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Alumni Oral Histories

The Alumni Oral History Project aims to better understand and share the history of Grinnell College by recording and preserving oral histories with members of the Grinnell College alumni community. This collection of oral histories was recorded between 2009 and the present as part of the annual alumni Reunion weekend event.

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Alumni oral history interview with Audrey (Bunny) Howard Swanson '43. Recorded June 1, 2012.
We had a tradition at the time of borrowing our boyfriend's sweater. He brought his and he started to slip it over my head. I knew, yes, I knew that as he brought that sweater down he was going to kiss me. It was most exciting.

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Alumni oral history interview with Edward Shackelford '43. Recorded June 1, 2012.
In order to have a date, you had to walk across the railroad tracks to the women's dorm. And of course, you could only get to the front door, basically and announce who you were, and then they called up to your date and asked her to come down. They had very strict rules. Your date had to be in on 10 o'clock of an evening I think 11 o'clock on Saturdays.

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Alumni oral history interview with Wally Douma '51. Recorded June 4, 2011.
I think that’s one of the real unique things about Grinnell or any small liberal arts school really for that matter. You don’t know just the professors you have in class, but you know the professors that are making up the rest of the staff and that’s quite important, I think.

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Alumni oral history interview with Foster Rinefort '54 and '56. Recorded June 4, 2010.
So I came into Grinnell a young kid, maybe a little cocky, I don’t know, but reasonable, curious person. And left with an excellent degree and excellent education and motivation to pursue a life that has been interesting, rewarding, and challenging.

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Alumni oral history interview with Jerry Reed '55. Recorded June 4, 2010.
When I came to Grinnell, wrestling season came up and so I joined the varsity team and our coach was Coach Brown. And for some reason, he didn’t like me. There was another student by the name of Frank who was also in the 165 range and we would practice together and we were almost equal in skills. But Coach Brown wanted Frank to be on first team.

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Alumni oral history interview with Carol Johnson Addington ‘56. Recorded June 3, 2011.
So, I think for me, just the development, it created in me, a really... drive for knowledge. I love to read. I love to take classes on things, and I guess that's what Grinnell taught me, is that learning is really fun. And that's... that's been my experience.

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Alumni oral history interview with David Steiner '57. Recorded May 31, 2014.
I had a really, kind of strange, sort of double life, and I owe a great deal of it to Grinnell because it, as badly off as it was in the 1950s- and it was rather badly off- the fact is that the graduates of that period get a bum rap and are considered to be the "lost" generation of Grinnellians, who were just not as good as they should have been. However, the fact of the matter is that Robert Noyce was a graduate of the 1950s, and we had a great many people who went on to graduate degrees and great careers in teaching and elsewhere.

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Alumni oral history interview with Joseph Walka '60. Recorded June 5, 2010.
I think that she feels based on her two years at Grinnell the way I feel based on my four years that these were the most important years of our lives. So those are my recollections of my time at Grinnell. They were wonderful years of growing up and learning how to take responsibility, learning how to write against a deadline and how to work together.

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Alumni oral history interview with Keith Kester '61. Recorded June 3, 2011.
The other thing I would say in terms of the history in terms of my years, is that - and it continues and maybe even got better - is that the science education is really very fine here, I think. So, in terms of what’s available and the involvement of students in research, which I was able to be involved in, so that was an important component of it as well.

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Alumni oral history interview with Duane Krohnke '61. Recorded June 4, 2011.
When I look at the higher educational universe I think that small liberal arts colleges including Grinnell, of course, are very well equipped for the maturation of young people.

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Alumni oral history interview with James A. Ahrens '62. Recorded June 1, 2012.
It was a very valuable experience and one of the things that I liked best about this campus and about this college as a whole were the people that I met here and have continued to, in many cases, keep up with over the many years since that time.

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Alumni oral history interview with Ron Dorr '62. Recorded June 3, 2012.
It’s a kind of freeing for responsible citizenship, for productive lives, for loving and interdependent brotherhood. And I learned those elements of liberal education here at Grinnell.

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Alumni oral history interview with David Durand '62. Recorded June 1, 2012.
In addition to all the other stuff you had to do, everybody was given a special assignment they had to do and they couldn't come back to the dorm until 6 o'clock in the morning, or having proved that they'd done it.

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Alumni oral history interview with Ronald Gault '62. Recorded June 11, 2012.
And the academic environment is very rigorous. People don’t go there who are not serious about studying... But it’s a place where, if you’re a serious student, I think you can do well and the results will be reflected in the careers that you choose and the life that you lead.

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Alumni oral history interview with Ray Horton '62. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I was a well-known high school basketball player and I wanted to be a baseball player, and it wasn't until, I think, I took a philosophy course in my sophomore year that I began to have any kind of appreciation of an intellectual life, so that's probably the debt that I owe Grinnell the most for.

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Alumni oral history interview with Mike Lehmann '62. Recorded June 3, 2012.
And the nicest thing about Grinnell, when you go downtown, is that it's still there. The shops are there, and there's been turnover of course, but they're not- you don't have a whole row of empty storefronts.

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Alumni oral history interview with David A. McBlain '62. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I took Differential Equations as a freshman, and that was quite an experience because Dr. Apostle, who had agreed that I could take the class, said, you know, “How many seniors do we have, how many juniors and how many sophomores,” and he said, “How many freshman? Ah, one.” And everybody else in the class went, “Oh gee, what’s he doing in here?”

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Alumni oral history interview with Bill Parsons '62. Recorded June 1, 2012.
He was an excellent teacher and I kept in touch with him after I graduated, and learned a lot from him both about the language and about the reality of life in the Soviet Union. He actually had left during the Second World War. He’d been captured by the Germans, and had been in forced labor. When the war was over he thought he would go back to the Soviet Union, but one of his officers said, “If you go back you’re gonna be in big trouble.” So he went to Canada and then he came to Grinnell, on this special teaching program.

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Alumni oral history interview with John M. Peterson '62. Recorded June 2, 2012.
Talked with Robert Sauers, the director of admissions, and I asked him, I said, “Y’know, you send out invitations to quite a few more students than you have places for." And I said, "What happens if more students accept your invitation than you expect?” He said, “Well, then the director of admissions has made a terrible mistake and it’s up to the rest of the faculty to work it out.” So I thought that was pretty good too. He had a sense of humor.

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Alumni oral history interview with Lynne Simcox '64. Recorded May 30, 2009.
My second or third year my parents came to visit and they went downtown. There was some kind of carnival going on and there was a donkey attached to a telephone and she said "See I told you it was a one horse town. It's not even a horse."

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