New Parents and Families Leadership Council increasing engagement

Jan. 13, 2020 — A recently launched leadership council comprised of 20 parents and family members of Grinnell students is advocating for enhanced levels of parental involvement and giving.

The Grinnell College Parents and Families Leadership Council began in the fall with a kickoff meeting during Family Weekend.

Josh and Jennifer Davis
   Josh and Jennifer Davis

“We joined the council because we are eager to contribute to Grinnell, not only financially, but with our hearts and minds as well,” says Jennifer Davis, who is co-chair of the council with her husband, Josh Davis. “We are strong believers in the value of a liberal arts education. As parents of two Grinnell students (one current and one former), we have been particularly impressed by the College’s commitment to providing both a high-quality learning environment and a community that fosters civic engagement and social justice. It is our hope that the voices of parents will enhance the conversation that is part of maintaining Grinnell’s leadership in these areas.”

Tina Popson ’97, associate director of parents and families program, says the Office of Development and Alumni Relations began the council because parents and families are a constituency who care deeply about students and the untapped potential of this group is significant.  

“It’s a great way to engage parents who are willing to volunteer and another way to help provide resources for our students and the College,” she says.

To get a better idea of how parent councils operate elsewhere, Popson contacted over 20 schools to learn about best practices and what made successful programs. It also helps that the Davis’ served on Swarthmore College parents board while Elizabeth and Don Cobin, council vice-chairs, are on the parents board at Washington University in St. Louis.

Open to parents and families of both current students and alumni, a total of 10 families signed on to serve on the Grinnell council for the first year. As a fundraising board, the council is working to drive parent giving and maintain access to an excellent education for all qualified students, regardless of ability to pay. And they are leading by example. All council members are part of the Founders' Circle by giving at least $1,846, a nod to the year the College was founded.

Don and Elizabeth Cobin
   Don and Elizabeth Cobin

“Parent giving links parents more closely to the school,” says Elizabeth Cobin. “Parents who give are engaged and teach their students to remain engaged after graduation.”

At the first meeting, council members heard an admission presentation from Joe Bagnoli, vice president for enrollment and dean of admission & financial aid. They also learned more about the Campaign for Grinnell College and how priorities were chosen for the campaign.

“It was interesting to hear about the campaign and the thoughts of the other parents,” Cobin says. 

Elizabeth says their son, Ben Cobin ’20, is happy that his parents are serving on the council. “We also see being involved in roles like this makes a strong statement to a child about how much parents value the school and the student’s life choices,” Elizabeth added.

Another role of the council is making welcome calls to the parents of early decision and regular decision admitted students. These are meant to answer questions and provide a friendly welcoming voice, Popson says.

“Having a group of parents that are interested in advocating for the College can engage other parents and build a better informed parent community,” she says. “They also are raising awareness of philanthropic priorities in this campaign. Engaged parents cultivate more support. We are grateful and appreciate their willingness to serve Grinnell in this way.”

The 10 families serving on the council are:

  • Elizabeth and Don Cobin (Parent of ’20) – St. Louis, Missouri
  • Brian Clarkson and Christina Cotton (P’21) – Montclair, New Jersey
  • Jennifer and Josh Davis (P’16, ’21) – Wellesley, Massachusetts
  • Betty Barker and Dan Fost (P’22) – San Rafael, California
  • Geert De Turck and Gene Stein (P’22) – Santa Monica, California
  • Andrea Fish and Dr. Stephen Roth (P’22) – Palo Alto, California
  • Tom Hopkins and Sandy Kaneoka (P’22) – Santa Barbara, California
  • Dr. Marta Margeta and Dr. Igor Mitrovic (P’22) – San Francisco, California
  • Russell Cohen and Lynette Stejskal (P’23) – San Francisco, California
  • Dr. Todd ’96 and Dr. Robin ’95 Kopelman (P’23) – Iowa City, Iowa

—by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

For additional information about the Parents and Families Leadership Council, contact Tina Popson at

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