Settling an Account with Grinnell: William Ingram '53

William Ingram '53 is a current Class Agent, a former Class Fund Director, and a former Alumni Council member.

For many years after graduation, I made a habit of ignoring solicitations from the College. Why did they want still more money from me? I hadn't received any financial aid while at Grinnell; my father had paid the full cost of my tuition. (Needless to say, if he hadn't done so, I couldn't have gone.) So once I graduated, I was sure my account with Grinnell was settled. Besides, after compulsory military service, I didn't have my first real job until almost 10 years after leaving Grinnell. Finally, money of my own. Send some to Grinnell? Ridiculous.

But money did become an issue again during my 40s. Looking forward from there, I wondered how I would pay for my child's education. It wasn't going to be nearly as cheap for me as it had been for my father. Would I have help? Would there be financial aid for my child? If so, where would it come from? From special scholarship funds set up by the generosity of others? From a general endowment? Was the endowment also built by the generosity of others? I wondered if my father had contributed to Grinnell, beyond my tuition payments; I had never thought to ask him. I wondered where I had lost my own impulse to generosity.

That was what reawakened it: my own selfish thinking about my own child. That was many years ago. Now that it's awake again, I think also about other children, the ones whose parents couldn't do what my father did. I meet them every time I go to Grinnell. They're impressively bright, alert, and eager to learn; they soak up everything Grinnell has to offer. But it's clear that without significant financial aid, they wouldn't be at Grinnell, probably they wouldn't be in college anywhere. And what a waste that would be. I know I can do some little bit to help with that. So my account with Grinnell isn't really settled at all. What I owe Grinnell is, quite simply, a return on its own generosity, a return on the way it opened doors for me. My father's money put me in front of those doors, but Grinnell opened them. I want to help these young people to have what I had, to help do for them what my father did for me. I know he'd approve. My grown-up child certainly approves.

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