Class of 1969 funds MLK Jr. Endowed Scholarship as 50th reunion class gift

Aug. 7, 2019 — For the Grinnell College class of 1969, the Martin Luther King Jr. Endowed Scholarship is a fitting class gift in many ways.

Betsy Clarke ’69
     Betsy Clarke ’69

“The scholarship connects with our social justice values, our experience of hearing Martin Luther King Jr. speak at Grinnell in October 1967, our grief when he was killed in April 1968, and our experiences of demonstrating for peace and civil rights,” says Betsy Clarke ’69, co-class fund director.

During fiscal year 2018-19 – from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 – alumni from the class of 1969 directed more than $360,000 in outright gifts and pledges to the Class of 1969 Martin Luther King Jr. Endowed Scholarship. In addition, alumni from the class gave another $121,000 to the Pioneer Fund and other areas of the College for a total class commitment of $481,010.

The class of 1969 is the first 50th reunion class to have reached the endowment threshold by Dec. 31 for their scholarship fund. Achieving that level so quickly allows for a scholarship to be awarded this fall. The endowment will provide need-based scholarships to support the ideals of Dr. King in the student body.

“We have been amazed at the success of fundraising for the endowed scholarship,” Clarke says. “We are very gratified to be the first 50th reunion class to raise sufficient cash to award a scholarship in the fall immediately following our reunion.”

A total of 137 class members made gifts, a 50 percent class participation rate.

Jim Sebern ’69
Jim Sebern ’69

“It has been a long time since we had 50 percent giving participation from our class in any one year,” said Jim Sebern ’69, co-class fund director. “There were several factors that helped us get there this year: the excitement of the 50th reunion, the outstanding program that was in place, the outreach that was done to involve classmates through the question of the week, and the specifics of the scholarship.”

The question of the week came from Diana Brown Holbert ‘69, a reunion class committee member. She sent a question every week to provoke discussion and generate interest in Reunion 2019, Sebern says.

Planning for the gift began a year before when the 1969 Reunion Committee started discussing ideas. Clarke says the committee was enthusiastic about having a social justice scholarship, but they wanted to assess the support for the class as a whole. An online poll was created to test interest for gifts, and the MLK scholarship idea elicited significant interest.

The poll also served as an introduction to fundraising, though the committee followed up with emails and phone calls about Reunion attendance first.

Alumni from the class of 1969 visit before the 50th reunion class dinner during Reunion 2019.
Alumni from the class of 1969 visit before the 50th reunion class dinner during Reunion 2019.

“We always wanted classmates to know that we were encouraging attendance at the Reunion before fundraising,” Clarke says. “Then we began fundraising activities using a variety of media and integrating our messages with other Reunion activities. We raised more than 90 percent of gifts before Reunion so we had great news to announce at Reunion.”

After Reunion, Clarke and Sebern sent out an email to everyone who had not given telling them about Reunion and asking for a few more gifts to hit 50 percent giving.

“We are so jazzed by our 50 percent participation rate!” Clarke says. “Many thanks to the members of the Class of 1969 for their generous gifts.”

—by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

The Class of 1969 is supporting an endowed scholarship and many other areas. Here are some of the options for what to support when considering a gift to Grinnell College.

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