Renfrow Hall: Honoring the True Grinnellian


Edith Renfrow Smith ’37 gathers with family members and friends at the Brookdale Assisted Living Center in Chicago for a live stream announcement taking place at Grinnell College that the new core building of Civic Engagement Quad in downtown Grinnell would be named Renfrow Hall Dec. 5, 2022. (Photo by Jemuel Santos ’19/Grinnell College)

As we thought about Grinnellians whose lives and accomplishments … have served as a positive and undaunted inspiration to others – it quickly became clear that Edith Renfrow Smith was that alumna.  As Renfrow Hall will reside in a space that connects the City of Grinnell and the College, it will do so carrying the name of the truest of true Grinnellians.

President Anne F. Harris, December 5, 2022

In recognition of her life of civic mindedness as an educator and volunteer, as well as her enduring pride as a Grinnellian, on Monday, December 5, 2022, Grinnell College officially named its newest residence hall in honor of Mrs. Renfrow Smith.  As the namesake of Renfrow Hall told the Des Moines Register, “I think it’s the most wonderful and most exciting thing that could happen to anybody from Grinnell…. I’m still alive, and I can enjoy what’s going to happen.” 

During the ceremony, Mrs. Renfrow Smith shared what this honor meant to her:

You don't know how much it means to somebody who reaches over 100 to know that your life has not been in vain.  And I want to thank all the people who have worked so diligently to make this special for not only me but all the people who will come after me.  But that's the important thing.  That they'll learn about a person who started small and came out big.

Mrs. Renfrow Smith's daughter, Alice Frances Smith, expressed her own gratitude: "I'm just so honored to have a mother that's like this.  She's the most special thing in the world."


Renfrow Hall is the core building of what will be Grinnell College’s a state-of-the-art Civic Engagement Quad (CEQ).  An innovative concept that provides for both student residential life and town-campus community building, the project was first envisioned by Raynard S. Kington, the College’s 13th president. The result of three years of planning and partnership with campus and town constituencies, the CEQ embodies what President Anne F. Harris describes as “an investment in the power of place and an enduring commitment to the common good.”

Design photo of CEQ -- GRI-FRONT-DUSK copy.png

A preliminary design photo by Adjaye Associates shows how the front of the Civic Engagement Quad could look facing Broad Street. Student apartments will be in each of the two towers on the left and right connected by a crossover loggia. Photo Courtesy of Adjaye Associates.  

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Monique Shore '90 pointing to the Edith Renfrow Smith plaque in the Grinnell High School Alumni Hall of Fame, 12/5/22.

Three days before the naming of Renfrow Hall, Mrs. Renfrow Smith received another recognition from her home town.  Through the efforts of Monique Shore ’90 and the Alumni Association of the Grinnell-Newburg School District, the 1932 high school graduate was entered into the Grinnell High School Alumni Hall of Fame. 

Nina Baker of the Des Moines Register describes Mrs. Renfrow Smith as “a living link to the history of Grinnell."  Learn about how intertwined Mrs. Renfrow Smith's extended family has been with the history of the town from Monique Shore's website: The Renfrow Story: The deep roots and family legacy of Edith Renfrow Smith (Grinnell Local History Resources, Drake Library, Grinnell, IA).  Explore a visualization of Mrs. Renfrow Smith's extended family tree (Renfrow-Craig-Lucas) below.  

Edith Renfrow Smith ’37 is a proud alumna and a true Grinnellian, who embodies compassion, kindness, humility, self-confidence, and dedication to others.  Her inspiring legacy will live on at Grinnell College.

            from the "Declaration of Naming for Renfrow Hall"