Alumni couple giving back in support of need-blind admission

Oct. 17, 2018 — Growing up in Cedar Rapids, Nathan Lueck ’00 figured he would go the East Coast or West Coast to attend college.

What kept him in Iowa was Grinnell College’s commitment to need-blind admission and meeting 100 percent of a family’s demonstrated need.

“Once it came time to figure out how to pay for college, the financial package that Grinnell offered was much better than any other option,” Lueck says. “I was a little skeptical about going to school so close to home, but when I did an overnight stay, I had a great time and I got over it.”

Nathan Lueck ’00 and Christina Ward ’98
   Nathan Lueck ’00 and
   Christina Ward ’98

While at Grinnell, Lueck participated on the swim team and met his wife, Christina Ward ’98, a fellow swimmer. The couple have made several gifts to their alma mater for financial aid and to bolster the salaries of assistant diving coaches.

“We still follow the swimming and diving team and try to catch a meet when they are in town,” Lueck says. “We also still keep in touch with the coach, Erin Hurley, who is the greatest. When I was a student, I don’t think I realized just how little assistant coaches were paid. We asked Erin how to best support the team and this was her suggestion.”

Hurley said the support Lueck and Ward provide the program make a direct impact on the student-athlete’s experience.

“They helped ensure our student-athletes are able to gain exceptional coaching for our divers,” she says. “We are very fortunate to have alums who are passionate about the role athletics plays in their overall liberal arts education at Grinnell College.”

Lueck and Ward live in the Twin Cities and work in the medical field. Lueck is a doctor at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital while Ward is an orthopedic surgeon at HealthPartners Regions Hospital.

Lueck received the Howard W. Bowen Scholarship as a student at Grinnell. Not long after graduation, he was talking to someone who worked in admissions for another college.

“I had never given the idea of need-blind admission much thought, but I was told at this other college, the student’s ability to pay factored into their application for admission,” he says. “Perhaps it was my naiveté, but I didn’t realize how unusual need-blind admission was. Hopefully our contributions are a tiny step to keeping need blind admissions intact.”

Need-blind admission was discussed during October’s Grinnell College Board of Trustees meeting. The board decided to retain the policy and review it again in 2021.

Lueck said he had a vague notion as a student that the people whose names were on buildings likely donated a large amount of money, but he probably didn’t appreciate the fact that people who donated $20 a month were important too.

“As someone whose parents were both teachers and who benefitted from a pretty generous financial package, I want to make sure kids like me can keep going to Grinnell,” he says.

The couple has been active with the College in other ways as well. Ward was a class agent from 2013 to 2017. Both Lueck and Ward previously served as Grinnell Regional Admission Support Program (GRASP) volunteers and they have hosted students for spring break job-shadowing externships three times.

They are also in a monthly dinner club with three other couples where seven of the eight adults went to Grinnell.

“We travel somewhere warm every winter with another Grinnell couple and go up to the boundary waters of Minnesota every summer with another alum and his family,” Lueck says. “These are valuable relationships that my wife and I have, and they would not exist if we hadn’t gone to Grinnell.”

—by Jeremy Shapiro and Lara Szent-Gyorgyi ‘89 (Former Alumni Council member)

For your information:

Learn more about how Grinnell College calculates need and the ways to support financial aid.

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