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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.

Alumni oral history interview with Caryn Chaden '76. Recorded June 5, 2010.
Getting to know people in town and getting to see the town of Grinnell, independent of the college and riding my bike in the middle of the night and riding in the corn fields- in the roads with cornfields on either side at dusk with fireflies, are really important memories for me.

Alumni oral history interview with Nancy Ganschaw Frakes '76. Recorded June 4, 2010.
This is still such a beautiful, peaceful campus in a lovely small town. It’s a little haven in the midst of the cornfields. And on that note, I’ll stop. It’s been a…what a long strange trip it’s been. I never had any idea what I was getting into when I came here. I’m so glad I did.

Alumni oral history interview with Paul Scott Stanfield '76. Recorded June 4, 2010.
Don Smith, who was in the history department in those days, particularly impressed me because he treated us—he took us seriously—he treated us as grown-ups. He didn’t expect us to be experts, but he treated us, not as peers or equals, but as historians, so to speak, who had an obligation to be honest and rigorous and scholarly and he had such a, sort of, gentle and gentleman-ly way of maintaining high standards that he made a tremendous impression on me.

Alumni oral history interview with John Malkinson '79. Recorded June 5, 2011.
Actually, the first memory I have is the first day of Orientation, being with four students that I hadn't- I had just met for the first time and the President of the College drove up in a golf cart with a keg on the back, and poured each of us a beer and talked to us for twenty minutes. I had- I'd never been around anything like that before. It was very surprising and for the first time I really realized right then it was going to be an interesting four years.

Alumni oral history interview with Diane Gutenkauf '80. Recorded June 5, 2011.
Y'know, for me, that's the most meaningful part of the history of Grinnell, is somebody saying, "I got to do that."

Alumni oral history interview with Susan Hagler '80. Recorded June 4, 2011.
When I was graduating, and going up to Minneapolis, I wasn't sure what I was gonna do. But- when I went up to Minneapolis I knew one person and I wasn't sure what I was gonna do, and he said to me, "When you go to Minneapolis," paraphrasing, "if you need to flip burgers, go flip burgers," you know, "and just take care of your life in that way." And not- he's always been a big supporter of mine and very encouraging and he has changed my life.

Alumni oral history interview with David Kramer '80. Recorded June 5, 2011.
When I came here it was like a breath of fresh air. Everybody was intelligent, fun. They were open about things. They- y'know, it wasn't anything like I was used to at home, and it sort of opened and expanded my mind.

Alumni oral history interview with Barry Krost '81. Recorded June 4, 2011.
I think that as I've gotten older the value of my Grinnell experience has only grown even more. I think the first years I got outta here I didn't- I don't think I really understood exactly what had happened to me here in terms of what it had really done to transform me. But as the years have gone by I actually use, and am aware of that experience a lot more. It's actually planted kind of a seed in me, and it's just sort of grown into this whole thing and I always go back to the Grinnell experience, to the start of it.

Alumni oral history interview with Michael Warren Lewis '81. Recorded June 5, 2011.
Students were very free to create the experience that they wanted. There was a tremendous amount of do-it-yourself-ism of all sorts that went on where if you didn’t feel like you were having a good time you were free to make a better time out of it. There weren’t a lot of real restraints on us and what we were expected to be doing outside of the class area, and so. We had all sorts of things happening. Y’know the Rugby Club goes on a tour of Canada. It just, just took advantage of the ability to do it, so we did it, that kind of thing.

Alumni oral history interview with Janice Binder '85. Recorded June 4, 2011.
Y'know, everybody needs to belong and be accepted and here's a place where you can do it, y'know, and not get lost.

Alumni oral history with Mike Cleary '86. Recorded June 4, 2011.
The students, it seems... I don’t know. When I was there, I always like to think of this one description, every class non-conformist in the country applied and got into Grinnell, and that’s where they found their home.

Alumni oral history interview with Julie Jones '86. Recorded June 1, 2012.
Everybody was hanging out and there were people wearing Birkenstocks with no socks in the dead of winter and there was snow everywhere. And I thought, 'This is the place for me, where I don’t have to worry so much about being popular,' and all the things that consumed me as a high school student.

Alumni oral history interview with Patrick Kasperitis '86. Recorded June 3, 2011.
I showed up at the airport, I was seventeen. I had never really flown before. I show up at the airport, and I get on the bus, the shuttle, and there’s some Iowans that were pointing out things in Des Moines as we’re driving through on our way to the I-80. I made the mistake of saying, “Wow, what a quaint little town.” It’s the capital of Iowa. They were a little taken aback, but I was used to Philadelphia...

Alumni oral history interview with Jean McKenzie '86. Recorded June 4, 2011.
I wanted to tell you that most of my closest friends in the world were at Grinnell, and it’s kind of ironic because here, yeah, here’s it 25 years later.. Y'know, you wouldn’t think somebody who went four semesters might have had quite the same impact as someone who'd spent four years, but really.. when I count on my hands, y’know the people who are closest to me, so many of them are from Grinnell, from the Grinnell era.

Alumni oral history interview with Ted Amann '87. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I'd made, like, such a connection with the rest of the Student Government that the first meeting spring semester, when I had to officially resign and turn it over to the Vice President, then they made a motion and voted me King for Life of the Student Government. So, I've always been amused by that.

Alumni oral history interview with Daniel Cymbala '87. Recorded June 3, 2012.
I think, fundamentally, and I don’t know that it’s different at any other college or, you know, cocooned society, but it’s about the people, you know?

Alumni oral history interview with Pam Feinstein '87. Recorded June 2, 2012.
It was like, the light bulb went off and it felt so good. And I feel like that was the beginning of me.

Alumni oral history interview with Jim Asplund '88 and Andrew Hopson '86. Recorded June 2, 2012.
Someone told me, before I came here, to just do what you like doing and that seemed to work really well, at least for me. So, classes that I fell asleep in, I didn't take any more of those, and classes that I showed up for all the time, and did well in, I figure I'll keep doing that, you know?

Alumni oral history interview with Carin Bringelson '91. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I think about kind of the extra-curricular and the curricular, the academic and the volunteer, having those- all those parts kind of woven together to make a whole that impacted me the rest of my life.

Alumni oral history interview with Tanya Newkirk '91. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I spent the night here and everybody was genuinely friendly. You know, it wasn't like they were "Oh," checking out the prospective student.


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