A proud alumna

Throughout the 20th century, Mrs. Renfrow Smith returned regularly to her home -- the town of Grinnell and her alma mater, Grinnell College.  She explains her longstanding and active connection to the College this way: “You see, that’s my school…. Those are my friends that helped me grow up, for those four years…. I consider [those] people … part of my family.”   


Edith Renfrow Smith at an alumni reunion. 1950s.


Mrs. Smith with her classmates on the steps of Mears Cottage, at their 50th class reunion, June 1987.

Mrs. Renfrow Smith’s enduring pride as a Grinnellian has helped recruit other Black students to the campus.  “Well, I talked about Grinnell all the time because Grinnell is just up here.  Always has been.”  Grammy and Academy Award winning composer and jazz pianist Herbie Hancock (‘60) was friends with Mrs. Renfrow Smith’s older daughter, Virginia.  “And my daughter and Herbie, we lived across the street from each other…. They had a little window, and in the morning, they had their fingers up, peeking at each other across the street.  So our families were friends.”  She also recruited educator and genealogist Samantha Massingale Gerth (’91), who attended the College “because of things I said about Grinnell.”