Nicholas G. Nonas '66

  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: Nicholas G. Nonas, I currently live in Denver, Colorado and I’m a member of Grinnell College class of 1966.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: I am originally from Mason City, Iowa, and learned about Grinnell through another Grinnell graduate, but as I looked at the cost, I knew that I couldn’t afford that. So, I visited Grinnell and was told that it is a school that will support anyone that could not quite afford to come to school. So, I took a written and an oral test, which ended up being a Younker scholarship, and it was quite a connection.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: My father immigrated from Greece and started a restaurant in Mason City, Iowa, pre-World War I, and his place was displaced as Younkers built their first department store there. Many years later when his relocation restaurant had to close. Urban renewal came in and Younkers again was located in the same spot as his restaurant. So, I think there’s a lot of connections to bring me here via Younkers.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: The professor that had the most influence for me- actually there were two. One was Joe Danforth in the Chemistry department. He was the one that pointed me away from going into chemistry and going into medicine, as he didn’t think I would do very well in a room with four walls and no windows; that I would be better off working with people. So, he pointed me toward medical school.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: The other influence for a professor was Dr. Luther Erickson. Luther first brought the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscoper, the NMR machine to Grinnell, of which there were very few in the country at that time. And I became interested in his research projects and actually did an independent project with him. That technology eventually, in medicine, became the MRI technology that we all use today. So, Grinnell was on the front line of the development of the NMR medical technology with that machinery, with that instrumentation.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: Also, my daughter Kathryn, graduate of 2001, interviewed Dr. Erickson as he was moving into emeritus status, for the S&B. At the end of the interview Dr. Erickson indicated that he knew Kathryn’s father, Nick, and handed her a paper that I had done in 1963 as an independent project using the NMR machine, which awestruck, needless to say, my daughter.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: I lived in North Younker, and the dorm rooms were very plain. There was usually a bunk bed and you had a roommate, and by the time you were a junior, you could actually have a single room. My final year, I served as President of the House for North Younker and on the Council of House Presidents. So, I had probably a little better room than everybody else because I think they reserved a better room for the President that year.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: Clothes that we wore: it was hard to distinguish who was who at Grinnell because everyone sort of wore a sweatshirt and jeans at that time. And special occasions, a coat and tie would come out, but coat and ties were not very popular at that time. To go to the sit-down dinner, at either the two dining rooms, the Quad dining room was in existence then but Cowles dining room no longer is, at sit-down dinner, it was mandatory to have a coat and tie. So, most of the students found the wildest tie they could find and the wildest coat. Plaid coats, pink coats and so forth, just for the fact of sitting down to eat and being told what to do rather than what they wanted to do.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: I didn’t know very much about the town of Grinnell because we didn’t really spend a lot of time going into the town but, relatively speaking, everyone was friendly at that time. Two of the students that were associated with North Younker Hall actually grew up here. And later on, I had a business association with someone that grew up in Grinnell, as well, and I had met him while I was here as a student and we connected many years later.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: How has Grinnell changed since I was a student? It looks much bigger. The facilities are phenomenal. Some of the facilities that we dealt with were not very good. For instance, telephones in each room would have been a luxury at that time. There was one telephone per hall. If someone called on that telephone it was liable to ring for at least a half hour before anyone would answer it, and I think anyone would answer it just because they were annoyed by the sound, rather than feeling that they had to answer the telephone.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: Electronics has certainly changed. The technology is much higher at this point, because there wasn’t any computerization at that time, except for the mainframes that the College was using to figure out what classes we’d go to and so forth. So, I think the building structures, the infrastructure that I’m viewing now is just absolutely tremendous.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: I was involved in athletics, was on the football team, the wrestling team and the baseball team. The baseball team basically played in the cow pasture with a snow fence for the outfield fence. The ground was very rough and so forth, and it was at the top of the hill where the observatory is now, and the trees behind the observatory were not there. So when the wind blew, it was extremely cold, and this was supposed to be a sport that was played in warm weather, but it certainly wasn’t here. So the facility, the baseball field facility, is absolutely superlative, compared to what we were used to.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: We had the old Darby gym, and it was really a structure of the past, a real relic. But it really had a lot of homey-ness to it, but there weren’t a lot of facilities like they have now. So, I have to just give Grinnell kudos for putting the effort and the time into developing the athletic system.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: My favorite place on campus: when I first got here there was a Student Union that was basically a barracks leftover from World War II, that looked more like a bandbox than anything else. It was always very crowded, and it was torn down. The Forum was built my second year here, so that really improved the life on campus, for having a lot more facilities than we had before.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: The Burling Library was in place and it was probably the most useful building that I found. It was one of the best organized libraries that I have been in and the staff was absolutely happy to help you with anything that you really needed at the time.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: Starting to run out of things to say because I think I’ve said most of everything. I think a lot of friends were met here. When we come back for reunions that’s the thing I look most forward to, is seeing people that we had spent a lot of time together with. I particularly spent a lot of time in athletics so, that- we would spend hours and hours at a time.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: Also, you had friends from other areas other than that. I was primarily in Chemistry, but I also spent a great deal of time in Classics. Having had a Greek background and knowing the language, I did take two and a half years of ancient Greek. So, if I put on a beard and look like Socrates, I could probably get away with it. My professor at that time was John Crossett, who grew up on the streets of Brooklyn and it was hard to believe that he was a Classics professor but he was excellent. So, in the Science area Dr. Joe Danforth and Dr. Lu Erickson, and the Classics area, Dr. John Crossett.
  • Nicholas G. Nonas
    Nicholas: As I look back at my experience at Grinnell, it was the launching for me to go into my field. I’ve had a very good career and I’ve had no complaints and practically anywhere that I go, I will encounter somebody from Grinnell or knows Grinnell. So, the sweatshirt that says “Where in the Hell is Grinnell?” really doesn’t hold because a lot of people know about it and you always run into individuals that have a connection with Grinnell. Thank you very much.
  • Sophie Haas
    Sophie: Thank you so much.
Alumni oral history interview with Nicholas G. Nonas '66. Recorded June 3, 2012.
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