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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 Chris Wilde '88 . Recorded July 5, 1905.

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 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!”

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.

Alumni oral history interview with Sasha Aslanian '90. Recorded June 2, 2013.
I had six dollars in my pocket and the pharmacist put together the prescription of the antibiotics that I needed for my strep and he said, “Oh, this is kind of an expensive prescription. It’s gonna’ be 30 dollars.” And I looked at him and I said, “Well, I don’t have that…” and he says, “Well, you just pay what you can and bring around the rest when you have it.”

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.

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 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.

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 Jackie Weissman and Andrew Altschul '92. Recorded June 2, 2012.
It's our whole community, even the friends that aren't in Portland. Our closest friends in life are still the friends we met here and it's amazing how you can not see them for a year or two and then, whether you're in Mac Field or, anywhere else, it's just the same, and it's like you're 20 again

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 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.

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 Alesia Niblick Gonzalez '94 and Cesar Gonzalez '95. Recorded 2010.
Well, I was a first generation college student so I didn’t know exactly what to expect of college, and the one thing that really convinced me to come here to Grinnell was the very supportive staff, the supportive people. I actually came also to play football, and the coaches, and the way they approach you was very, very impressive. It was more like family, and to sit and have a call from the coach, and talking about how it is to live here, and also from the recruiters was amazing.

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.


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