Donor Stories

Kim Benjamin ’75 and his daughter, Josephine Yang Benjamin, in the renovated galleries of Stewart Memorial Library.

Spellman remains an ‘impact player’ in Benjamin’s life

More than 40 years since receiving his Coe degree and 20 years after the death of Economics Professor Bill Spellman, Kim Benjamin ’75 credits his former academic advisor for lessons taught in and out of the classroom.

“Without Bill Spellman I would never have graduated from Coe and never have had a chance to be here today to give a little something back to the Coe community I love so much," Benjamin said. 

“I was fortunate to find my way to Coe," the lifelong Californian said. “I was uncertain if college was the right pursuit for me or even if I could measure up, but through good fortune, many friends and lots help from many wonderful faculty members at Coe, I was able to make it through and get my college diploma."

Although his older brother and sister were academics, Benjamin went to work for his cousin, washing cars at the Budget Rent-A-Car at LAX. “After about two months of that, I realized that I needed to get an education,” he said.

Benjamin's brother knew of Coe and suggested that he reach out to the admission director and ask for some help and advice. He soon found himself on an airplane for the first time, flying to a place he could only imagine: Iowa. He traded washing cars for washing dishes in the Coe cafeteria. “I loved that job," Benjamin said.

Coe and Iowa were very different from the Los Angeles Benjamin knew, and he had serious doubts about staying in school. Thanks to Spellman, Benjamin was encouraged to delay his decision and go to Chicago to “clear [his] head.” Benjamin ended up staying at Coe and continued to receive an education and life lessons from his academic advisor in the classroom, on the racquetball court, over a meal and at the poker table.

“Bill turned me around in so many ways,” Benjamin said. “He basically showed me more than just a classroom. He showed me a home and a welcoming heart.”

A Coe trustee since 2012, Benjamin played four years of varsity tennis, enjoyed an off campus term in Washington, D.C. and was elected student body president in 1973. After graduation, Benjamin spent most of the next six years in Washington, active in the political environment as a lobbyist, speech writer and organizer. 

In late 1981, Benjamin returned home to Los Angeles where he worked in the oil and gas and real estate industries before forming his own real estate investment company in 1989. In his spare time, Benjamin co-founded numerous non-profit community-based organizations in downtown Los Angeles and was elected president of several of them, where he served for over 20 years combined terms. Benjamin remains active in Los Angeles politics to this day.

Through his professional success, Benjamin and his wife, Mary Yang, were fortunate to activate a hobby of his: the acquisition of sports memorabilia including a collection of major league baseball MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Silver Slugger awards and World Series rings. After some years, they decided the awards had a larger purpose than just sitting in a safe place gathering dust. They could be sold and the money put to good use "helping others just like Bill Spellman (and my parents) taught me to do," Benjamin said. 

Some of these funds have been used to support Make Your Move: The Campaign for Eby and Hickok at Coe. Benjamin and his family have been able to support the tennis and baseball programs, the Learning Commons in Stewart Memorial Library, the Hickok Hall renovation and other initiatives at Coe. 

“Bill Spellman said ‘You can make all the money you want in this world, but if you don't put some of it, and some of you, into helping others, then you missed my class, missed my lecture and missed my point,’" Benjamin recalled. “Bill was always teaching. Always.”

“Bill used to tell me ‘You don't need to change the whole world; you only need to make a small change in someone else's life. You don’t have to have anybody thank you for it. You just have to know that you’re doing it out of the goodness of your heart knowing you've done your part," Benjamin said.

Benjamin and his wife started an endowment in 2003 to benefit Stewart Memorial Library. To date, the fund has acquired about 1,000 books, each inscribed in honor of his parents, Jack Benjamin and Blossom “Bebe” Baird. Although his parents never went to college, Benjamin said his dad – a wallpaper hanger and painter by trade who served two tours during World War II and earned a Silver Star (but never spoke of it) – and mom – a clerk-typist for Max Factor during the day who worked an extra job at night to help pay the bills and keep a roof over the kids’ heads – both loved literature, music, the arts and medicine. 

“It was another way for each of them to escape their daily life of low wages, hard work, long hours, little sleep and missed opportunities, so they'd opened a book and entered a temporary vacation afforded them by a well-woven story," he said. Sharing their love of literature and knowledge in all its forms and expressions is what the Benjamin Baird Book Endowment Fund is designed to support at Coe. 

More recent examples of the Benjamin family's generosity include renovation of the library's Cone Gallery spaces, a Hickok Hall classroom named in Spellman’s honor, a few lockers in the women’s and men's tennis locker rooms, an upgraded batting cage in Eby Fieldhouse and some new baseball lockers as well. They have also donated a collection of 63 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame induction bats for display in Eby "to inspire young baseball enthusiasts about their possibilities". 

