Douglas Peterson '50

  • Ben Doehr
    Ben: So, if you could state your full name, where you're from, and your class year.
  • Doug Peterson
    Doug: Doug Peterson, and I’m from Las Vegas, Nevada, where I’ve lived for... a good many years; where I also direct a choral orchestra ensemble, for 45 years. Perhaps I said that already, but it's been my pleasure to do this to some extent past my retirement age, which was from, you know, this music program, which I participated in for, also, a large number of years.
  • Doug Peterson
    Doug: And.. I retired after 36 years from teaching at University of Nevada in Las Vegas. I came there and accepted a position in 1967, and there were three of us that began a music program there. The program grew though, and it was then called Nevada Southern University, and now, of course, the university is huge- 22 thousand and I suspect they have 37 or more faculty full time there.
  • Doug Peterson
    Doug: But, my retirement came in 2003, and... but I've kept- basically because I always had a community course orchestra outlet going alongside my regular program at the University, and once I had retired, I maintained a schedule of concerts, and this year is my 45th year as Music Director of the Southern Nevada Musical Art Society, which concentrates on performing of choral orchestra masterworks, and yet, we mix it up with some popular concerts, lighter stuff, lighter fare.
  • Doug Peterson
    Doug: We're nonprofit, and... imagine a nonprofit being in a... city location like Las Vegas, especially during the recent downturn- not so recent, it’s been going on for quite a while- and, I must tell you that things are beginning to look up, because there’s a line about more housing starts now, and hopefully this will change.
  • Doug Peterson
    Doug: But for a nonprofit, it means that our contributions have been below par what they were for a number of years. A tough time, especially now, the past year we did our usual six concerts, six or seven concerts, but I think we’re in the hole this time—this particular season. I’ll find out when I go back home.
  • Ben Doehr & Doug Peterson
    Ben: So did you do Music at Grinnell when you were here?Doug: Oh, yes. I sang in David Scoular’s Men’s Glee Club and Choir a great deal. And that was six times a week for four years. It was a great pleasure, and became quite a formidable influence.
  • Doug Peterson
    Doug: But, I never majored in Music at Grinnell. I began to take, seriously, some music classes my senior year. I got into Northwestern, Good- Norma Goodbook suggested I go there, get some summer training, and... eventually followed up with a Bachelor’s in Music Ed. from Florida State University, so I have two undergraduate degrees. My degree from Grinnell, though, probably, you would say it's a major in Psychology, and minor in English and quite a few Music credits, and... well, that’s what it’s all about here anyway, about getting a pretty broad base of instruction.
  • Ben Doehr & Doug Peterson
    Ben: So is that why you came to Grinnell, the broad base of instruction?Doug: No, I came because my- I was just out of the service and my sister had preceded me. She was salutatorian from Marshall Minnesota High School. We’d both gone to high school there, and she was in her first year at Grinnell—that would have been in ’45, I believe—and I’m out of service and looking for the best school to go to and she liked it here, and so I.... that’s how things happen, you know? They just happen that way.
  • Doug Peterson
    Doug: But, there were a bunch of us that came out of the service, that.... probably, that sang bo- the thing is, the guys that sang in the Men’s Glee Club here were, many of them, were previously in service, so they were older. That’s why our choral sound was pretty significant; more richer voices, and... makes sense. But, that was the charm of it, and the Glee Club toured... many times, high schools- kind of a recruiting thing for the institution here, and...
  • Doug Peterson & Ben Doehr
    Doug: Interesting thing though- I have a video of the Glee Club on tour and pictures of the glee clubbers outside of the bus, the traveling busses and waiting for the next concert, and you know what the most outstanding features of these videos are? Everyone, practically everyone, is smoking, and you don’t see that today.Ben: Yeah, especially among singers.Doug: Yeah, and it just… Every time I’ve seen those videos I took, or movies at that time- movies to become videos- that’s still amazing, but times have changed, you know?Ben: Yeah.Doug: And that’s the way that goes.
  • Doug Peterson & Ben Doehr
    Doug: The first memory of the campus- Well, it was always very beautiful here--Ben: Mhm.Doug: --the lush green, and.... But, I was a newcomer to the state, and.. I picked the right school, because professors have been- that I had, were wonderful teachers, particularly Neal Klausner. I took Philosophy class. You’ve heard the name, I’m sure.Ben: Mhm.Doug: And... a bit terrifying, because if you went into his class, you’d better be prepared for a drop quiz. You never knew when it was gonna happen.Ben: Mhm.
  • Doug Peterson
    Doug: And... we had blue books in those days and you had to be able to write, but I took all kinds of courses here. History of Christian Thought and I ended up in a Zoology class, believe it or not. Why? I don’t know. "Why am I here? I know why: I couldn’t get into the Biology class I wanted to get into!" But- dissecting a fetal pig was not my first choice, but those were... just a few alterations.
  • Doug Peterson & Ben Doehr
    Doug: Had a wonderful Economics professor, the name is almost on the tip of my tongue... but you had to write in long hand and put sentences together, and actually, all the English classes that I took here—Henry Alden was my advisor—he always advised me to take another English class, but they have stood me in good stead, because... as a music director, I obviously have prepared for that, but, thank heavens, I can fall back on the English construction that I got from these classes, and... 'Cause I had 24 hours of English. That’s a bunch!Ben: Mhm.
  • Doug Peterson & Ben Doehr
    Doug: And I’ve always felt that when I’ve picked up a Time magazine, that I had a better understanding of the world, simply because I'd been to a liberal arts college where... you got the best of all the world’s point of view, a perspective that was based on some kind of knowledge you gained in a liberal arts setting, and a better understanding, without which- some people don’t have, and they fall into certain prejudices ‘cause they don’t know any differently.Ben: Mhm.Doug: Well, Grinnell College gives you that best advantage in that respect, huh?Ben: Yeah.
