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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 Audrey (Bunny) Howard Swanson '43. Recorded June 1, 2012.
We had a tradition at the time of borrowing our boyfriend's sweater. He brought his and he started to slip it over my head. I knew, yes, I knew that as he brought that sweater down he was going to kiss me. It was most exciting.

Alumni oral history interview with Edward Shackelford '43. Recorded June 1, 2012.
In order to have a date, you had to walk across the railroad tracks to the women's dorm. And of course, you could only get to the front door, basically and announce who you were, and then they called up to your date and asked her to come down. They had very strict rules. Your date had to be in on 10 o'clock of an evening I think 11 o'clock on Saturdays.

Alumni oral history interview with Wally Douma '51. Recorded June 4, 2011.
I think that’s one of the real unique things about Grinnell or any small liberal arts school really for that matter. You don’t know just the professors you have in class, but you know the professors that are making up the rest of the staff and that’s quite important, I think.

Alumni oral history interview with Foster Rinefort '54 and '56. Recorded June 4, 2010.
So I came into Grinnell a young kid, maybe a little cocky, I don’t know, but reasonable, curious person. And left with an excellent degree and excellent education and motivation to pursue a life that has been interesting, rewarding, and challenging.

Alumni oral history interview with Jerry Reed '55. Recorded June 4, 2010.
When I came to Grinnell, wrestling season came up and so I joined the varsity team and our coach was Coach Brown. And for some reason, he didn’t like me. There was another student by the name of Frank who was also in the 165 range and we would practice together and we were almost equal in skills. But Coach Brown wanted Frank to be on first team.

Alumni oral history interview with Joseph Walka '60. Recorded June 5, 2010.
I think 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 Kieth Kester '61. Recorded June 3, 2011.
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.

Alumni oral history interview with James A. Ahrens '62. Recorded June 1, 2012.
It was a very valuable experience and one of the things that I liked best about this campus and about this college as a whole were the people that I met here and have continued to, in many cases, keep up with over the many years since that time.

Alumni oral history interview with Ron Dorr '62. Recorded June 3, 2012.
It’s a kind of freeing for responsible citizenship, for productive lives, for loving and interdependent brotherhood. And I learned those elements of liberal education here at Grinnell.

Alumni oral history interview with David Durand '62. Recorded June 1, 2012.
In addition to all the other stuff you had to do, everybody was given a special assignment they had to do and they couldn't come back to the dorm until 6 o'clock in the morning, or having proved that they'd done it.

Alumni oral history interview with Ronald Gault '62. Recorded June 11, 2012.
You know, I've found very few young people, one, that I would recommend to Grinnell, and two, who would do well in the Grinnell environment. I mean, it's a... I think students who go there, students like yourself, I think are a special breed of student.

Alumni oral history interview with Bill Parsons '62. Recorded June 1, 2012.
He was an excellent teacher and I kept in touch with him after I graduated, and learned a lot from him both about the language and about the reality of life in the Soviet Union. He actually had left during the Second World War. He’d been captured by the Germans, and had been in forced labor. When the war was over he thought he would go back to the Soviet Union, but one of his officers said, “If you go back you’re gonna be in big trouble.” So he went to Canada and then he came to Grinnell, on this special teaching program.

Alumni oral history interview with Lynne Simcox '64. Recorded May 30, 2009.
My second or third year my parents came to visit and they went downtown. There was some kind of carnival going on and there was a donkey attached to a telephone and she said "See I told you it was a one horse town. It's not even a horse."

Alumni oral history interview with Irene Blaser Elliott '67. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I have seen two Presidents, and both of them I saw at Grinnell.

Alumni oral history interview with Susan Earley '67. Recorded June 2, 2012.
Y'know, luck is a big part of life. There can be bad luck and there can be good luck, but my picking Grinnell College was really good luck.

Alumni oral history interview with Mariana Alwell '68. Recorded June 3, 2012.
I was young and it gave me a chance to grow up in a relatively protected environment but still have lots of options for making choices.

Alumni oral history interview with Babak Armijani '68. Recorded June 1, 2012.
We broke into the library at night, and- which was very easy to do then - and the Development Office was in the basement of the library. We went down there to find a list of the big donors, of the big alumni donors, with the idea that we had all these people that were working on this, who were working together on a plan, and that we would send this plan, and somebody would generously come forward with the money for this worthy cause and fund the radio station.

Alumni oral history interview with Philip Bertenthal '68. Recorded June 1, 2012.
The same people who could be wild and crazy, y'know, up 'til three o'clock in the morning doing all kinds of stupid things, would go into class the next day and have these really thoughtful discussions with their professors about all kinds of issues.

Alumni oral history interview with Joan E. Eccard '68. Recorded June 1, 2012.
I occasionally still have dreams of coming back and finishing at Grinnell. So, the wonderful experience at Grinnell has stuck with me.

Alumni oral history interview with Janet (Castore) Murphy '71. Recorded June 2, 2012.
It has not bothered me, during my life, to be in uncomfortable situations and to be out of my comfort zone. I’ve actually found it very stimulating and use it as a time to redirect myself and say, “There must be something here that I need to rethink,” instead of, “Oh dear, I need to go back to where I am more comfortable.”


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