“Bill would have been pleased with our efforts here and the efforts of everyone who is doing their part to help Coe ‘Make its Move’ and build its new future,” Benjamin said. “I feel somehow he is watching all that is going on at Coe these days and he is smiling."

Kline honors life mentor Lipsky with campaign gift
Steve Kline ’76 met fellow Coe trustee Joan Lipsky before he arrived on campus. As a high school student in Sioux City, Iowa, Kline was a page for the Iowa House of Representatives when he first met Lipsky, who became the first woman elected to represent Linn County in the Iowa General Assembly in 1966.

“She was such a welcoming person and such a larger-than-life figure,” he said. “She was inspiring to watch and get to know.”
At Lipsky’s urging, Kline visited, applied and eventually attended Coe, where their friendship grew. “My years at Coe were also years getting to know Joan and to respect her even more,” he said.

After earning his bachelor’s in political science and economics, he went on to earn his master’s in diplomacy from the Patterson School of Diplomacy. He is also a graduate of the University of Michigan’s Executive Business Program.

“Coe did a great job of providing me with the liberal arts context for life,” he said. “It provided me the perfect mix of that broad liberal arts context and some specific knowledge in technical areas. I have very warm feelings about my time there.”

Kline retired in 2012 as vice president and chief sustainability officer at PG&E Corp. Over a 32-year career, he served as director of corporate planning and vice president for regulation at Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and vice president for corporate environmental and federal affairs at PG&E Corp. In 2010, he was named PG&E’s first chief sustainability officer.

He joined the Coe Board of Trustees in 2004 and renewed his friendship with Lipsky. “When I joined the board as a trustee, it was a delight to be able to see her in person and catch up with her and get her thoughts on things,” Kline said. “We were able to renew our friendship over that time.”

After six terms in the General Assembly from 1967 to 1978, Lipsky graduated from law school at the University of Iowa in 1980. She joined the Coe Board of Trustees in 1982 and was elected as chair in 1997, becoming the first woman to assume that role. In 1998, she and her husband established the Joan and Abbott Lipsky Chair in Political Science.

“Supporting education is the most satisfying thing you can do as an individual to enhance life for everyone,” she said at that time.

After receiving an honorary doctorate from Coe and delivering the 2014 Commencement address, Lipsky died in 2015 at age 96.

Kline said it has been rewarding to witness the many facets of running an institution like Coe, with broad responsibilities more complicated in some ways that what large corporations face. He is especially pleased that Coe has been able to grow and thrive while maintaining its liberal arts focus.

“The college has been very fortunate that at critical moments in its life that I’ve been able to observe that it’s had the kind of leadership that it’s had,” he said. “For each moment it has had the right leader.”

Make Your Move – The Campaign for Eby and Hickok presented an opportunity to have an impact on Coe’s continuing role in an increasingly complex world, while honoring a life mentor. So Kline pledged a six-figure gift to name a Hickok Hall classroom in Lipsky’s memory.

“As I look at places where I can help and have an impact, the role that Coe continues to play if anything is more important as the world becomes more complex,” he said. “It’s critical for the school to grow and assure that it remains relevant. This campaign is a concrete way of helping that.”

You can join Kline to help these large-scale projects become reality and multiply the impact of your gift. By raising $6 million for Make Your Move, the college can receive a generous $3 million grant from the Hall-Perrine Foundation of Cedar Rapids. Visit today.

Vince and Jan Martin

Martins support Hickok expansion in memory of former neighbor
To say Eliza “Roby” Hickok Kesler ’31 had a contagious love for Coe College is an understatement. Just ask her former neighbors, Vince and Jan Martin.

Living in Cedar Rapids from 1974-79 while Vince managed FMC Corp., the Martins bought a house on Linden Drive SE next door to Roby and Carl Kesler. “Thus began a wonderful and close friendship that lasted until Roby’s death,” Vince said. “And, of course, one could not be a friend of Roby’s without being drawn into the Coe circle.
Before her death in 2005 at age 95, Roby liked to tell people she was “born under a bush on the Coe College quadrangle” because she grew up on the campus where her father, Charles T. Hickok, was professor of social studies from 1905-39. Hickok Hall was named in his honor when it was built in 1950.

In addition to experiencing Coe, the Martins explored greater Cedar Rapids through Roby. “She introduced us to the community – people, history, organizations,” Jan said. “She was so happy to help us in this way.”

