Denver attorney leading by example for Grinnell College fundraising

May 18, 2018 — There likely is no one in the class of 1997 who has not received a personal call or email from Kirpal Singh ’97.

As class fund director for the past decade, Singh has relished forming relationships with his classmates, many of whom he didn’t regularly interact with as a student.

Kirpal Singh '97
   Kirpal Singh '97

“I’ve gotten to know them and had a chance to learn about their careers and families,” Singh said. “It’s been a fun thing for me, and it’s expanded my Grinnell network even more.”

Singh is one of the 10 recipients of this year’s Alumni Awards that will be presented during the Alumni Assembly June 2 as part of Reunion 2018. The Alumni Award recognizes individuals who embody Grinnell College’s mission of lifetime learning and service.

Though he’s known about the honor for several months, Singh said he still can’t get his arms around winning the award.

“There seemed to be things that I check the box for, but when I looked at some of the other winners, it just didn’t seem real to me,” he says about the award. “I’m just doing things I’ve always wanted to do, and that I feel I can be helpful with. It’s cool to be recognized for that.”

Singh served on the Alumni Council from 2008 to 2014, chairing the Pioneer Fund and Stewardship Committees, and the Election and Membership Committee. In addition, he has hosted students for externship job shadows and was a Grinnell Regional Admission Support Program volunteer for 16 years.

Singh also has helped many new Grinnell alumni, such as Emily Hackman ’16, gain employment and internships. At one point, he arranged for summer paid internships for 34 Grinnell students at the Public Interest Research Group.

“Kirpal is so helpful, honest and truly desires to foster the Grinnell community among alumni and current students,” Hackman said in a letter supporting Singh’s Alumni Award. “He is dedicated to aiding the success of others. I am so happy to continually receive Kirpal’s support and guidance. He has inspired me to become a mentor myself.”

Singh also has inspired giving to the College through his own contributions. He has made 87 separate gifts to the College. He and his wife, Sara Singh ’97, both received scholarships while attending Grinnell. By giving to Grinnell, they are returning the favor for current and future students.

Singh has given to the Pioneer Fund, alumni volunteer programs, the Andy Loewi Endowed Internship, the Steven Kent Challenge, the Theretha Nelson-Littlejohn ’70 Memorial Fund, and financial aid.

“Need-based financial aid is a big thing for my class,” Singh says. “That’s what we chose to raise money for as a Reunion committee. I think we recognize the importance of it and want to keep alive that tradition of Grinnell accepting students who are worthy of attending but may not have the financial means.”

Singh graduated from Grinnell College with a degree in history and an interdisciplinary concentration in environmental studies. In 2004, he earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.

Much of Singh’s professional life has been dedicated to improving the lives of others. He has worked for Public Interest Research Group, the Sierra Club, America Votes, and Electrification Coalition. From 2010 to 2017, he was director of legislative services at the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association. During his time as a progressive advocate, he helped raise Colorado’s minimum wage, successfully fought for job protection legislation, and played in a role in national legislation designed to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles.

Singh currently is an adviser to the managing partner and practice group chairs at Michael Best & Friedrich for their Denver and Austin law office expansions.

As he mulled his next career move, a lobbyist friend told Singh the Milwaukee-based firm was looking to get established in Colorado. Singh pitched an idea that he could help recruit lawyers to the new Denver office. He wrote up a work plan and got the job.

“I’m kind of the good cop recruiting attorneys to a different, Midwest-nice firm,” he says. “I try to get out in front of as many attorneys as possible to introduce them to the firm. I also help introduce lawyers to potential clients, trade and bar associations. I pitched something that not a lot of firms do. I’m proof you can reinvent your career in your 40s.”

In his spare time, Singh enjoys traveling and attending his children’s events. His daughter is in ballet, and his son plays many sports. Singh coaches his son’s soccer team. He and Sara like exploring Denver’s culinary and craft beer scene.

Kirpal and Sara Singh. Both class of 1997.
Kirpal and Sara Singh. Both class of 1997.

While they didn’t date during their time at Grinnell, Singh said he thinks the College found a way to ultimately get them together. He also has a number of close friends from his student days who are still important to him.

“I have an overall fondness for my time spent on campus,” he says. “It’s always great to get back. I feel like a student again when I’m on campus. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s a lot of fun. I enjoy attending different events and meeting with students.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

The Grinnell College Alumni Council annually selects alumni to receive Alumni Awards at Reunion. Kirpal is one of ten recipients this year. See the full list of winners who will be honored on June 2.