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 Virginia Lobell Rosen '48, Phyllis Miller Lawrence '48 and Margaret Lawrence Banning '82. Recorded June 1, 2013.
If you took two different subjects that covered the same period of time, you got an entirely different perspective. For example, Economics and History, you covered the same period in Europe from an entirely different point of view. I think that was part of the broadening experience of Grinnell.

Alumni oral history interview with Douglas Peterson '50. Recorded May 31, 2013.
I’ve always felt that when I’ve picked up a Time magazine, that I had a better understanding of the world, simply because I'd been to a liberal arts college where... you got the best of all the world’s point of view, a perspective that was based on some kind of knowledge you gained in a liberal arts setting, and a better understanding, without which- some people don’t have, and they fall into certain prejudices ‘cause they don’t know any differently.

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 Ann Stillman '51. Recorded June 3, 2011.
In the summer of '52, my college- my roommate, who was just graduating then, she and I made a bicycle trip in Europe, a youth hostel trip, and we went from like, about July and we came back in November. We stayed in youth hostels, and so we had this wonderful experience and we- we were so excited. We felt it was the first time we were really learning something. You know, we were on our own and we were curious about everything.

Alumni oral history interview with Loree Pugh Rackstraw '53 and Norma (Tong) Dang '53. Recorded 2011.
What we liked to do was to entertain our friends by putting on art shows. So, I would pose outside on the fire escape to try to conform to whatever title Norm gave to me, to the artwork we- was being exhibited. So she’d y’know, put me through great, a lot of contortions being able to pose whatever she titled. There was, “Man Standing on Head” was difficult.

Hampton Ditmore, Catherine '54
Alumni oral history interview with Catherine Hampton Ditmore '54. Recorded May 31, 2014.
They would go around all the bulletin boards and take the menus off, so then we went around at night and put the menus in the... in the bathroom stalls, and then they.... And they- they could- I don't think they ever figured that one out, and nobody took 'em down. Anybody could've taken 'em down, of course, but people really liked knowing what was for dinner.

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 Carol Johnson Addington ‘56. Recorded June 3, 2011.
So, I think for me, just the development, it created in me, a really... drive for knowledge. I love to read. I love to take classes on things, and I guess that's what Grinnell taught me, is that learning is really fun. And that's... that's been my experience.

Alumni oral history interview with James H. Stacey '57. Recorded May 31, 2013.
To this day, I can hear those lines. And he made the poem perfectly clear simply by reading with such sensitivity and grace. And so, you know, that sort of set me up for my Master's degree, and the rest of my life.

Hawtrey, Charles E. '57
Alumni oral history interview with Charles E. Hawtrey '57. Recorded May 31, 2013.
As I told the students—they invited me back to reflect on my career—, and I said that the one thing that I hoped every student did was, if you're interested in a course, take it. You have- This is the best place in the world to get a broad education and I was always glad that I did.

Steiner, David '57
Alumni oral history interview with David Steiner '57. Recorded May 31, 2014.
I had a really, kind of strange, sort of double life, and I owe a great deal of it to Grinnell because it, as badly off as it was in the 1950s- and it was rather badly off- the fact is that the graduates of that period get a bum rap and are considered to be the "lost" generation of Grinnellians, who were just not as good as they should have been. However, the fact of the matter is that Robert Noyce was a graduate of the 1950s, and we had a great many people who went on to graduate degrees and great careers in teaching and elsewhere.

Alumni oral history interview with Howard Ohline '58. Recorded May 31, 2013.
The way I understand it is, Grinnell is still a fairly liberal institution concerned with social improvement, concerned with developing social character, improving the world. Not preoccupied-- well it is concerned with professional excellence, but not primarily concerned with market excellence.

Alumni oral history interview with Lynn Parsons '58. Recorded May 31, 2013.
The classes of '57 and '58 were clustered together, and one of the speakers made this suggestion, and I hadn't thought of that before, that life in the 50s was... we all know was quintessentially boring, is how it looked. We had fun because there were so many rules we could break, and now there aren't any rules so there's no fun anymore.

Parsons, Anne Hruska '58
Alumni oral history interview with Anne Hruska Parsons '58. Recorded June 2, 2013.
At the time, it was—and we talked about this a lot at the Reunion—that we were still a gender-specific campus, and living on South Campus with females and getting to know them, and making friends that I have kept since then. So the life here, even though it was restricted in some ways, was... also had a lot of room for growth, and... I went on to be—what we had then was League Board—and I went on to be president of one of the halls, and so it was sort of a good transition period.

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.

Kester, Keith '61
Alumni oral history interview with Keith 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 Duane Krohnke '61. Recorded June 4, 2011.
When I look at the higher educational universe I think that small liberal arts colleges including Grinnell, of course, are very well equipped for the maturation of young people.