Keith Kester '61

  • Keith Kester
    Keith: Oh, hi. My name is Keith Kester. My address is 10755 West 85th Place in Arvada, Colorado, 80005, and my class year is 1961 so this is my fiftieth reunion.
  • Chelsie Savatera
    Chelsie: Okay, cool. I'm glad you came. So first question: why did you come to Grinnell College and what is your first memory of the campus?
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: I came to Grinnell College because it was my first choice and I could only come if I could get a scholarship. Otherwise I had backup plans where I would go and, it was recommended to a- to my father by a business colleague of his who said it was a fine school. I came to visit the campus and was impressed with my visit of the campus, and so when I got the scholarship that enabled me to come it was my first choice, so I came.
  • Keith Kester & Chelsie Savatera
    Keith: And it says here, what is the first memory of the campus? I came by train.Chelsie: Okay.Keith: And that meant from St. Louis, a suburb of St. Louis where I lived with my family, and I took the Wabash Railroad up to Albia, Iowa. Got off the train at four in the morning and switched to the Minneapolis and St. Louis railroad which still had passenger cars at that time, so they stopped while I was a student here, and arrived here in Grinnell the town, at 5:30 in the morning and walked to the college to the dormitory where I was to stay. So, it was very early in the morning after a night ride on the train so my first memory was, “There’s nobody here to greet me!” But it was fine once I found people and got s-
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: You came alone, or did you..?Keith: Yes, I came on my own, without my parents, just on my own.Chelsie: Independent?Keith: Right.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: So during your time at Grinnell was there a professor, student, or staff member who had a particularly strong influence on your life?Keith: You bet. There were two faculty members, well, a number of faculty members actually had an influence. One was Herb Prescott who taught my freshman English course, which was required that you take, which was, emphasis on writing and he was a journalism professor. It was a course. It was on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at eight o’clock in the morning.Chelsie: I'm glad you remember the time.
  • Keith Kester & Chelsie Savatera
    Keith: It was a good class and it was really what helped most among my classes that I took since I was a science major, and there was a writing experience. That was, so... and he also turned out at the end of my career at Grinnell, we, there was a TV program called The College Quizbowl so Grinnell submitted a team and I was on the team to appear on The College Quizbowl, and he, Herb Prescott, was the coach of our team, of our four-member team that went to The College Quizbowl in New York City and lost.Chelsie: I'm sorry.Keith: In our first round. But it was quite an experience anyway.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: Was it based on all subjects or was it just a science quizbowl, or..?Keith: Pardon?Chelsie: Was it on all subjects?Keith: Oh yes, for example one of my areas of specialty was nursery rhymes. I was supposed to be familiar with nursery rhymes. So yeah, we called ourselves Garbage Cans of Insignificant Information, the team. My role on the team was, win or lose, look good! So I was a morale person.
  • Chelsie Savatera
    Chelsie: What are your best memories of the -
  • Keith Kester & Chelsie Savatera
    Keith: Well now wait a minute, because my other two faculty who really impressed me was Jay- Joseph Danforth in Chemistry, since he was my advisor in Chemistry. And I ended up having a work position, work study position in the stockroom in the chemistry department and he was my advisor and I did research for him during the summers and he was a significant influence on the direction that I went on, which was to go on to graduate school in Chemistry and then to become a Chemistry teacher myself. He actually let me teach a class in general chemistry.Chelsie: Oh, wow.Keith: So...
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: One day he came, also he came into class. He put on a wonderful wizard’s cap, had a wand, and before every demonstration that he did in that class he would wave the wand over the demonstration to make sure that it would work successfully.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: So,-and the other faculty member who particularly impressed me was Joe Wall in the history department. I took American History in my senior year. I took a lot of History so you could say I minored in History, although I’m not sure they had minors, but I took a lot of History and that was one of my all-time favorite History courses. It was so wonderful that I went to him in the fall of my senior year and talked to him about whether or not he would be supportive of my - should I decided to do that - of going on to graduate school in American History or not because it was such a powerfully impressive course, both in terms of - his way of lecturing. He gave lectures that still stand out in my mind.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: One was on the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War, another was on the three trials in the twenties, the Leopold - Loeb trial and the Scopes trial and the Sacco-Vanzetti trial. So, talking about significant American trials, and the last one, which was the most impressive, was on the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because he was the communications officer in the Navy on the island of Tinian in communication when the planes had dropped the bombs.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: So the class just sat and listened. I mean nobody was taking- you didn’t take notes you just sat and listened to his talking about the significance of that event and how he felt about it and what was the understanding of the US military position with regard as to whether or not we were gonna have to invade Japan, whether or not to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: It was a very powerful course, and in my memory I would say it almost persuaded me to see about going on in American history because I love the topic and the paper assignments that I had in the course and the way he responded to my papers - very kind and thoughtful. Indicating where he thought I was wrong. But, so.. it was, yeah. So it was- so those three faculty stand out particularly in my mind.