The Martins left Cedar Rapids for AMCA International in 1979 before Vince co-founded Jason Inc. in Milwaukee in 1985. Vince joined the Coe Board of Trustees in 1989 and served seven terms before becoming a life trustee. He retired from Jason as CEO in 1999 and as chairman in 2004.

Vince said his tenure as an active trustee was rewarding, especially in his role as chairman of the Investment Committee while steering the college through the 2008 stock market crash. “It was a good fit, as Jan and I have always had a great appreciation for a liberal arts education and likewise have always been supporters of the many fine small liberal arts colleges in the Midwest,” Vince said.

While Vince served Coe, Jan was a trustee at Milwaukee’s Alverno College. She was also on the board of the McCormick Theological Seminary.

That appreciation for liberal arts colleges and their friendship with Roby prompted the Martins to pledge $200,000 to name the Hickok Hall lobby in Roby’s memory through Make Your Move – The Campaign for Eby and Hickok. They recently also pledged $25,000 to name an elevator in the performance arena expansion to Eby Fieldhouse.

In 2000, admiration for their former neighbor inspired the Martins to give $75,000 for the creation of Kesler Lecture Hall. In 1993, they made a similar gesture, setting up a scholarship in Roby’s name to recognize her accomplishments and service.

“When the time came for the Hickok expansion, it was clear to us that we should participate in honor of Roby,” Vince said.

You can join the Martins to help these large-scale projects become reality and multiply the impact of your gift. By raising $6 million for Make Your Move, the college can receive a generous $3 million grant from the Hall-Perrine Foundation of Cedar Rapids. Visit today.

Dennis and Lisa Greenspon

Coe strikes philanthropic cord with grateful trustee

Over the course of a 43-year career, philanthropy was never a priority for Chicago businessman Dennis Greenspon ’68. Now semi-retired and operating a vacation rental business in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, his perspective has changed.

“Philanthropy was never a part of my game plan,” Greenspon said. “It was just something I never had the time for or was willing to take away from the business and the family.”

Even after joining the Coe Board of Trustees in 2013, Greenspon wasn’t sure he would be able to make a meaningful contribution to the college. Then along came Make Your Move – the Campaign for Eby and Hickok. 

“The more I dug into the importance of this project and what it’s going to mean for Coe in the future and for the future of the kids who are going to attend this school in the next 20-30 years, the more important it became in my head,” he said.

After serving four years in the Navy, Greenspon returned to Chicago and, with his brothers, took over the family business. They expanded the company and developed several other businesses while Greenspon focused on importing plumbing products from China that were sold in major U.S. retail chains.

After selling the last of their Chicago businesses in 2015, Greenspon and his wife, Lisa, began living full-time in Florida while focusing on Cottages of Paradise Point. The change of pace gave Greenspon the opportunity to reflect on his successful career and the formative role Coe played.

“There’s no question that Coe played a very important role in my life,” Greenspon said. “Whatever adult I eventually became, Coe had a huge part in that.”

More than just a technical education, Greenspon values the residential, liberal arts experience Coe provides. “I had grown up working for my dad, so I understood the nature of business,” he said. “But the liberal arts experience really rounded me out. It made me a better person as well as a better businessman.”

Greenspon pledged with Phi Kappa Tau and remains close friends with his fraternity brothers. “The way we felt about each other, we still feel that way today after almost 50 years,” he said. “That experience really broke me out of my shell.”

Greenspon’s support for the Make Your Move campaign partly reflects his gratitude for the role Coe played in his personal success. Moreover, it reflects the importance he attributes to schools like Coe for the betterment of society.

Lisa Greenspon said Coe has enriched her life by shaping the man who would become her husband and the father of their two children.

“I see the love, the intensity, the caring and the passion that he has toward the school and it’s infectious,” she said. “The people I have met from Coe are probably the warmest people I will ever meet in my life.”

Lisa said she didn’t hesitate to support Dennis’ wish to make a meaningful gift in support of the Make Your Move campaign. “I am extremely proud of my husband and I am extraordinarily grateful to the school for allowing him to grow and to find himself and to be this wonderful man that I know he is,” she said.

Descendants of Hickok Hall namesake Charles Hickok are (left to right) Howard Kucera ’58, Maddy Fangman Taylor ’16, Beth Kucera ’81, Mary Ann Turnbull Kucera ’58, Alex Fangman ’14 and Betsy Turnbull Hixson ’66.

Hickok descendant extends family heritage
While the renovation of Hickok Hall ensures the continued legacy of Coe legend Charles Hickok, support for the Make Your Move campaign honors his extended family heritage.

