Family legacy creates anthropology endowment, names HSSC classroom

August 20, 2020 — As a high school junior from tiny Coon Rapids, Iowa, Sallee Garst Haerr ’74 was looking for an intellectually stimulating, progressively liberal college.

Sallee Garst Haerr '74
   Sallee Garst Haerr ’74

“It was fall 1969, and Grinnell had been on my radar as a place where students were politically engaged,” she says. “I was looking for a campus culture that resonated with my value system.” Haerr sat in on a class, saw that students were serious and was hooked. “Grinnell was so academic, and I knew it would be challenging and hard – and I needed that.”

Haerr comes from a long line of Grinnellians. Her favorite aunt, Tosh Lee ’54, along with her great aunt Julia Shafer Chrystal 1915 (stepmother of Chrystal Center namesake and former trustee John Chrystal) went to Grinnell. Haerr’s mother, Jo Garst, and her uncle, Harold Lee, both served on the Board of Trustees. Her daughter’s spouse, Gaelyn Hutchinson ’12 also is a Grinnellian.

When Haerr arrived on campus in 1970, she quickly found her place, studying for hours to complete a double major in anthropology and English. Soon after Haerr left campus, her younger brother James (Jimmy) Garst ’79, arrived, and he too fell in love with anthropology. Both were inspired by Professor Douglas Caulkins.

“Doug was my advisor and a friend of the family, and his teaching motivated me to major in anthropology,” says Haerr. Caulkins began teaching at Grinnell in the fall of 1970. “This was an exciting time to be an anthropology major,” she adds. “Caulkins was a young and enthusiastic mentor to his students.”

While Sallee focused on urban and cultural anthropology, Jimmy was intrigued by archaeology. Jimmy was probably best known for his time at Grinnell as the guy who lived in a tipi. Haerr describes her brother as larger-than-life. “He was gregarious, generous, funny, and an independent thinker,” she says.

Haerr’s journey has taken her to Fairfield, Iowa, where she has lived with her husband since the 1980s. She has been involved in many creative and civic pursuits, raised her kids (who both are politically engaged) and for many years has been active in local, county, and state Democratic politics as a volunteer get-out-the-vote organizer and caucus leader.

Last summer, Jimmy passed away. A year earlier, she lost another close Grinnell friend, Avram Machtiger ’74. Avram had always been a great advocate for supporting Grinnell and his memory helped inspire Haerr to honor the College, her brother, and the Grinnell memories and friends she’s so much enjoyed. “At this point I’m in a very reflective part of my life,” she says.

So when a family business was sold in 2019 and Haerr was making financial and tax decisions, she decided to donate stock to the College to honor her brother and Caulkins. Her gift was split between naming a classroom in honor of Caulkins in the new Humanities and Social Studies Center (HSSC); and an endowment to the anthropology department in honor of her brother to provide travel funds and other resources for students.

“I’d rather make the impact on the College while I’m alive and can see the benefits, than when I’m gone,” explains Haerr, who talked to extended family about their Grinnell legacy before making the stock donation. “When this family business sale was going on, I thought if I’m going to make an impact, let’s do it now when it seems right, and I can honor my brother and honor Doug Caulkins while he’s still around.”

As for the nuts and bolts of the donation, “it was easy to do and tax advantageous for me too,” Haerr says. “I had some big tax consequences and rather than donate cash, I donated the stock. It had appreciated so much, but the donation offset those and other gains from the sale of the family business. And students will benefit for years to come.”

—by Anne Stein ’84

For your information:

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

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