  • Chelsie Savatera
    Chelsie: So how did you make that decision from American History and Chemistry?
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: Oh, OK. Turned out that this, y’know, turned out to be the right decision, but boy, the first year in graduate school was really rough and I was exploring- still exploring other options through the first three years. But, here’s how I made the decision: it seemed to me, given my other areas of interest which were, interestingly religion and international politics and American history - those were the three other interests that I had - but I thought, "Which is it easier to have as an avocation? That I can continue to study and learn about, but would have a harder time doing actually?"
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: And the answer was, if I wanted to be a chemist and do chemistry research, "I need to be able to have access to a laboratory. I need to be trained how to do research in chemistry in an experimental sense in the laboratory," and I said, "I can’t really study that further as an avocation, - not at this time in the development of the field of chemistry and sciences."
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: So.. and there’s so much technology associated with equipment, that- "OK, I can keep up with what’s going on in American history. I can continue to study that on my own. I can keep up with what’s going on internationally. I can keep up and be a strong layperson in various religious denomination of my choice, but how do I be an amateur chemist?" No such thing, I don’t think anymore. Can’t be an am- so that’s why I went into chemistry, and it was a good choice.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: What are your best memories of your time at Grinnell College?Keith: Well I gave you one of them with regard to the American History class. What I liked.. there was so many different things that I could do. So, I was an athlete in cross country and track, not having been one in high school. But here I found I could do that, and was encouraged and developed and that really taught me self-discipline, like nothing else could’ve taught me, was how to be self-disciplined. To be a good athlete requires, through the workouts and so-on, we had to work out with cross country and track. I worked out every month except for June and December, otherwise I was doing something associated with it out on the track. So, that was very important as part of my-
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: Y'know, but I was active in theater and loved that part of it. I took Introduction to Theater in my first year here as a student, and one of the assignments from, Professor Donahue, I believe it was, was to- a group of us to get together to come up and present to the rest of the class a scene where you would have divided up responsibility: the actors in the scene and then somebody would serve as sort of the director of the scene. So three of us got together and did a scene from Tennessee Williams’ "The Glass Menagerie". And our scene won best actor, best actress and best scene so- in the production.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: So y’know, and I participated in theater all the way through in various- behind the scenes, stage manager, whatever or I was in Tennessee Williams’ play "Camino Real", had a mime part in that, so I was in the- I was a murderer in MacBeth, something like that. So the theater was good, and then I was on the Board of Religion.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: And also the diversity of courses, right? Although there are some significant lacks too. For example I never had a Sociology course or an Economics course, never had those. But what I did is, I concentrated in History, as I indicated, and I also took German, a lot of German, and then in preparation for grad school I also took French. So I took two languages. Only one year of the French.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: And I was thinking, "Gosh, I think the only woman instructor I had throughout my four years at Grinnell College was Odette Delecluse in French. That was the only woman instructor that I had, but I went on and took two years of German plus a German literature course. So, in my junior year I said "Well, I could major in Chemistry. I could major in history, or I could major in German." But Chemistry was the most demanding and that’s where I ended up completing my major in that.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: But being able to do all those things was- from the theater to the athletics to the different disciplines, and it really shaped me in the sense of all those interests have continued, right? And going on and teaching in another liberal arts institution, which is what I did, OK, enabled me to branch out from just my chemistry background and to teach and to explore things in other areas, too. So... OK.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: So, dorm life, what did your dorm room look like? Any dorm?Keith: Ah, well, actually I was in Smith for three years.Chelsie: Oh wow.Keith: OK.Chelsie: First, second and third?
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: Yeah, first, second and third, and I thought the dorms- we were in a triple in the annex in Smith my first year. And then I was in the basement my second year in a single room with one roommate, and then I was again in a triple my third year and then- that’s the, my senior year they had just finished the new hall Norris Hall at that time.
  • Keith Kester & Chelsie Savatera
    Keith: And so I.. they were asking for volunteers to go into the new hall so I and another student from Dibble Hall decided that we would go, who would become a friend throughout the- each of our times here. He was behind me, but we went and got a room in Norris. So, I went from- and actually I liked the rooms better in Smith than I did in Norris, but I was somebody who volunteered to go over...Chelsie: Walls are thin at Norris.Keith: ..and go to the new hall.