Dedicated in 1950 to honor the late social studies professor and Political Science Department founder, Hickok Hall is already home to Kesler Lecture Hall, named for Hickok’s daughter Eliza “Roby” Hickok Kesler ’31. Upon completion of the $3 million renovation and addition, remodeled faculty offices will soon bear the names of his other daughter, Mary Louise Hickok Turnbull ’26, and granddaughter, Mary Ann Turnbull Kucera ’58.
Kucera secured the naming rights by gifting the proceeds from the sale of Quaker Oats stock she had inherited from her grandfather and aunt. She said she wanted to honor her mother, a social studies teacher who died soon after giving birth at age 32.

“I think she gets somewhat forgotten, as she died so young,” Kucera said.

Kucera has not only been a consistent and strong supporter of Coe, but she is part of multi- generational family with connections to Coe that are unparalleled. “There has been a Hickok on the Coe campus since 1905,” she said.

After receiving her bachelor’s from Coe, she substitute taught for a decade in the Cedar Rapids Community School District. She served on the school board for 23 years, was elected president, and helped the district navigate through many changes vital in education: curriculum, graduation requirements, hiring administrators, and opening and closing schools. She was honored by the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) and received the Better Boardsmanship Award, the association’s highest honor for an individual school board member.

Dedicated to public service throughout her life, Kucera was a school board representative to the Iowa Committee of the North Central Accreditation Association, served on the Linn County Compensation board, YWCA board, and the Cedar Rapids/Marion Fine Arts Council. She is a sustaining member of the Cedar Rapids Junior League, which she served as treasurer while she was an active member. She was also the secretary for Theatre Cedar Rapids and president of Children’s Theatre.

Since 1981, Kucera has served as a guide at the historic Brucemore estate. She is also a guide at the Sleger Immigrant Home at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library. Kucera has received the KCRG-TV Show You Care Award, the Governor’s Volunteer Award, the YMCA’s Tribute to Women Award, and Coe’s Distinguished Service Award. Most recently, she was honored by Coe with an Ovation tribute by the Iowa Women’s Foundation.

Kucera is a devoted, active alumna supporting Coe, participating in reunions, and serving on the Alumni Council and the Thursday Forum Steering Committee, which determines programming for Coe’s popular adult education program started by her aunt. “I can’t say I was born under a bush at Coe like Roby did,” she said. “But I grew up going to every Baccalaureate and Commencement with the Hickoks. I’m still on campus all the time.”

Most of all, Kucera is proud of her family’s long heritage with Coe, which includes her late father, James Turnbull ’27; husband, Howard Kucera 58; sister, Betsy Turnbull Hixson ’66; daughter, Beth Kucera ’81; and granddaughters, Alex Fangman ’14 and Maddy Fangman Taylor ’16 – in addition to her grandfather, mother and aunt.

Bobbi Camp Zimmerman ’67 and Chuck Zimmerman ’65 demonstrated their affection for Coe with a generous pledge to Make Your Move – The Campaign for Eby and Hickok.

Coe left a mark so alumni make their move
A freshman at Coe in 1963, all Bobbi Camp 67 wanted was a ride home for Thanksgiving. Instead she met a lifelong partner in Chuck Zimmerman ’65.

“She thought we should get to know each other a little bit before she rode 200 miles with me in my car,” said Chuck.

Bobbi found Chuck in the library, where he was known to hang out to study and “look for girls.” Both originally from southwest Iowa – he from Corning and she from Atlantic – Chuck quickly agreed to give Bobbi a ride. “She was very attractive and I said ‘yes,’” he said.

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 made for a memorable first date. The planned Tau Kappa Epsilon party was cancelled, so they went out for dinner.

The couple married the November after Chuck graduated and moved to Des Moines, where Bobbi completed college at Drake University. They would later live in big university cities Ames and Iowa City, but never lost their affection for Coe.

“We wouldn’t have traded a small school for anything,” Chuck said.

Now living in suburban Phoenix, they returned to Coe for Chuck’s 50th class reunion during Homecoming 2015. Chuck was a member of the Alumni Council in the early ’80s and has kept in touch with his fraternity brothers. Since pledging Kappa Delta as a Coe freshman, Bobbi has remained active with the sorority. In addition to regular get-togethers with a small group of sisters, she attends biennial reunions of Coe KDs from the ‘60s. Last fall’s reunion was hosted by Connie Zuber Baugh ’67 in the Amana Colonies.

The couple’s affection for Coe was most recently demonstrated with a $25,000 pledge to Make Your Move – The Campaign for Eby and Hickok. The largest capital project in Coe’s history, the project includes $23 million in essential campus enhancements, including the athletic and recreation complex project as well as the renovation and expansion of Hickok Hall.

