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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 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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Alumni oral history interview with Frank Rawland '87. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I had been a very good student in high school. I'd been an athlete, a swimmer. I regret to say that I gradually lost altitude with all of that, with all of the exceptional amount of effort that I put into that. But, I would also say that I maybe discovered myself emotionally at Grinnell.

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Alumni oral history interview with Ian Roberts '87. Recorded June 2, 2012.
There was a certain year when almost all of my friends were international students for some reason, and they were mostly Asian, and so I learned to play ping pong and as a result I have the pencil grip where you hold it with your fingers on the back of the paddle, and people always say, “Why do you hold it like- that way?” It’s because I learned to play ping pong from all these Asian guys that I was hanging out with at the time.

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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?

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Alumni oral history interview with Mark W. Schumann '88. Recorded June 3, 2012.
We got off I-80 at exit 182 and y’know, going down West Street and I frickin’ stalled that car a couple times on the way in because I’m going, “Wooooow. This place is awesome. I’m loving this town already. I’ve never seen- I’ve never been to Iowa before! I love this town!”

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Alumni oral history interview with Laura Allender Ferguson '89. Recorded May 31, 2014.
It's amazing now to see all the things, all the supportive pieces that are in place: the Kosher Kitchen, the Shabbat table.... and the Rabbi, who's here, and it's a tremendous resource when you're in the middle of nowhere.

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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.

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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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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?”

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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.

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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.

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Alumni oral history interview with April Zoll Close (Cottrell) '92. Recorded June 3, 2012.
I loved being here- oh, and I worked in the Print and Drawing Study room with Kay Jenkins. And again, she was just so kind and welcoming and this great combination of having high standards but being realistic about, you know, what my life was like at the time. So that was wonderful.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Alumni oral history interview with David Silverman '93. Recorded June 3, 2012.
I remember walking back across central campus and looking up at the sky, and I saw more stars than I had ever imagined seeing. And it was a very sort of, spiritual experience here in Grinnell. And, y'know, everything smelled different. I think alfalfa was being harvested at the time and I remember that very unique smell, looking at the stars and just feeling like, very, warm and you know, part of the universe. And I'm not an overly spiritual person who has many feelings like that but it was a really good feeling.

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