  • Chelsie Savatera
    Chelsie: Yeah. Smith annex is actually single sex female, now.
  • Keith Kester & Chelsie Savatera
    Keith: Oh, it’s single sex now? It was single sex men when I was there. Y’know one of the things that the halls did, they would have the Fetzer Sing Competition in which halls would compete for- with singing.Chelsie: Oh, wow.Keith: Yeah, it was really something. So we would prepare for- and go perform, I forget, gosh, where did we perform? In the gymnasium? I’m not sure where we did but we would compete with singing, It was really neat.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: Was it like a cheer competition or was there actual singing?Keith: A cheer?Chelsie: Like- Was it like a cheer, like a…?Keith: No, no! Singing! I’m serious! See!Chelsie: Oh, jus- OK.Keith: Real s- right.Chelsie: Was it males only or females as well?Keith: Well we lived- it was by halls, right? So all the men’s halls were over here, so it was a men’s hall, right? And the women’s halls- I- y'know, so it was competition.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: Very nice. What kind of clothes did you wear everyday as a Grinnell student, or on special occasions?Keith: Oh gosh.Chelsie: Did you have- ?Keith: I really, y'know.. So far as I know I didn’t, we didn’t have uniforms. We didn’t have to dress up for anything so, particularly. Although sometimes, one is an athlete of course you have your, your uniforms, yeah, right, and I got an Honor G jacket, sure, an Honor G blanket. So, and we had black jackets and sports coats also, that we would wear as a team. Otherwise it was slacks, shirts, nothing special that I remember.Chelsie: You didn’t have to wear anything special going into the dining hall at all?Keith: Not that I remember, no.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: Okay. So was there a particular book that influenced you most in college?Keith: A particular book?Chelsie: Yeah.Keith: That I remember from college days? Oh man, you’re talking about fifty years ago.Chelsie: You can-Keith: A particular book, that was an assigned reading, you mean?Chelsie: Or anything. Something you read on your own maybe, that helped you throughout college, or an assigned reading, textbook, or...
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: I guess, the book that sticks in my mind - I think I actually began it in high school and read it twice - is Tolstoy’s War and Peace, which I loved. It’s because- but, I read both of his main novels. I forget what the other one is called at the moment. But, but, in both cases with both of the novels- oh Anna Karenina, that was it. Anna Karenina and War and Peace, in both of them, I found myself identifying with a character in the novel and so it was fascinating to be able to sort of put yourself in the position of one of the characters and follow them throughout the novel.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: What memories or images do you have of the town of Grinnell?Keith: Well, I did research three summers here so memories of the wonderful- one- several things. One, you had to, as a cross country person you had to do workouts and you had to do those during the summer, starting in July, in July and August in preparation for time trials that- when you got back to college, starting up in the fall. So, I would do workouts on the golf course. That is to the north, I believe, doing that. I would do it either early in the morning or in the evening, and I remember going out in the evening and being fascinated by the fireflies that would be in the bushes, out there.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: Another memory I have is going to, since I- you had to eat during the summer you also had to find, either you had to do your own cooking or you had to find cooking and there was a wonderful boarding house called - I think on Broad street - called Mrs. Ziegenmeyer's I would go there for suppers – I would have my own breakfast – but I would go there for dinners, some wonderful Iowa food. Mhm! Just superb.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: Okay. Was it a restaurant, or was it somebody-?Keith: No, it was a home where she would have people come in and pay for the board –Chelsie: Was it the Italian- with Italian food?Keith: No, no. It was good Midwestern.Chelsie: Oh, Midwestern.Keith: Oh yes, good Iowa farm food. You bet. That's right. So that was good.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: And then the other memory, since I worked in the summer they had one movie theater here in Grinnell at the times I recall, plus a drive-in. They also had a drive-in, so sometimes when I was out in the- You could see the drive-in from the golf course, so sometimes I would, when I was going on my evening run I would stop and watch. I remember seeing part of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" on the drive-in. I don't know whether they have- probably don’t have the drive-in anymore.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: But there was a local theater and I went to see, with another chemist, we went to see "The Nun’s Story" with Audrey Hepburn. And, we had come in for the second showing of the film. Although we had come in, so we caught the end of doing that. But they stopped the film at midnight, and said, “Sorry, there’s a curfew, and that’s it.” So I missed the last - except, the little part that I had seen before - I missed a section of the movie, of "The Nun’s Story", which is a superb movie, by the way. So those are- oh and I, the other thing I did, during the summer, I attended the small Presbyterian church, which was here. Went to potluck suppers at the little Presbyterian church here, so that was fun.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: How has Grinnell changed since you were a student?Keith: Oh gosh. I just went out to the, this morning, to the environmental...?Chelsie: CERA?Keith: CERA, yeah. I’m not sure they pronounced it. Is that how you pronounce it?Chelsie: CERA.
