Lynne Simcox '64

  • Rachel Glass
    Rachel: Alright.
    Interviewee: Lynne Simcox ‘64. Interviewers: Unknown. Interview Date: June 29, 2009. Location: Audio-Visual Center, Grinnell College. Edited By: Unknown. Transcribed By: Lily Galloway ‘17. Length: 12 minutes 20 seconds.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: My name is Lynne Simcox. I live in Seattle WA and I'm a member of the- a proud member of the Grinnell College class of 1964. I came to Grinnell when I was a junior in high school. I was aimed for seminary, I thought, and there was what they call the 'Pre-The' Conference, Pre-Theological School Conference. It was hosted by Chicago Theological Seminary. It was supposed to be held at the Seminary, but they were painting the dorms or something, and so they put a bunch of us on the train and we came to Grinnell for this event.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: And, there were people like Howard Burkle and Scott Libby and a couple of others on a panel. Howard Burkle was on the faculty at that point and I fell in love with Grinnell. I really liked it. There was another guy who was there who also fell in love with Grinnell. He was a year older than I and ended up coming and was a part of the class of '63.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: I went home. My parents, neither of whom had gone to college, never heard of Grinnell of course, and they wanted me to go to college, but they weren't involved in making decisions on that. They were very clear that we could not afford- I could not afford to come to Grinnell so I was going to go to a little school in Missouri. I filled out all the paperwork and everything and the high school counselor invited me to apply for a scholarship for which I was eligible because I lived in a certain part of the south side of the city of Chicago, and when the guy came from the scholarship group to interview people, I had filled out all the stuff on this other college and then it said: "Are there any other schools in which you're interested?"
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: And I had put Grinnell. That's all I put. Just Grinnell. Nothing else because I didn't know anything else. I had done no research, and he took out a red pencil and he said, "What's all this about?" and he named the other school and Grinnell. I said, "Well, I would really like to go to Grinnell, but we can't afford it so I'm going to go to this other school." And he took out that red pencil and he scratched out everything about the other school and said, "Now let's talk about Grinnell."
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: And I got a scholarship from them before I'd ever even been accepted at Grinnell. So when I came to Grinnell with a grant-in-aid, I went into Mr. Sequira's office. He was the head of whatever it is and he said, "Oh, you're one of Graham Taylor's people." Graham Taylor was the guy from the Pullman Foundation. So, I came to Grinnell because when I was a junior I fell in love with the campus and because I was given a scholarship.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: And my parents- My second or third year, my mom came to visit, my parents came to visit. And my mother- they went downtown, and there was some kind of carnival going on, and there was a donkey attached to a telephone pole and she said, "See, I told you it was a one horse town. It's not even a horse."
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: The day before I left, she said, "Now, Grinnell- is it anywhere near Cleveland?" I said, "Iowa, mother. Iowa." So, unlike so many of my classmates who have parents and grandparents who were Grinnell students and whose kids went to Grinnell, I'm the lone Grinnellian in the bunch. My brother didn't come here and my kids, although I have brought them to Grinnell, and they're certainly aware of Grinnell, they told me that I should just draw a big circle around the middle of the United States and drop it out. So they went to schools on the coasts. They’re really west coast people, I think, and that's okay too.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: I found at Grinnell a kind of openness that was new to me. Having grown up on the south side of Chicago during- we were just talking about this outside- in a time of racial change and racial tension, there was a lot of fear and there was a lot of mistrust of people who were different. Now, I'm not saying that Grinnell was wide open to as many things it is now and to the kinds of differences there were, but when I came to Grinnell I felt, then, its continued. That's why we talk about the Grinnell family, that when you're here you're part of the Grinnell family. You belong to a group of people and I found that to be the case.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: I took a lot of classes from Howard Burkle, my favorite professor and friend. He was very important to me. I did go to seminary. When I was a senior I applied to two seminaries: one in Boston and one in Berkeley, and I was accepted to both. And I went in and said, "Don't help me decide what I should do. Tell me what to do," and he said "Go to PSR." And I was already- That was my- I was first accepted by PSR, so I had already said yes to them. That was very comfortable. That's what I did, and of course that changes the rest of your life; where you go to graduate school, regardless of the graduate school, often has a lot to do with the friends that you make and the community that you live in, and where you stay for the rest of your working years. So, that was good.
  • Rachel Glass
    Rachel: PSR is which one?
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. In fact, I was talking to one of you students just today who said he was looking at going to PSR. It was one of those weird conversations that you bump into. You know?
