Volunteering with Grinnell rekindles friendships -- and sparks new ones for 1989 CFD

June 1, 2020 — When Joel Maurer ’89 recalls his student days at Grinnell College, he describes an interesting scene: a diverse set of students studying amid wide stretches of farmland. It was a dynamic that led to lots of time spent learning together – and from each other.

Joel Maurer '89
    Joel Maurer ’89

Maurer, a Nebraska native, says Grinnell helped him connect with a range of other people, allowing him to learn not just from his courses, but from others’ life experiences.

In his current role as a class fund director, Maurer says he has found that the kinds of memories and connections fostered by the Grinnell environment are shared by generations of alumni. From meetings and interactions with alumni from other classes, he’s discovered that no matter the graduation year, Grinnell graduates share common bonds.

“It’s good to hear their memories and stories, and see the similarities between our experiences,” Maurer says.

Maurer is one of four CFDs for the class of 1989, a position that enhances and deepens classmates’ philanthropic relationships with the College. He says the volunteer work has helped him rekindle friendships formed at Grinnell while establishing fun new relationships with other alumni.

Maurer began volunteering as a class fund director about two years ago, after years of regularly giving back financially to his alma mater. The past year has been particularly important for fundraising, as Maurer’s class was preparing to celebrate its 30th reunion this month.

While on-campus reunion events have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, plans are in the works to reschedule within the next year. The global crisis, and the resulting social distancing guidelines, have only highlighted the importance of in-person contact, he says.

“Reunion is especially important these days,” even with social media allowing online connection, Maurer says. “Those of us who have been blessed to be a part of an on-site gathering of Grinnellians really understand the inspiration and uplifting that only real, human contact and connection gives.”

Fundraising is ongoing for the class gift, establishing the Class of 1989 Endowed Scholarship, which will help students in financial need. The class has surpassed its goal of raising $175,000 in cash, pledges, and planned gifts to any fund designation, but is still working on raising enough specifically to reach the threshold of endowing the scholarship.

Maurer’s volunteer work with Grinnell fits well with his full-time job as assistant dean for admissions at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. He’s also an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology.

Maurer, who studied biology at Grinnell, earned a medical degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1993. He then completed his residency as an OB-GYN at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he met his now-husband, David, an academic choral conductor. The two married in 2016 after 18 years together.

Maurer has taught at Michigan State for about 15 years, the past 10 in his current role in admissions. Maurer’s passion for admissions work stems in part from his first year at Grinnell, during which he struggled to adjust to the College’s rigorous standards.

“It was the first time I think I’d been really pushed academically,” Maurer says. “That was an adjustment for me in a major way.”

His time at Grinnell has led him to hold students to high standards while also showing compassion for those who must work harder to meet those standards.

In his admissions role, Maurer says he also draws from his experience realizing his sexual orientation in the 1980s and ‘90s, amid the AIDS crisis. He says the era’s social stigmas instilled in him an empathy for marginalized groups.

“Coming out helped me understand that health care in this country is not on equal standing for everybody,” he says.

He takes pride in leading an admissions process that favors admitting members of marginalized communities in hopes of correcting disparities in health care.

“I have the privilege of overseeing a process that creates and gives opportunities to people who may have never dreamed they’d have them” he says.

—by Laura McKnight

For your information:

Learn more about becoming a class fund director by contacting Mary Zug, assistant director of annual giving, at zugmary1@grinnell.edu or 641-269-4554, or visiting the CFD web page.

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