  • Keith Kester & Chelsie Savatera
    Keith: Yeah, right, and that was not here. There was nothing like that. Kind of a- and I think that’s a wonderful addition, and of course the buildings. The building amount, the number of the buildings that have changed since I was here is incredible. This building of course has been renovated, but this building was here and the dormitories along..Chelsie: East campus.Keith: Yeah. Both the women’s and the men’s, those are- So the dormitories have changed, as I say I moved into what was then a new dormitoty.
  • Keith Kester & Chelsie Savatera
    Keith: But, so I really- you know, the number of science majors has significantly increased. The number of Chemistry majors has significantly increased. As I said, there are far more women faculty members. As I said, I can remember one woman faculty member that I had back at that time, and that’s a very important and significant change to have many more women on the faculty. So, you know, and the dorms went- so they mixed the dorms, right? So they’re co-ed dorms although there are some single-sex dorms-Chelsie: If you want.Keith: -that you can go. So that changed. Used to be that the women could be late to a class because they had to cross the railroad tracks and if a train was coming through that could be a reason for being late to the class.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: The athletic facilities have dramatically improved. I mean, our indoor track was a 93-yard track in the basement of the women’s gym, which is now gone of course. So, you know, that’s a very small circumference track. Had to have bank curves, steep bank curves going around on that. So the facilities have changed dramatically, and then the dormitory situations and then, I imagine the student body, the types of student, I think has changed too, but that can be social change. Probably they’ve become even more diverse although we were pretty diverse even back then so maybe not as much as, I don’t know, I haven't seen the statistics lately for that. So that could be another way that's changed significantly. But certainly diversity among faculty has changed, and that’s definite, so... Those are the things that strike me as, all the new buildings and so on. Gosh.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: And the JRC in the middle of campus.Keith: The what?Chelsie: The JRC, the Rosenfield Center?Keith: Right!Chelsie: Right. Yeah, that hasn't- yeah, that's...
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: Yeah, we don- We had a wooden student union, which was... I mean times were really different back then. So as I told you I worked in the summer. And one summer, some summers I would stay on faculty member’s houses who were away for the summers, which was nice. But one summer we were in the Student Union, and we stayed in the Student Union. We were in rooms in the upstairs, second level of the Student Union. Well we discovered when we got there that the lights in the rooms which were now our bedrooms had been locked on and we had to petition the Dean of Women to get the lights turned off in the rooms that we were staying in, our bedrooms, because of course we didn’t want nefarious activities going on in those rooms during college so the lights were locked on.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: Describe your favorite academic experience or class at Grinnell.Keith: Favorite academic experience?Chelsie: Oh- Well, yeah, we actually talked about that.Keith: Yeah, I think so. One of the most memorable. I could talk about the worst ones but that’s not.Chelsie: Yeah! That would be great!Keith: ‘Cause I had some bad ones too, but only two, really.Chelsie: You wanna talk about the bad ones?Keith: I don’t know, would that be helpful? Probably not.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: Okay. We can talk about it after. Describe your favorite place on campus.Keith: My favorite place.Chelsie: Yeah, favorite place.Keith: Gosh. Gimme a-Chelsie: Somewhere you studied a lot, somewhere you hung out a lot?
  • Keith Kester & Chelsie Savatera
    Keith: Well, the social events were in the halls.Chelsie: Homes?Keith: The halls. Like Smith Hall, right. In the dormitories, right. That’s where most of the social events - except bigger ones, some were in the Women’s Gym. In terms of what was my favorite place? Well, academically speaking, it would be in the laboratories in the science building. One of the favorite places. Or in the classrooms there, where we could go and we would work on the blackboards in the classrooms. I liked doing that. I liked, I liked the theater so that was another favorite place, being on stage and doing theater productions, yeah.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: Wow. You have a very good description of Grinnell. If you knew then what you know now, what would you have done differently from your time at Grinnell College?Keith: I probably would’ve taken an Economics course.Chelsie: You told me-Keith: Although I don’t know whether- given all the things that I- OK, that’s probably- that might’ve been helpful, to get a sense of taking an economics course. I didn’t do it, as I indicated. I got myself over-committed in my senior year.Chelsie: Over-committed with what?Keith: Pardon?Chelsie: Over-committed with what?