  • Ben Doehr & Doug Peterson
    Ben: Were there any books here that you read that were particularly influential in your life? You were a Philosophy major, so there was probably something.Doug: No, not- I... No, not books. American Literature... There were American authors, Mark Twain, I think, for example, and Chaucer English.Ben: Mhm.
  • Doug Peterson & Ben Doehr
    Doug: Literature.... and in the English category, one had to get up and give, occasionally, though fairly regularly, a speech before the class, to gain confidence in facing the public...Ben: Mhm.Doug: --and they called it “Basic Communication” and something like that.. well, the class can have a very positive effect, I think, in overcoming inhibitions, as I've done, hmm? It’s valuable, because you get out in the world.... I mean, absolutely, you’re going to have to get up, stand up, and talk before the folks.
  • Ben Doehr & Doug Peterson
    Ben: So whe- when you were here at Grinnell, did you have a favorite place to hang out or study on campus? Was there some part- place away from your dorm that was your home away from home?Doug: Yeah, there was a place down the street here... I don’t know, that served drinks and things, but... I don’t remember that off-hand now. I can’t be more specific. I can remember though, dressing up in a coat, shirt, tie.. to go eat supper at Cowles.Ben: Really?Doug: Yeah...
  • Doug Peterson & Ben Doehr
    Doug: That.... And that- I still remember that, because it’s a very precious, esteemed kind of thing, you know? And now, over the years, dressing down has become the fashion to such an extent and.. even young people, the guys wear caps when they go indoors to a restaurants--Ben: Mhm.Doug: --and my mother would have a fit about that!Ben: Mhm.Doug: But...
  • Ben Doehr & Doug Peterson
    Ben: Yeah, the campuses were separated when you were here?Doug: Oh, yeah. Cowles, and I worked over at Mears. I think that was it- or the Quad- the ladies, where they had breakfast in the morning.Ben: The Quad?Doug: Yeah, the Quad. I got it right. You had to be up there early, and.... that was an interesting experience. Gals don’t have makeup on at that hour, and... a different perspective, but..Ben: So you worked at the dining hall for the opposite gender?Doug: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it was one way to pick up some extra change, and...
  • Doug Peterson & Ben Doehr
    Doug: ....Has Grinnell changed much since I was a student? The campus has enormously changed.Ben: So, what was here when you were here? Was it Goodnow, Steiner...?Doug: Goodnow.Ben: The dorms were the same, right?Doug: Yeah, the dorms are Smith, I was at Smith, all the way to Cowles.Ben: Mhm.
  • Doug Peterson & Ben Doehr
    Doug: But Cowles was added... It was the last one to go up there, the new one, I remember. But in my trips back here, reunions, I remember at our 50th I did a tour of Noyce and I had a group of singers that performed outside, and they are part of a ceremony on behalf of Noyce and a tree was planted. I should see what the tree looks like now. I don' t know- that's thirteen years ago.Ben: Mhm.Doug: And... sort of a favorite son of Grinnell College, and.... others have given you their memory bank about Bob Noyce, but he was sort of contemporary of my time.
  • Ben Doehr & Doug Peterson
    Ben: Did you meet your spouse here, or..?Doug: But my sister was here- No, my spouse... I met her.... She was a school teacher in Columbus, Indiana. I was teaching music in Columbus High School in Indiana and she was well-schooled in music. She was out of Northwestern University as an undergraduate and Master’s degree from Ball State, and... That was not the case, see.
  • Ben Doehr & Doug Peterson
    Ben: So if you knew then what you know now, would you have done anything differently during your time at Grinnell..? Knowing- on your- reflecting on your experiences in life, is there anything that you would have changed?Doug: Hmm… I'd- Say it again, because- Let me--Ben: If you had to go back in time--Doug: Yeah.Ben: --and you knew all that you know right now- on what life has taught you and everything- would you- is there anything you would have done differently? Taking different classes, met different people?Doug: Yeah, I probably would have begun a Music degree right off. But, you try this, you try that.Ben: Mhm.
  • Doug Peterson & Ben Doehr
    Doug: And, the thing is you keep propelling yourself, and that’s.... that's been the magic of Grinnell, because the inspiration I received from performing in the choral groups here has combined with a certain amount of the Grinnell spirit, and carr- and propelled me forward all through the years, and... I suspect that that focus has always been there as a result of my Grinnell College days, and.... but I would have started just sooner.Ben: Yeah.Doug: To give a better answer, a complete answer.
  • Ben Doehr & Doug Peterson
    Ben: Unfortunately, we’re almost out of time, but is there any parting words you’d like to say to future generations of Grinnellians, based on what you learned here?Doug: Well, they should consider themselves very lucky to be here, be part of a liberal arts tradition second to none. In my experience, I’ve taught at a state university- this is the best! Big is not always the best.Ben: Mhm.Doug: And that’s not my final word, but that comes to my lips right now.
  • Doug Peterson & Ben Doehr
    Doug: And the chance to take a variety of subjects, whether it’s Zoology or... Economics, Statistics, which I had to take at one time, keep the base very broad and that’s what you get at Grinnell College. And because of the level of excellence here, anyone who gets into the school should consider themself very lucky.Ben: Thank you.
  • Doug Peterson
    Doug: Well, thank you very much for doing this!Doug: I hope so-- I got going a little bit better.
Alumni oral history interview with Douglas Peterson '50. Recorded May 31, 2013.
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