Best Choice: Susan Henken Thielen '80

As a senior in high school, I knew that I wanted to leave Minnesota for my college years.  I also knew that my parents would only pay the equivalent of the cost of the University of Minnesota (U of M) and did not have the ability to fly me back and forth to a distant state, thus my search was restricted to institutions within a days’ drive of home.  My twin sister and I ,(#1 and #2 in our class), had agreed to attend different colleges and struck out to find elite, highly selective schools that fit our criteria.  I had never even heard of Grinnell, but a friend a year ahead of me in high school was attending the college and invited us to spend a weekend with him. Quickly, we discovered that this distinctive little school attracted students who were both intelligent and fun-loving, offered an overwhelming number of activities to fit any interest and seemed to be loved by everyone we met.  After assessing our goals, it became clear that Grinnell was the best choice for me (my sister attended Northwestern University). 

At the time, Grinnell was four times the cost of the U of M.  Thankfully, through a generous scholarship, grants, work-study and loans, I was able to attend this idyllic school in the corn fields.  And what an adventure it was.  I thank Grinnell every day for opening my mind, broadening my awareness of other perspectives, cultures and lifestyles, providing me the opportunity to study abroad, and developing the skills that I use daily at work: critical thinking, the ability to consider and integrate a variety of viewpoints, confidence speaking in public and clear and concise writing.

I give to Grinnell because I know that other alumni, through their unselfish giving, provided me with the ability to attend a school that otherwise would have been far beyond my parents’ means.  I give to pay it forward to students who are yet to attend.  I give because I think a Grinnell liberal arts education is still the best for preparing young adults to be successful in their personal and professional choices, while inspiring them to perform amazing and unselfish acts of service to society.