  • Keith Kester & Chelsie Savatera
    Keith: I was trying to do too much. I was trying to do a senior thesis in Chemistry. I was trying to get- applying to graduate schools and doing that. I said I went on The College Quizbowl, and we had practice sessions for that.Chelsie: Practices?Keith: I had moved into a new dormitory and doing that, and I was trying to carry, y’know, that year our cross country team won the conference in the fall and then in the spring I was so busy trying to work in the laboratory and doing my- I was doing workouts in the morning at 10:30 and it just became too much and so I had to drop out of track.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: So I got myself over-extended, I think, in my senior year, trying to do too many different things, feeling that I could do a lot things, so I had the, mile person, the person who ran the mile, dropped out and the track coach wanted me to move up from the half-mile, which was my distance, to the mile and with everything I just said, "I can’t do that. I don’t enjoy running that many times around the track. It’s not cross country. It’s not-" so I said, "No, I can’t." I said I was sorry to the coach but I just, I had to drop out. So I got over-committed at that time. The coach was gracious about it, fortunately.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: So I, yeah. I don’t... I mean I was happy with my major choices so I wouldn’t have changed that and I was happy with the things that I engaged in and so there's not much that I would change.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: Did you marry a Grinnellian?Keith: I did.Chelsie: You did, OK, you wanna talk about that a little bit?Keith: Well, we got divorced in ’98, and I was a respondent which means that she filed for the divorce and I learned you have no choice, so, yeah. So that’s, y’know. It was- we were married 31 years which is a significant amount of-Chelsie: Same class year as you?Keith: Yeah, same class. Right. Yeah, so in a way it ended, unfortunately, but we had two wonderful daughters from that and then I remarried five years, almost six years ago and am very happy in my second marriage, so.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: How would you compare the students of today with your classmates? I don't know if you know much about the students of today.Keith: With my classmates... Actually, see I think the biggest, the hugest difference is the technology and the social media, right? Just incredible difference, right? I mean I started out, the highest technology thing was my slide ruler. But, practically speaking computers were not something at that point, OK? So, students now are so technologically adept and so much engaged in social media that that’s a huge, huge difference.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: I also think students, compared to my day, it was much harder to be an outsider. Whether it was because you, for example, you wore long hair as a man. There was one episode in which some poor long-haired guy was- hair was cut, okay? There was hazing, which actually I was not opposed to. I don’t think that goes on anymore here or at the- y'know?
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: Things were much more gender-separated, right? Much less so currently, in terms of how things- which is good. Sexual issues were- I mean, there’s been a lot, I mean this younger generation seems much more open about that. I worry sometimes that, with all the- we’re in the information age and there’s so much information that’s available, so much coming in, that it can very easily be overwhelming and it can be, and also the social media gets everything into sound bites and simplified things, so I worry that things are more superficial.
  • Keith Kester & Chelsie Savatera
    Keith: Although, since I’ve been teaching, all the, for 43 years at another liberal arts college-Chelsie: Which college is this?Keith: Pardon?Chelsie: Which college are you..?Keith: Oh, Colorado College in Colorado State.
  • Keith Kester & Chelsie Savatera
    Keith: As I say, students are far more adept at technology than I am, coming in, than I am now, because it’s just more easily part of what they are. And, I haven’t found that there- at least students that I work with - that are less serious, but I do worry about things becoming- a sense that things have to become more immediate ‘cause everything is so much faster. And I worry about things being too- Y'know, what? 140 things you can text in a- lines, whatever, things are too sound bite! Too small. They need more reflection and thoughtfulness and quietness and I think maybe that we’re losing some of that, I'm afraid.Chelsie: I agree with you.Keith: Oh, you do? OK.
