Colorado minister credits Grinnell for being ‘engine of opportunity’

July 16, 2019 — The Rev. Jake Joseph ’11 has made a monthly gift to Grinnell since April 2017 to make it clear he is invested in the Grinnell community and interested in advocating for the culture of the College.

Jake Joseph '11
    Jake Joseph '11

“Do you want to be part of the community, or do you just want to comment on the community?” he asks. “The difference is whether you’re willing to give even a dollar a month. Giving not only shows alums care about the College, it also lets them be present.”

A reverend and associate minister at Plymouth Congregational Church in Fort Collins, Colorado, Joseph has directed his monthly gift to benefit the Grinnell College Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice (CRSSJ). He is proud to be a Grinnellian, and finds that the value of being an alumnus has increased in the eight years since he left Grinnell.

“The value of a liberal arts education is that you are not afraid of change,” he says. “It allows you to be much more agile in your profession, whatever that ends up being. Grinnell opens more and more doors the older I get and the more I am willing to own the unique perspective it has offered my life and career as clergy and an affordable housing advocate.”

When Joseph was researching where to attend college, he noticed that many elite small colleges were more interested in pedigree than passion. In contract, Grinnell had a friendly vibe, and was robust academically, socially accessible, and internationally minded.

“I would love to say fate, destiny, or serendipity brought me to Grinnell, but the reality was strong research and a good campus visit,” he says. “I wanted an academically strong, not snobby, liberal arts college that easily allowed for a full year of study abroad in France. While those two criteria sound like they would be easy to meet, the reality was somewhat more complicated.”

Joseph earned a degree in French and got to spend that full year studying in France. Because he had extra credits from the year abroad and high school, Joseph was able to graduate a semester early. He stayed in Grinnell and became an intern at Grinnell Regional Medical Center’s hospice program. Through that he learned about the immense depth of rural poverty, which has had a lasting impact on him.

Joseph gives back to the College not only for students, but also for the opportunity that Grinnell as an institution brings to the region. He calls Grinnell an engine of opportunity and an example of progressive values.

“Grinnell is a place that calls you to be there,” he says. “You go for the culture and for something that compels you to be in the place.”

Beyond giving financially to the College, Joseph is an active volunteer. He is a co-coordinator with Jason Reynolds ’94 on the Front Range Regional Planning Committee. Joseph organizes an annual brewery crawl in Fort Collins and co-hosts the group’s summer picnic in Denver.

Jake Jospeh '11 with his spouse Gerhard Kummerow.
Jake Joseph '11 with his spouse, Gerhard Kummerow.

Joseph says the friends he has made through the College and Grinnell-on-the-Front Range have been amazing. He cites Alumni Council member Lester Alemán ’07 as an example.

“Lester was my host when I was a high school prospective student and he was a senior at the College.” Joseph says. “He was at my wedding, welcomed my spouse and me to L.A. and into his friend group when we lived there, and has remained a trusted friend – and we never even were on campus at the same time!”

For Joseph, Grinnell is a source of hope. He senses that is also true for other alumni. While giving monthly may not work for everyone, he does encourage Grinnellians to contribute to something that is meaningful to them, such as the CRSSJ in his case. He will start a new job as a minister at First Church Guilford in Connecticut this September.

“What is it about Grinnell that gave you life?” he asks. “Is it a building, a program, a field of study? If you don’t want to give to the Pioneer Fund, look at the already established programs and earmark your giving to something that is important to you.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro and Andrea Jackson ‘95, Alumni Council member

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