Helping others a full-time occupation for 1960 Grinnell graduate

May 7, 2020 — Jim Kimball ’60 says he’s tried to make a difference in every community he has been in, from his days at Grinnell College to his countless contributions to the town of Osceola, Iowa.

Jim Kimball '60
    Jim Kimball ’60

During his time as a doctor and community volunteer in Osceola, Kimball has had a hand in numerous civic, medical, and economic improvements.

“You do what you can, where you can,” he says. “Your community is important and it’s your responsibility to help your community however you can.”

Kimball has been recognized as the Iowa State Fair’s Iowan of the Day, received the 2009 Osceola Community Service Award, and was a Grinnell College Alumni Award recipient in 2010.

Raised in Murray, Iowa, Kimball scored a scholarship to Philips Exeter Academy, an all-male private secondary school in New Hampshire. He attributes his experience at Exeter as seminal in changing him from under-prepared student to scholar.

When considering colleges, he looked at Harvard and other Ivy League schools. Grinnell offered him a Younker scholarship so, as Kimball says, he ended up at the Harvard of the Midwest.

He was originally in the class of 1961. Advanced Placement high school courses were just starting to be recognized by colleges like Grinnell, so with his Exeter AP course credits, he was able to graduate in three years. He majored in chemistry and zoology.

At Grinnell, Kimball had time to enjoy and appreciate the company of others. He and classmates John Price ’60, Bob Norris ’60, and many others found ways to have fun while they learned. Kimball was president of Cowles Hall his senior year and was a member of the Friars.

“I did a lot of growing up while at Grinnell and learned that communities are important on many levels,” he says. “Paying it forward or paying it back is what we all should be doing.” 

As a graduating senior, Kimball saw the likelihood of military service ahead and joined the Army, which eventually paid for his medical school education at the University of Iowa. He spent four years in the Army, including a year in Vietnam. Even in Vietnam, there was a community experience of note. Kimball was helping build a community hospital “off the books,” which was not viewed favorably by some Army brass. Knowing how important the hospital was for the locals, he spoke out and ended up with a reprimand for his good work. While serving, he also won a Bronze Star. 

After medical school, Kimball practiced family medicine at the Clarke County Medical Clinic in Osceola and was a faculty physician at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines. Being a doctor was more than just a nine-to-five job. He viewed it as a calling.

Kimball also was director of the Family Practice Residency Program at Broadlawns for four years. He then worked in the emergency room. He was elected by his peers as the president of the Iowa Academy of Family Physicians. Over the years, he mentored many Grinnell students interested in medicine.

Perhaps even more impressive than Kimball’s career accomplishments are his efforts as a volunteer. He served on the boards of the Iowa Heart Association, and Children and Families of Iowa. He has convinced dozens of Iowa schools to teach CPR to their teachers, students, and employees. He also established the Kimball Family Foundation to assist the Clarke County Hospital.

He has served on the Osceola City Council, and many other community boards in Osceola and Clarke County. He also is a pilot who has flown to numerous places across the country and to Canada. He even uses his CDL driver’s license to plow snow off the Osceola Municipal Airport runway.

He was successful in a project turning the Osceola Country Club into a municipal golf course. For seven years, he has hosted the Dr. Jim Show on KSOI radio. Kimball and his wife, Mary Ellen, worked with the development corporation to get a casino built in Osceola. The casino “boat” has meant millions of dollars for the community.   

While in medical school, Kimball met Mary Ellen, then a nursing student. They have two sons and four grandchildren, all of them engaged in active and productive lives in their own communities. His son Jeff lives and works in Budapest, Hungary. His son Joe is a family practice physician in Iowa.

“Of all my accomplishments, I’m most proud of my family,” he says.

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

For your information:

Jim Kimball – and article author Nancy Maly – are Alumni Award recipients. See a list of all recipients by class. Nominations are now open for 2021 Alumni Awards.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive.