-acre parcel. Instead, his realtor found the 200-acre property. 

“It was in the middle of nothingness at the time,” he says while smiling, referring to the land in unincorporated Weld County. “There was no development around me. My realtor said this will be a rewarding financial investment. I didn’t believe it at the time.” 

Mendoza gradually taught himself farming. He started researching what would be the best crops, and decided to raise pasture grass for hay. Meanwhile, the City of Frederick, Colorado, was looking to maintain open space and investing in suitable properties for the future. The open spaces and water rights on Mendoza’s farm became attractive. 

Llamas raised by Carlos Mendoza ’72.
Llamas raised by Carlos Mendoza ’72 graze on the 200-acre Colorado farmland Mendoza is selling to benefit Grinnell College.

The city was a willing buyer, Mendoza was a willing seller, and it took all of five minutes in a meeting with a Grinnell College development officer for him to realize he wanted proceeds from the sale to benefit his alma mater.

“For me, it was perfect timing and an easy decision,” he says. “I didn’t need a large chunk of money, but I do have retirement plans and wanted to establish a relatively stable flow of retirement income.”

Mendoza made his gift to Grinnell by contributing his farm to a Charitable Remainder Unitrust, which provides him immediate tax benefits, as well as lifetime retirement income following the farm’s sale. The remainder value of the trust will eventually establish the Dr. Guillermo Mendoza Endowed Chair.

“We are very grateful that Carlos has chosen to make a lasting impact on Grinnell’s biology program,” says Grinnell College Dean Mike Latham. “This real estate gift is a creative and generous way of giving. The establishment of the trust is a win for all parties, and it’s such a fitting tribute for Carlos’ father.” 

Dr. Guillermo Mendoza, professor of biology
   Dr. Guillermo Mendoza,
   professor of biology

A zoologist specializing in the study of a variety of fresh-water fishes unique to Central Mexico, Guillermo Mendoza’s long academic career included research and teaching biology, comparative anatomy, embryology, genetics, histology, and electron microscopy. He published numerous research papers, held offices in numerous professional societies, and served as chairman of the department of biology and the division of natural sciences at Grinnell College. He held the position of Stone Professor of Biology from 1961 until his retirement in 1977.

While in Grinnell for his high school reunion in October, Carlos Mendoza met with College leaders and spent a large part of the day with biology professors.

“I was reassured that things hadn’t changed significantly in terms of basic educational processes and that the College was still seeking new ways to produce well-educated students with a mind toward society.”

Ben DeRidder, chair of Grinnell’s biology department, says Mendoza’s generous gift will “allow us to continue and expand our innovative, inquiry-based approach to teaching biology. The integration of authentic research at every level of our curriculum requires a significant level of commitment – of faculty and staff, but also of fiscal resources – to maintain our program, facilities, and instrumentation at levels that are consistent with the goal of providing our students the very best life-sciences education.”

—by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

To learn more about supporting Grinnell College with a life income gift, please contact Buddy Boulton, director of planned giving, at or 641-269-3248.

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