Raynard S. Kington Plaza

Outdoor campus plaza named in honor of departing Grinnell College president.

Raynard Kington

Alumni pay tribute to the numerous accomplishments during the tenure of President Raynard S. Kington

A popular outdoor gathering spot on Grinnell’s campus will permanently bear the name of the College’s 13th president in recognition of his transformational leadership over the past decade.

To honor Raynard S. Kington’s achievements during his 10 years as Grinnell’s president, the outdoor plaza between the Humanities and Social Studies Center (HSSC) and Noyce Science Center will be named in his honor.

The Raynard S. Kington Plaza is made possible by gifts from Karen Van Dusen ’77 and Joel Spiegel ’78. They made a gift in 2015 when the HSSC plans were taking shape and recently decided the naming recognition would honor Kington’s commitment to innovative and responsive teaching and learning – a hallmark of the HSSC.

View of the Kington Plaza facing Noyce Science building. The plaza features chevron shaped seating areas, landscaped walkways, and plenty of lighting.
A photo taken prior to the pandemic shows the view walking up to Noyce Science Center. President Kington had a vision for how the outdoor space could bring students, faculty, staff, and alumni together to build a stronger community.

“I am thrilled to participate in naming the HSSC plaza in honor of President Kington,” Spiegel says. “Designed to foster collaboration and community, the HSSC is a premier facility for undergraduate teaching and learning in the humanities and social studies. The HSSC was conceived and built during Raynard’s tenure as president. It is a tangible example of his tireless work on behalf of the College. I hope his legacy inspires the entire Grinnell community, as it has me, to support the ongoing educational and social mission of Grinnell College.”

The naming of the plaza was announced at the June 17 Board of Trustees meeting, the final board meeting during Kington’s administration. Spiegel is a trustee.

“Throughout his years at Grinnell, President Kington has modeled a commitment to strategic and inclusive leadership as well as clear, thoughtful, and fair decision-making processes,” says David Maxwell ’66, Board of Trustees chair. “President Kington’s personal and professional lives have been rooted in a deep commitment to social responsibility. A priority of his tenure has been strengthening the connection between academic excellence in the arts, humanities, sciences, and social studies, as well as graduates’ ability to go into the world and transform it.”

Kington will conclude his role as president on June 30 and soon become the new head of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, the oldest incorporated boarding school in the U.S. and among the most prestigious university-preparatory schools in the country.

As for his successor, the presidential search process is ongoing. Anne Harris, dean of the College and vice president for academic affairs, will serve as acting president until the presidential search is completed.

Kington’s tenure was marked by his fierce advocacy for access, equity, and global understanding. He emphasized greater experiences that connect students to their future, furthering the concept of from coursework to life’s work. He has promoted innovation and entrepreneurship by creating both the Grinnell Prize and the Innovation Fund, supporting experimentation, imagination, and positive social change.

Picture of the Kington Plaza facing the HSSC atrium with the sunset behind the building. The picture shows two art pieces and well as several seating areas.
A sunset photo of the Raynard S. Kington Plaza and the adjoining Christiansen outdoor learning spaces show the seating areas, landscaping, and artwork that help create a functional and visually appealing entrance to the HSSC atrium.

“I admire Raynard Kington and what he accomplished during his tenure as president of Grinnell College,” Van Dusen says. “I became a student at Grinnell during the turmoil of the 1970s. President Kington has inspired me anew to appreciate the College’s long tradition of access and equity in education and serving the common good in thoughtful and reasoned ways. I hope his legacy inspires many members of the Grinnell community, as it has me, to support the College through generous giving.”

Kington also oversaw significant investments on campus, which will enhance teaching and learning long into the future. He brought together the divisions of humanities and social studies, which had a history of academic and physical separation. The resulting Humanities and Social Studies Center has created innovative learning spaces that encourage multi-disciplinary collaboration, active inquiry, student research, and intellectual collisions.

Those attributes also spill over onto the Kington Plaza, which stretches out in front of the HSSC atrium and has quickly become one of the more popular and picturesque spots on campus. Outdoor tables and benches allow for students to study or socialize on nice days. It’s also home to the Broken English sculpture created by Gregory Gómez ’80.

“The plaza has quickly become a magnet and hub for students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” says Jaci A. Thiede, vice president of Development and Alumni Relations. “President Kington had a vision for how the HSSC and the outdoor space surrounding it could bring students, faculty, staff and alumni together to build a stronger community, so naming this gathering space in his honor feels exactly right. I’d like to thank Karen and Joel for their ongoing generosity and selflessness in using their recognition opportunity to create Kington Plaza; it will serve as a tangible way to remember the impact President Kington had on Grinnell College during his presidency.”

Check out the summer magazine edition in July for a featured article about Kington’s tenure at Grinnell. Learn more about the ongoing search process for Grinnell’s 14th president.

—by Jeremy Shapiro