Alumna creates endowment to help students gain nonprofit leadership experience

November 24, 2020 — Claire Rosenbush Holland ’74 described her music career as “one of the heart,” and her health and wellness career as “one of the soul.”

Holland’s latest contribution combines a bit of both of those qualities. In August, Holland established a fund for Education in Non-Profit Leadership at Grinnell College. Holland specified the main purpose of the fund is to help students develop, practice, and improve the skills needed in the arena of nonprofit leadership and management.

Claire Rosenbush Holland ’74
  Claire Rosenbush Holland ’74

“I want to help students see a workable career path in the field of nonprofit organizations and learn how to be effective leaders,” she says. “Grinnell is a place where students can learn by doing.”

Holland considered a variety of charitable giving possibilities to non-profit organizations but wanted to make a wider, longer-lasting impact. She thought about her alma mater and how the College fosters giving back and often attracts students who are also inclined to the idea of philanthropy. She hopes the gift will reverberate in that students who use it will create lasting change.

By teaching students to become educated leaders of nonprofits, the fund ultimately will provide support and expertise to a wide variety of nonprofits such as health, music, theatre, animal rescue, and the environment, which is fitting because Holland has worn – and continues to wear – many hats in her career and life. Grinnell College, she says, played a big part in preparing her for her life choices.

“Students don’t end up at Grinnell by accident,” she says. “I think I offer testament to being able to discover and follow one’s passions.”

Holland hails from Connecticut and considered schools from Oregon to Maine. She visited her original first-choice school and knew it was not the right college for her. As soon as she stepped on Grinnell’s campus for her on-site visit, she knew it was the right place. She has never regretted the choice.

“Grinnell College’s strengths are fostering critical thinking, encouraging creative problem solving in an atmosphere of compassion, and through small classes, helping develop close relationships between students and professors,” she says. “Students explore ‘how’ and ‘what if’ in a broad, open atmosphere. Grinnell develops leaders who are resilient, forward thinkers who are able to think critically, creatively, and in depth.”

Holland passionately wanted to be a doctor so that she could help people. She completed her M.D. and has practiced medicine in various capacities. Throughout her various careers she often combined art and science.

Holland has consistently been active in both theatre and music since she was 9 years old. While laughing, she says, “When I was at Grinnell, the music majors thought I was a music major, the theatre majors thought I was a theatre major, and actually I had declared a bio major in my first semester.”

She engaged in all three areas during her junior year in Wales. Grinnell did not have an off-campus program in Wales, so Holland found a college and enrolled. While there, she joined the Gilbert and Sullivan Society to sing. They were putting on an operetta and needed a director so being the risk taker that she was, she volunteered. She ended up doing more tech work than planned and also designed sets.

Early in her life, Holland never saw music or theatre as career options because she felt she was better at science than art. She has, however, become a serious and talented choral director, founding and directing a number of choral groups. She has completed both a second bachelor’s, and a master’s degrees as well as all the course work for a Doctor of Arts in choral conducting. She taught music or medicine for 15 years at colleges and universities in the Midwest and Florida.

Additionally, Holland is a licensed massage therapist and an active teacher of Qigong. Both are helpful parts of her approach to wellness. Qigong includes gentle movements and mindfulness to help increase vitality, health, and wellness. Her initial involvement was almost accidental but it led to embracing it fully, training to become a teacher and now offering Qigong classes which she currently teaches online. Qigong helps people cope, strengthens health, and improves how people think especially in trying times.

“I have embraced humanity in many ways, and have love for the earth, nature, animals and plants,” she says. “The words I live by are compassion, respect, and feeding the soul.”

—by Nancy Schmulbach Maly ’61, Alumni Council Member Emerita

For your information:

Claire Rosenbush Holland ’74 taught an Alumni Experiential College (ExCo) workshop about Qigong this past summer. 

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