An endowed professorship and student internships are this couple’s gifts to Grinnell --and the planet

Keith Jantzen ’80 and Scott Beth have spent decades exploring the natural world, from hiking in California and Hawaii to scuba diving around the globe. The Palo Alto, Calif., couple describe those moments above and underwater as spiritual, beautiful experiences. It’s one reason why Jantzen, who grew up in Arizona, and Beth, who grew up in Northern California, give to organizations that support the land. “We believe strongly in preserving and protecting the natural world and all of the life that the planet supports,” says Jantzen, whose father once headed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Scott Beth and Keith Jantzen ’80
    Scott Beth & Keith Jantzen '80

Given the chance to have an even greater impact on the world, the couple have pledged two extraordinary gifts to Grinnell College: A $3 million endowment from their estate establishing a professorship in Environmental Studies, and a $50,000 gift creating the Jantzen-Beth Fund for Environmental Studies, which will sponsor student internships. With ongoing donations from Jantzen and Beth, students will benefit year after year.

“To have a gift through our estate is so powerful,” says Beth. “And I can’t wait to find out what work the students are doing through the internship.” Another objective, he adds, “is to give students a chance to try this out as a potential career path after Grinnell. Those opportunities are important.”

“We want to provide Grinnell students a way to make long-term contributions to environmental issues and policy, and we think that will be done through the intersection of science, public policy, and communication,” explains Jantzen. “Last fall we were so horrified by the results of the election and what that meant for the natural world that we said, ‘we’re going to double down on our support of environmental causes.’” 

Just as impressive as the gifts are the two people behind them. Beth is a Stanford University graduate (BA, Economics ’82) who is Vice President of Finance Operations at Intuit, and as committed to Grinnell as Jantzen. “I’m a huge proponent of liberal arts colleges and I look for people when I hire them with liberal arts backgrounds,” says Beth. “Their critical thinking skills, ability to communicate and frame thoughts and arguments are incredible skills to have.”

It was an alumni trip in the mid-90s to Greece, however, that brought Beth even closer to Grinnell. “It was an absolutely magical trip, with Jerry Lalonde, John Pfitsch, and Ken Christiansen,” he says. “I immediately connected with the alumni and faculty that went. The two returned to Grinnell for Jantzen’s 20th Reunion, where Beth met more Grinnellians, played croquet, and enjoyed gin and tonics on Mac Field. “It was a real delight.”

A history major at Grinnell, Jantzen moved to Palo Alto after graduation and worked at Stanford, first in a graduate library and then at the Hoover Institution’s archives. Two years later he and Beth met, and the two have been together for the past 35 years. After earning his MBA from UCLA, Jantzen, like his partner, went on to a long career in Silicon Valley, working for Stanford's Development Office, then Hewlett-Packard (in marketing, sales, and information management), Intuit, and finally, fundraising for the Cypress String Quartet. 

Together, Jantzen and Beth are thrilled that their gifts will have long-term impacts on Grinnell students and the natural world. “We both care deeply about the mission of the college, the quality of education, and the experience that Keith had, which I want to join Keith in supporting,” Beth says. Adds Jantzen: “Grinnell has been so fundamental to who I am in the world today. And we both feel very strongly that it’s important to give back.”

—by Anne Stein ’84

For your information:

Environmental Studies at Grinnell speak directly to the passions of both Keith Jantzen '80 and Scott Beth. Learn more about the Environmental Studies program.

Keith and Scott's support of Grinnell includes a planned gift. Learn how you can support Grinnell with a planned gift by visiting our planned giving online resources or by calling Buddy Boulton, director of planned giving, at 641-269-3248.