  • Chelsie Savatera
    Chelsie: OK, describe student and campus life as you experienced it during your time at Grinnell.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: Oh my gosh. Well, y’know, I mentioned one: the opportunities to do many different things here, OK? Student life, I had the equivalent of work study. Started out I think at, 65 cents an hour was my wage. Went up to 95 cents an hour. I worked in the chemistry stockroom, which was, I really enjoyed that experience ‘cause of course I was a chemistry major soto sort of to be at the center of things, but I also had a job as the janitor over at the art department. I would help clean up things, and y’know, a large part of my life was- a significant portion, I don’t want to say a majority of the portion.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: We were talking today among the reunion that now you take about four courses a semester. We took five. So we took more courses back in those days, and boy that kept you hopping and moving back and forth from one course to another. The social life was focused around dormitory, the halls, the dormitories, and I liked that feature. But there was- and there was a hazing part and I was OK with that. It helped build the unity within the hall, I thought, too, so there’s some interesting escapades surrounding that.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: The academic life, in most cases, was sufficiently challenging to me. As I say, I had two bad courses where I was really disappointed in the courses in terms of doing that, but the athletics- One, it was a new experience to me, and two because it was ten out of the twelve months of the year that I was engaged in the discipline of workouts and preparing for meets and paying attention to sleep patterns and diet and all sorts of things to be at your best as you could perform as an athlete. That was a significant part of my life here as an undergraduate.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: There were- The interesting thing, I went to grad school in an urban setting, right? As opposed to Grinnell, Iowa which is- as I say I spent the summers here so I knew what summers in Iowa, when the college was like- was shut down, and what the college was like. So, yeah. Worked, yeah. This is.. campus life experience. So that’s what students- Going to classes, being an athlete, going on athletic trips, OK?
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: One of the courses that was bad, I was- ran into a problem because I would miss class because of trips, and I would get marked down, because- a grade- how unfair? I felt that was, y'know, because those were important things to be going on the athletic trips and participating in varsity athletics, so...
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: And, there was, but there was- I always felt there was plenty to do, so I didn’t miss that there was not much outside at that time, of the, culturally, outside of what one could do here. I’m the one who actually didn’t get to see the end of "The Nun’s Story" y'know, it turns- But here on campus, there was plenty, some- 'cause of culture. But then when I went to an urban area, whoa! OK, quite a different cultural life that was available, that wasn’t limited, but extended significantly beyond the university. There were many universities in the metropolitan area, y’know, and I would be going back and forth to different universities and all the cultures, so that was a huge change.
  • Chelsie Savatera & Keith Kester
    Chelsie: Okay. One last question.Keith: Yeah.Chelsie: If you were writing a history of Grinnell College, what would you include from your years here?Keith: A history?Chelsie: A history.
  • Keith Kester & Chelsie Savatera
    Keith: Do they still have auctions?Chelsie: I don't know.Keith: There were- They used to have auctions in which you could- So for example, a group of six of us guys auctioned ourselves off to prepare dinner, to have six women who would come to dinner.Chelsie: Okay. We don't have that anymore. Talk to me about it,Keith: That we, yeah. So, and there was also an auction where you could, get the auction to go have dinner at the president’s house, President Bowen’s house. So a group of us got together and bought that, to go have dinner at the president's. So that was a fun thing to have. So I would mention auctions, and the Fetzer Sings, singing competitions, which I think was really sort of-
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: Some of the unique things about the history of Grinnell. How it- this was the place where, rather than fraternities, you had the hall structure and that was your social structure and it was more egalitarian than a fraternity. I liked that, and that was a significant, important, but I would also say something about how it’s such an effective combination of the academic and the sports. It was very valuable to me to have that effective combination, and I think Grinnell’s really very good at that.
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: The other thing I would say in terms of the history in terms of my years, is that - and it continues and maybe even got better - is that the science education is really very fine here, I think. So, in terms of what’s available and the involvement of students in research, which I was able to be involved in, so that was an important component of it as well. And I indicated, y’know history- one of the negatives was the lack of women faculty, right? I would point that out and say, " OK, this is the way in which the institution has matured," okay? "And grown and developed."
  • Keith Kester
    Keith: So I would include that, and I would- Also, interestingly, Grinnell is one of the few liberal arts colleges, partly 'cause the location, that doesn’t have Geology. If there had been Geology here, I might have been a Geology major, ‘cause I loved the field, particularly where I am at Colorado College so it’s interesting to me that they don’t, and why they don’t have geology and- My sense is that what we call the town-gown relationship, where the gown is the academic institution is better now, and that there's a greater effort on the part of the college to reach out and incorporate the town in ways.
  • Keith Kester & Chelsie Savatera
    Keith: That- it was more of an adversarial type of relationship, it seemed to me, back then. So I’m glad to see that improve, and CERA is an example of that, and getting this prairie component as a special study area here, which is good so, yeah. So, those are some of the things I’d mention in terms of the history... about the past.Chelsie: OK.
Alumni oral history interview with Keith Kester '61. Recorded June 3, 2011.
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