Grinnell Trustee provides planned gift of $1.7 million to the college

Sheryl Walter

Funds will bolster mental health and counseling programs for Grinnell students

GRINNELL, Iowa — Grinnell College Board of Trustees member Sheryl Walter ’78 has committed a planned gift of $1.7 million to support student mental health at Grinnell. The gift will be used to strengthen and support the Strategic Resource Fund for Health and Counseling Programs, which Walter established in 2017.  

Thanks to the Fund for Health and Counseling Programs, the college has expanded access to mental health counselors through a University of Iowa partnership that provides clinical services to students on Grinnell’s campus. Walter’s planned gift will further support the fund and provide students even greater access to established and new mental health services. 

“Sheryl Walter’s exemplary record of professional and civic engagement is emblematic of the career, life and service aspirations we encourage for all Grinnellians,” said President Raynard S. Kington. “We are fortunate and grateful that her philanthropic support for her alma mater is as significant as her personal success.”

Walter has devoted her work life to public service in all three branches of the federal government in Washington, D.C. Her path has taken her to the Senate — including working for the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and then-Sen. Joe Biden Jr. It took her to the Justice and State Departments, where she worked for several attorneys general, starting with Janet Reno, and for two secretaries of state, including Hillary Clinton. Now, she is the first woman general counsel for the administrative office that supports the third branch of government, the federal judiciary.

“This gift will be instrumental to our efforts to enhance programs and support for mental health services on campus,” Kington said. “We are incredibly thankful to Sheryl for recognizing the importance of mental health services and taking steps to support them. Grinnell students now and in the future will benefit from her generosity.” 

Walter’s gift provides significant support that will allow the college to address the actions recommended by the Student Mental Health Task Force, which include:

  • Continued enhancement of counseling and treatment services suited to the needs of the Grinnell student body.
  • Strategic outreach and educational programming.
  • Promoting mental health and wellness using a public health approach that addresses environmental and cultural factors.
  • Continued research and assessment to better define and meet student needs over time and use Grinnell’s resources most effectively.
  • Inventories of current programming and initiatives to identify Grinnell’s strengths, resources and challenges.
  • Ongoing assessment of student needs and evaluation of services, programming and environment. 

“My goal is for the Fund for Health and Counseling Programs to help make health and counseling resources available to students who need them,” said Walter. “I also hope it helps to remove the stigma that can surround mental health issues and make it more acceptable for students to reach out and ask for help. Making this possible will enhance the social and academic experience for the entire community and help every student to thrive at Grinnell.” 

Walter’s $1.7 million commitment to support student mental health contributes to the Campaign for Grinnell College. The $175 million comprehensive campaign launched publicly in October and will conclude in June 2021. Learn more about the campaign by visiting


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