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: There are ways in which I think Grinnell did not serve me well, and I didn't stand up for myself, because I came thinking I wanted to go to seminary. I was a sociology major because I didn't want to have to take oral exams on philosophy and religion. Frankly, various philosophies and theologies just kind of drive me nuts, you know? Who said what about whom and all that- I just can't get into that, but I didn't get challenged to look outside of that box.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: I wish that I had been forced to take some economics. I wish that someone had pushed me to really look outside of that. I wish I'd taken some theater. My youngest son has his masters in theater. The theater piece is in there. I did take Introduction to Acting, but I didn't- I was very self-conscious. Maybe I still am, but I didn't get pushed out of my comfort zone and I wish I had been. I wish I had been in a lot of ways. It would have been challenging and I don't know that I had self confidence that would have allowed me to go into it thinking 'I could do this', but... So that was not a good thing.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: I think that Grinnell was unique in its time. We were- just, when I was waiting to come in and talk to you- talking to the guy who was out there about the people who visited the campus when I was here. We had the governors of both Iowa and Nebraska in residence for a week, each of them for a week at a time. We had Harry Truman. We had Arnold Toynbee, who is a famous- and well-known in certain circles- historian who was in residence for a semester. Pierre Mendes France was here. Nationally and internationally known people who came and didn’t just fly in, give a lecture and leave immediately, but they were here for long enough- for a long enough time for students to really interact with them in some good kinds of ways. So, even though Iowa was- even though Grinnell is seen by some people as less than a one-horse town, it certainly gave you a wider window on the world.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: I did a lot of babysitting for the family of the Congregational UCC church pastor, Bob and Eleanor Dewey and their kids, so I had a connection with town too, and saw the College through those eyes in ways that some people might not have. It wasn’t just- I wasn’t just isolated on the campus. I think that was probably good, although, I probably shouldn’t have babysat as much. I should’ve- although, I needed the money. Fifty cents an hour, you know... Babysit for four kids, all weekend, Friday night through Sunday night, for fifty cents an hour? Yeah, right, but we did, you know? But, I probably should’ve been more involved with.... on campus in terms of student things, but that was part of the whole- the shy, you know, reserved thing.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: I think I really appreciated the way that the faculty and the students interacted. The- my high school for instance, we were not to know where any of the faculty people lived. I mean, there was no contact outside of class. There was nothing like that. Grinnell obviously was very different. With Howard Burkle it was very different.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: My freshman roommate was a woman named Betty Gutman and Betty was a biology major. And at one point we each had a little plant in our room, and mine was a pine tree that died, and she had given it to me. And I called it 'tall crab grass' because it was just, like, four inches tall, this little tuft of needles. And we pressed it, in wax paper, and I gave it to her for Christmas, and then she gave it to me for my birthday, and it went back and forth and back and forth.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: We had oral comp- I don’t know if you have it now, but we had senior comprehensive exams, oral comprehensive exams, and you had to go in and you could be examined on anything and in any class that you had taken in all four years. And we lived in the fear of the Lord for those oral exams. If you didn’t pass them, your name would be in the graduation program but there would be a little asterisk that said ‘has not yet met the requirements for graduation.’ Well, Betty was a very good student, and a biology major as I said.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: Benjamin Graham was the faculty person who was 'the tree man', and I went in to him, told him the story of tall crab grass, and said, “Don’t you think that during oral comps, a Biology student should be able to identify a specimen?” And he said, “Absolutely.” So he took the tall crab grass thing, and Betty went in to her oral exams and they had divided the faculty into two groups, and he was not on her panel, but she was so tense, she was so nervous, and at the end of it Doctor Fishman reached into his pocket and said, “Doctor Graham has sent in another question for you.”
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: And she told me later that she just panicked. What had she done that Doctor Graham would send in a question for her? And he pulled tall crab grass out of his pocket and said “Could you please identify this specimen?” And she just lost it. I mean, that’s- you know, that's the kind of rapport with faculty and students that I think is wonderful, that- I don’t know if it happens in other kinds of places.
  • Rachel Glass
    Rachel: Well, do you have any final words, final statements, final stories?
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: Final statements.. Oh, there’s all kinds. There’s always stories aren’t there?
  • Rachel Glass
    Rachel: I know, it’s hard to- Yeah, I feel like each person that’s come in today could talk for days about their experience, and... Yeah.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: Well, you see, I spent a number of years in campus ministry before I went on to be a middle judicatory executive kind of thing, so I was around a lot of colleges and universities. And I think that, unlike commuter schools and large universities, Grinnell has a sense of family that you don’t have in a lot of places. You might have it at the University of Montana, because of the location, to a certain extent, but if you’re a Grinnellian, you’re family. There’s no question about that. There’s just- there’s a connection there. There’s a tie.
  • Lynne Simcox
    Lynne: There’s a woman that I see in a class that I’m taking in Seattle- much younger than I, but she’s also Grinnellian, and we’ve got that- it was just, "Oh, you’re a Grinnellian!" My son brings people to me. He says, “You should know her, she’s a Grinnellian!” "Okay." So, anyway, it’s good. I think- I wish I’d been pushed out of my box, but other than that, Grinnell was great. That enough?
  • Rachel Glass
    Rachel: That’s great, yeah.
Alumni oral history interview with Lynne Simcox '64. Recorded May 30, 2009.
This content, grinnell:12205, has been visited 151 times and downloaded 65 times.

Advanced Search