Alumna’s planned gift jump started Class of 1974 scholarship fundraising

May 15, 2019Marilyn Musser ’74 has been helping shape the lives of Grinnell students and alumni through the years by giving to the College and volunteering her time.

A therapist in pediatric mental health at Orchard Place Child Guidance Center in Des Moines, Musser established a planned gift of $50,000 to go toward student scholarships. She says the reason she decided to set up the bequest stemmed from a reunion planning meeting in 2013.

Marilyn Musser ’74
   Marilyn Musser ’74

“We wanted to begin a class scholarship that would provide funding for future students that had a financial need,” Musser says. “Someone brought up the issue that a $50,000 start was needed. The group got quiet. I asked ‘could someone make a bequest for that $50,000 to get the fund open and start it?’ They said sure, and I said ‘Okay, I’m in’. We got it accomplished that weekend. It was easy to do, and it was painless.”

Musser says Grinnell teaches students inquiry, how to analyze, and how to reframe their perspective so they can understand multiple points of view. She believes scholarship funding is important because it helps draw in more students by offering them some financial relief while obtaining those skills.

“I want the Grinnell experience to continue being available for young people, and one way to do that is to provide scholarships,” Musser says. “I would like to help young people gain a valuable education and be able to do so without being in horrific debt when they graduate. I also think that supporting scholarships reflects confidence, commitment, dedication, and the direction of the College. So, for me, a scholarship investment shows I have a lot of confidence in Grinnell.”

Musser, who serves as the 1974 class agent, strongly encourages alumni to consider partaking in planned giving. With the guidance of Buddy Boulton, Grinnell College director of planned giving, Musser found the process straightforward and well worth the effort.

“Buddy and I have been talking extensively about how to encourage classmates and alumni to plan give as part of their giving strategy,” she says. “While you might not be able to do something today financially, you can still make plans. It’s very easy and flexible. You can always change it.”

Beyond the Class of 1974 Scholarship Fund, Musser has given to Grinnell for the Pioneer Fund, the Charles Bear ’39 Recreation and Athletic Center, memorial funds, and travel funds.

Her alumni volunteering experience also includes serving on the Grinnell Alumni Council. As council president, she worked with the College to align the council and alumni relations processes in pursuit of common goals. She also has been invited to be a speaker during several Rosenfield Symposium events.

Musser earned her psychology degree from Grinnell and a journalism degree from Drake University a decade later. She worked for the Des Moines Register and Tribune as a reporter before moving into corporate health care, where she was employed from 1982 to 2013.

“Then I made the decision to take a risk in something professionally that I would always be interested in,” she says. “I made the decision to go back to graduate school again.”

About 40 years after earning her initial degree from Grinnell, Musser obtained her clinical social work degree from the University of Iowa. She then began providing direct service as a therapist.

Outside of clinical work, Marilyn is active in the National Association of Social Workers, EMDRIA, and Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and enjoys international volunteer work in archeology. She was elected president of the Des Moines business women’s network the Consortium in 2019.

“In volunteering, I can offer skills and support in ways that may not be available in my professional position,” Musser says. “It gives me a chance to branch out, learn new things, try new things, meet people from around the world, and give in ways that need someone’s experience or interest, and not just their money.”

Her primary responsibility of being class agent involves keeping class members in touch with one another and with the College. Musser won an Alumni Award in 1994 and has helped plan reunions while serving on planning committees.

“I simply enjoy being in my class community and helping people stay in touch with one another because we share a very important time in our lives,” she says. “I also enjoy helping people keep updated with what is happening on the campus.”

— by Lisa Shapiro

For your information:

To learn more about options for planned gifts, contact Buddy Boulton, Grinnell College director of planned giving, at or 641-269-3248.

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