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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 Liz Banfield '92. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I met him over there, and again he was being very, sort of cagey, kind of not committing, you know? And he teed up a ball for me and I took a swing and he paused and looked at me and said, “Will you marry me?”

Alumni oral history interview with Amy Bliss Tenney '92. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I hope that- and I hope and believe that the institution and the students are still the same in terms of really wanting to come and learn and to take what they’ve learned and the way of learning and the way of thinking and analyzing and take it out in the world.

Alumni oral history interview with Josh Burke '92. Recorded June 1, 2012.
It was fun having the resource of a college radio station that actually got records from record companies around the country and around the world, and being able to listen to new music that I might not otherwise have found or heard of and check that out.

Alumni oral history interview with Frank Douma '92. Recorded June 3, 2012.
I knew that this was a place where people did not have to demonstrate their abilities academically or intellectually or what have you.

Alumni oral history interview with Maria Walinski-Peterson '92, and Glenn Peterson. Recorded June 3, 2011.
I have discovered, through speaking to other alum, that my story is not unique. There seems to be a homing beacon that is inborn in certain people, globally, and they don’t know it until something turns that homing beacon on and it says, “Go to Grinnell,” and they don’t really know why. Almost every person I’ve spoken to who has an affinity for this place -not all Grinnell graduates do- they’ve had a similar experience where something just said, “I need to be there,” and in some cases physically set foot on something on this campus. In my case, the parking lot down by Mears Cottage, and got out of the car, put my foot down and said, “I’m home,” and I don’t know why. This is the place. So, maybe Grinnell chooses us in some cosmic sense.

Alumni oral history interview with Amelia Fort '93. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I think the best thing that came from that is that the community of Grinnell was, we really pulled together as classmates and as professors. We were all on board with each other.

Alumni oral history interview with Elizabeth Leonard '93. Recorded June 2, 2012.
We stood next to the garbage cans in the Main Hall dining hall and we would take food off the people's plates before they threw it away because we were making some grand statement about how much waste food was, which was really funny. So, we did that for about two weeks and then the college came to us and asked us very politely if we would stop because it was a health code violation. Or at least, that's what they said, so we stopped that, but, y'know, we kind of made a point.

Alumni oral history interview with Christopher Doemel '94. Recorded June 4, 2010.
I guess, for student and campus life, one of the things I liked about Grinnell was the fact that they tried to bring things in on campus that were kind of interesting to do, so you never felt—like even though you were isolated, you never really felt like you were isolated, because there was always something to do every weekend.

Alumni oral history interview with Renee Bourgeois Parsons '96. Recorded June 5, 2010.
It’s kind of nice to have this deeper connection now, not only with my classmates, but also with the people who I didn’t overlap with at all at Grinnell.

Alumni oral history interview with Scott Barkely '00. Recorded June 2010.
The coaching staff here at Grinnell understood student athletes like that and understood the new need to recruit them, which I thought was a phenomenal experience. It was great to get invited to campus, to be invited to stay with current members of the team that I was looking at and really get a taste of the experience here.

Alumni oral history interview with Sarah Davis Worth '00. Recorded June 5, 2010.
It’s funny because when he and I talk about Grinnell, we have the same stories about the same places and the same experiences, even though our time here was split by 14 years. When he says that as a freshman he lived on Norris 4th, I know what that means. And when we talk about different parties and different places on campus, it’s the same. And he and I even know people in common who were classmates of his that then stayed on at the college or whatever- professors we had in common, that kind of thing.

Alumni oral history interview with Camarin Madigan '00. Recorded June 5, 2010.
I had class at eight in the morning, so I got up early, which when you’re in college, getting up for an eight o’clock class is definitely early. But getting up at seven to go over to go over to professor, er, President Osgood’s house, er, his office, and it’s of course locked up, but he always gets to the office very early so I went over to his office window, and knocked on his window. And he was a little bit shocked, I think, to see a student standing out there, because I don’t think any students are usually up at seven in the morning.

Alumni oral history interview with Courtney Sherwood '00. Recorded June 4, 2010.
The first memory I have, but I’d already been there for a while, like at least half a day—it was getting late, and I go out in the hall and somebody had put candies, like a string of candies down the hall that led to a door that said like, follow the candy to new friends, and I did! I followed, I went in, and I’m still friends with a bunch of the people that had like followed the candy.

Alumni oral history interview with Paul Bendich '01. Recorded June 3, 2011.
It seems like anywhere that’s centered around an academic place is gonna have a lot of Grinnell people ‘cause that’s where we go. But, it’s- so yeah, totally feels like home and now coming back it’s like, I realize it’s been so long. It's like everything is very familiar and yet totally alien.

Alumni oral history interview with James W. Dunn '01. Recorded June 5, 2011.
At one point I remember looking up and four or five people all.. we all looked at each other like, "I'm cranky. I'm sick and tired. I'm not getting enough sleep. I have way too much to do," and we all just had that moment of.. solidarity, I guess, is the best way to describe it.

Alumni oral history interview with Kristin Durianski '01. Recorded June 4, 2011.
It seems like the ethos is still here. The free spirit, the intellectually curious. It seems to me that no matter if you’re shy or outgoing, everyone who is here makes it through here- to be more precise about it, does have an academic interest, does have a passion that they want to pursue.

Alumni oral history interview with Tyler Bradbury '01. Recorded June 3, 2011.
I was like, "Oh, it's in Iowa? Mm." and I threw it all away. I threw all of it away. I was like, "I'm not moving to Iowa; I'm from New Jersey, and nah nah nah." And then they sent this letter out and it, I wanna know who in the admissions office decided to do this 'cause it was brilliant for those of us who are socially awkward. Where they sent this and like- "Maybe you lost our first mailing, or maybe you're just so busy you didn't have a chance to respond, but we really wanted to hear back" and you know, I was like, [Gasps]. I felt so guilt-ridden that I wrote back.

Alumni oral history interview with Erica Fredrikson '01. Recorded June 4, 2011.
We covered our entire front door with all the beautiful leaves, which don't look as cool when they get super dry, but it was awesome. And then we got a notice after fall break our freshman year from the fire marshal, saying, "Please remove everything from your front door. It’s a fire hazard."

Alumni oral history interview with Rochelle M. Gandour-Rood '02. Recorded June 1, 2012.
My acceptance packet from Grinnell arrived, and it was like, "Yay! We're so excited! We really hope you'll join us! We love you!" And there's like tons of exclamation points, and like, at the very end it was like, "P.S. You need to fill out this health form," but it wasn't like in the first sentence. And I just- at that moment I knew that like, Grinnell, with this like, just welcoming, inclusive atmosphere, and like, all that- I just knew this was the place I wanted to be.

Alumni oral history interview with Sarah Nuss-Warren '02. Recorded June 2, 2012.
That was an amazing class as well, because instead of listening to someone, I got to sit there and think about the problems on my own, and since it was a computer-based math class, instead of spending all the time doing multiplication and division, the computer did all of the grunt work and you got to figure out how to solve the problems.


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