“[Mama] said, ‘I don’t care who it is. There is no one born any better than you are. They may have more money and they may be more beautiful. They may have outward things. But there’s no one any better.’ So naturally if you’re taught there’s no one any better than you are, why you think you’re pretty special. And so, I think that that made a great difference.”

– Edith Renfrow Smith recounting the life motto of her mother, Mrs. Eva Pearl Craig Renfrow (1875-1962)

These are the eyes of Mrs. Edith Renfrow Smith, Grinnell College’s first Black alumna. Descended from mid-19th century freedom seekers to Iowa, she was born in Grinnell, IA and nurtured in a Black extended family. At a vibrant and engaged 109, the retired teacher and lifelong volunteer proudly embodies the community spirit of a “true Grinnellian.”

A teenage Edith Renfrow Smith looks into the camera with a slight smile, wearing her campfire girls necklace

"Grinnell Has Been My Life"

A tennis court in front of a brick building - text below the image reads 'Building Number 3 / Girls' Dormitory Grinnell College / Grinnell, IA 1915

"I Recruited Myself"

Edith Renfrow Smith viewed from the waist up, wearing glasses and a teal blazer, smiles at the camera with her arms crossed in front of her

Teaching, Volunteering, and Superaging

Edith Renfrow Smith beams at the camera as she holds a red and white Grinnell College shirt in front of her torso

Recognizing and Celebrating a First