Trustee Sheryl Walter ’78

Trustee’s gift will provide students with greater access to mental health services.

Sheryl Walter ’78

Sheryl Walter ’78 commits $1.7 million to strengthen health and counseling program at Grinnell

Board of Trustees member Sheryl Walter ’78 has committed a planned gift of $1.7 million to support student mental health at Grinnell. The gifts 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, Grinnell has expanded access to mental health counselors through a partnership with the University of Iowa 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 Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and then-Senator 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.”

Since Kington’s appointment of the Student Mental Health Task Force in 2016, the College has increased efforts to address the mental health needs of students through expanded mental health clinical services, tele-psychiatry, and wellness programming. Student Health and Counseling Services was renamed Student Health and Wellness (SHAW) to better reflect the mission of the office and its staff, and the position of Dean for Health and Wellness was created to lead those efforts.

“Sheryl has been instrumental in mobilizing attention and support around mental health and wellness on our campus,” said Sarah Moschenross, associate vice president of Student Affairs. “We are grateful for her financial support but also for the interest and attention she is bringing to the care of our students. Gifts like Sheryl’s that support student wellbeing help students succeed in and outside of the classroom and contribute to post-graduate success.”

Sheryl Walter ’78
Sheryl Walter ’78 speaks about public service and her Grinnell experience at the Washington. D.C. campaign event.

Although the efforts that resulted from the work of the Student Mental Health Task Force have had a meaningful impact on campus, Walter recognized that students could benefit from additional resources to support their mental health. As someone who struggled with depression while a student herself, she understands what a difference such support can mean.

“I had a wonderful experience at Grinnell in academics and in varsity sports and made life-long friends, but I also had bouts of depression,” Walter said. “I realized in retrospect that I and likely other classmates could have benefitted even more from our Grinnell experiences if we had ready access to mental health and wellness services.”

Walter chose not to specify how the $1.7 million gift will be used. Instead, she is leaving decisions as to how best use her donation to bolster mental health services on campus to the discretion of College leadership.

Based on recommendations from the Student Mental Health Task Force, Grinnell has committed to pursuing an integrated, student-centered approach that encompasses available professional treatment services, healthy lifestyle programming, and promotion of a campus culture and environment supportive of positive wellness behaviors.

Walter’s gift provides significant support that will allow the College to address the actions recommended by the 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;
  • promotion of 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; and
  • 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 June 30, 2021. Learn more about the campaign by visiting

—by Tim Schmitt