“As you get older, you start defining where you want to give money,” said Chuck, who owns Restaurant Strategies Group including Iowa Wendy’s franchises in Altoona, Ankeny and Urbandale. “We really narrowed the field down.”

The Zimmermans said their support for the campaign was enhanced by its focus on athletic facilities, given Chuck’s time as a Coe baseball player and their support for Kohawk athletics. “We’re sports fans, so that was a good fit for us,” Bobbi said. Chuck also has fond memories of business classes in newly remodeled and expanded Hickok Hall.

You can join Chuck and Bobbi to help these large-scale projects become reality and multiply the impact of your gift. By raising $6 million for Make Your Move, the college can receive a generous $3 million grant from the Hall-Perrine Foundation of Cedar Rapids. Thus far, $3.4 million has been contributed to unlock $1.7 million for the college. Now is the time to make your move and make it happen for Coe!

Trustees unanimously support coe
Dave Carson ’72 is originally from Chicago and lives in Northville, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. At Coe, Carson majored in economics and business administration, and went on to earn an MBA from the University of Iowa. 
Carson had a 33-year career with Ford Motor Company, based both in Detroit and in Europe. Since retiring as a member of the senior global finance executive team in 2007, he has been an advisor to several companies. 
In 2000, Carson joined the Coe College Board of Trustees, where he has served in several leadership roles. Carson was elected board chair in 2012, and he is presently serving in his second three-year term in that key position. 
Along with the gift of time to benefit the college, Dave and his wife, Mary Bridenstine Carson ’73, have been stalwart financial supporters of the college for many years, including the Make Your Move Campaign. Dave is grateful to the trustees and other alumni and friends of the college who have pledged lead gifts in the quiet phase of the campaign.
“Members of the Board of Trustees are among Coe’s most loyal and generous supporters,” said Carson. “Their unanimous commitment to the Make Your Move Campaign signals strong support for this project and a high level of confidence in the future of Coe. The trustees recognize that the academic program and the robustness of college life at Coe are as strong as ever, and we strive to ensure the experience is even better going forward.” 
Carson is hopeful that the support provided by the trustees will be inspirational to other alumni and friends of the college as they consider their campaign gifts.
“The alumni are the future of Coe, a responsibility that we never realized as students,” said Carson. “Take a few moments and reflect on your life at Coe; we ask all who benefited from the Coe experience to make a gift to the Make Your Move Campaign to support future generations of Kohawks.”

Herink delays retirement for Coe
Eighteen years later, former Coe President Joseph E. McCabe is still inspiring alumni to support their alma mater.
In 1997, McCabe announced plans to give Coe every dollar paid to him during his 40 years of service to the college – an amount totaling $458,616.67. In 2014, as plans for Make Your Move – the Campaign for Eby and Hickok were explained to Coe trustees, Kent Herink ’76 was similarly inspired.
On pace to meet his career goal of retiring at the end of 2014 before
turning 60 years old, Herink decided instead to work an extra year while donating his salary to Coe.
“I was trying to think of a way I could make a more significant contribution and realized that if I was in financial shape to retire in 2014, I could delay my retirement a year and give my earnings for that year to Coe without adversely affecting my retirement,” Herink said. “So, that’s what I did - I worked an extra year ‘for Coe’ and it enabled me to make a contribution in excess of $200,000 that I would not otherwise have been able to do.”
Now “of-counsel” since the end of 2015, Herink practiced his entire career as a patent attorney for the Des Moines law firm of Davis, Brown, Koehn, Shors & Roberts, P.C. After graduating from Coe with a bachelor’s in physics, he earned his master’s in physics from the University of Iowa in 1979. He went on to study law at Iowa, graduating with a J.D. in 1982.
A Coe trustee since 2005, Herink is the second of five siblings who graduated from Coe between 1975 and 1987. The parents of three adult sons, he and his wife, Elaine, are avid skiers and enjoy spending time at their house in Italy.
In addition to McCabe’s famous gift, Herink said he was motivated by his fondness for Coe and his friendship with Mathematics Professor Kent Herron, with whom he lived for five years while attending graduate school and law school in Iowa City.
Coe laid the foundation, he said, that allowed him to switch career paths from physics to law. “I could do that because Coe provided me that broad-based liberal arts education,” Herink said.
Herink encourages others to consider this path toward increasing their charitable giving. “And if that giving is to Coe, all the better,” he added.
“Life’s been good to me,” Herink said. “I’ve been successful. Coe has been a big part of that success.”

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