Joseph Walka '60

  • Joe Walka
    Joe: My name is Joe Walka. I currently live in Flagstaff, Arizona. I am a member of the Grinnell College class of 1960. I grew up in St. Louis; my father was a high school teacher and coach. I had applied to one school; The College of Wooster in Ohio and was admitted and did not get financial aid. He had two students of his who were both accepted at Grinnell and received financial aid. My father encouraged me then to apply to Grinnell, I was accepted, received financial aid and came from a high school that was somewhat larger than the total enrollment at Grinnell College.
  • Joe Walka
    Joe: And of course, St. Louis is a major, major, metropolitan area and so it was an adjustment moving to a smaller school, smaller community and being in a position to manage my own time, money, social relationships, and so on. So, the first semester was not an extraordinarily successful one. Like many students at Grinnell that time and probably now, eventually you either leave or find your footing. I majored in English and American Literature at Grinnell. The English department was an amazing department; Sheldon Zitner teaching Shakespeare, Norman Springer teaching a range of
  • Joe Walka
    Joe: literature courses, Charlie Cleaver, Curtis Bradford, a strong department. I never regretted taking an English major but at the same time I took a double minor in History and Math just to fill out, broaden my experience. I involved myself with Scarlet and Black fairly soon after I came to Grinnell. I lived in Cowles at that time and of course North campus was where the men lived and South campus was where the women lived. And you lived in one hall during the entire four years. At Cowles we stressed intramural sports quite heavily and we won the intramural trophy three years of the years I was here.
  • Joe Walka
    Joe: But I took that interest in sports editor of the Scarlet and Black and then at midyear of my junior year I was selected by the students’ publications board to become editor of the S&B. And I think the two people most influential in my selection were Herb Prescott who taught courses in English and journalism at Grinnell for many, many years and was another one of those extraordinary faculty members who have a deep impact on you. And my predecessor as editor with whom I was very close; Sue O’Brien, who went on to have a very important journalism career.
  • Joe Walka
    Joe: Editing the S&B was quite an experience at that time. They were very few team projects and social sciences at Grinnell or any place else around the country, you were very much on your own. The S&B, that was my first experience working as part of a team and leading my team in the creation of a product, the paper that would appear in the dorms on Friday mornings and that was my most important single event of my academic experience at Grinnell even though it was an extracurricular activity.
  • Joe Walka
    Joe: Being able to write well, being able to write against a dead line, pulling together all of those, only the students and staff and creating a newspaper which in those days was the single source of information of what was going on campus. These were the days before ready access to the computer, internet, intranet; it was the only way that faculty, staff and administrators really knew the full range of activities that were occurring on campus. We felt we had a really important responsibility at that time.
  • Joe Walka
    Joe: I also met during my junior year my future wife who was two years behind me at Grinnell. She had come to Grinnell from Lafayette, Indiana because her father had been on the faculty at University of Illinois under Howard Bowen who by this time was president at Grinnell and it was because of Howard Bowen that my wife through her father’s relationship to Bowen came to Grinnell. Her name is Ann Wyler Walka. We met here, after I graduated, I took her away much to her father’s chagrin after her sophomore year but I think
  • Joe Walka
    Joe: that she feels based on her two years at Grinnell the way I feel based on my four years that these were the most important years of our lives. So those are my recollections of my time at Grinnell. They were wonderful years of growing up and learning how to take responsibility, learning how to write against a deadline and how to work together.
Alumni oral history interview with Joseph Walka '60. Recorded June 5, 2010.
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