Summer picnic takes on different meaning for Iowa City family

July 20, 2023Robin Cook Kopelman ’95 and her spouse, Todd Kopelman ’96, are no strangers to volunteering for Grinnell and attending College events. 

With RAGBRAI coming through the area this summer, they had planned to host something for the Grinnell alumni bicycle group, but their schedules weren’t aligning. So when the most recent Iowa-in-the-Corridor picnic host, Shannon Hammen Miner ’01, was unable to plan the picnic this summer, they agreed to take it on. Their son, Quinn Kopelman ’23, is home for the summer, so they had an extra set of hands. “It was perfect timing,” says Robin.

The Kopelman family has frequented this event often over the years. “As a kid, it supplied a meal and candy for the afternoon,” Quinn recalls. “Now that I have so many friends who have set up in the corridor, I know many more alumni, so this time it has a different meaning.”

Robin Cook Kopelman ’95, left, Quinn Kopelman ’23, and Todd Kopelman ’96
Robin Cook Kopelman ’95, left, Quinn Kopelman ’23, and Todd Kopelman ’96 have their photo taken at City Park in Iowa City.

The corridor refers to the eastern part of Iowa that encompasses Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and the areas in between. At last count, 549 Grinnellians reside in the corridor. Robin and Todd are members of the Iowa-in-the-Corridor Regional Planning Committee. “There are many Grinnell events in this region,” Todd says. “We’ve attended hikes, pizza gatherings, and did some volunteer work in Cedar Rapids.” 

There are several Grinnellians right in the Kopelman’s Iowa City neighborhood. “While we come from a range of class years, we often forget we didn’t attend Grinnell at the same time because we’ve had such similar experiences,” says Robin.

More than 50 people attended the Iowa-in-the-Corridor summer picnic on July 16 at City Park in Iowa City. It’s one of 36 picnics hosted by alums that are happening across the country this summer. 

In Iowa City, attendees’ class years ranged from 1966-2026 with a strong contingent of recent graduates from the class of 2023. “Grinnell is so unique that no matter when people attended, they are able to find some common ground with alumni from other years,” Quinn says. 

Group photo of the Iowa Corridor Summer Picnic attendees.
More than 50 Grinnellians attended the Iowa-in-the-Corridor summer picnic on July 16 in Iowa City.

Quinn, the oldest of four siblings, is starting law school in the fall at the University of Pennsylvania. “This picnic was a fun way to say good-bye to Iowa prior to heading off for grad school.”

Originally from California, Todd heard about Grinnell while in high school when he attended a 2-week summer camp. “We took rigorous classes including one taught by [professor emeritus] Sandy Moffett,” he recalls. “There were College students helping out, and we got to go to Dari Barn as well as on a bakery run. I had so much fun that I ended up applying early decision.”

Robin was exposed to Grinnell at an even earlier age, attending a computer camp while in grade school in Dubuque, Iowa. But she didn’t think about Grinnell again until she started looking at colleges and went for a visit. She absolutely loved her tour, and also applied early decision.

The Kopelmans met while on campus, and then did their graduate work at the University of Iowa. Todd, a psychology major at Grinnell went on to get his Master of Social Work and then a Ph.D. in psychology. Robin majored in biology and then studied medicine at Iowa. She became a perinatal psychiatrist and women’s mental health specialist, then joined a private practice in 2019. Todd was a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa before leaving in 2023 to join a private practice. Both Robin and Todd continue as adjunct professors in Iowa’s psychiatry department. 

Todd Kopelman ’96, left, Quinn Kopelman ’23, and Robin Cook Kopelman ’95 display their respective graduation years.
Todd Kopelman ’96, left, Quinn Kopelman ’23, and Robin Cook Kopelman ’95 display their respective graduation years after the College’s 2023 Commencement ceremony.

Like his parents, Quinn’s first experience at Grinnell was through a camp. Robin vividly remembers her déjà vu moment when she dropped the envelope in the mail for his swim camp. “Grinnell was a constant presence in my life, but I didn’t think I’d go there,” Quinn says. Yet when touring the campus, the swim coach recognized him. “That made a great impression on me. I saw what a warm, kind environment it was and knew it was the place for me.”

While Quinn was a student, Robin and Todd served on Grinnell College Parents and Family Leadership Council and were co-chairs his senior year, and remain as part of the executive committee in 2023-24 as immediate past co-chairs. “It’s a neat opportunity to meet other parents in a way we might not have otherwise. We were among the few alumni in the group,” Robin says. 

The Kopelmans worked hard to spread the word about the picnic this year. They reached out to people in the area who had not been to past picnics. And, the day before the event, Robin attended a wedding of Grinnell alumni and extended a special invitation to Grinnellian guests.

Spencer Clark ’23, left, and Quinn Kopelman ’23
Spencer Clark ’23, left, and Quinn Kopelman ’23 officially met at the Iowa City picnic in 2019. They re-connected at the 2023 edition before Quinn leaves for law school.

“I love how we can connect and reconnect at events like this,” Robin says, highlighting a particular connection at this year’s picnic. Quinn’s closest Grinnell friend, Spencer Clark ’23, is someone he had competed against at high school swim meets. They officially met at the Iowa City picnic in 2019 before attending Grinnell, and a friendship formed. 

At Grinnell, they were swim teammates and ended up being in the Grinnell-in-London program together. “It was a wonderful thing to see them together again at this year’s picnic,” Robin notes. “It brought this Grinnell connection full circle!”

— by Melanie Drake ’92

For your information:

Grinnell’s summer picnics continue through Aug. 13 in numerous cities across the U.S. View the 2023 summer picnic web page for a list of dates and cities. 

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