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 Robert Richburg '61. Recorded June 4, 2011.
It was a turnaround experience for me, and that’s my story. It was a situation where, for whatever reason, I was not a serious student when I came here. Today you can’t do that. You can’t come in to Grinnell if you have not been a serious student but I was not, and the fact that it was, kind of grabbed me and turned me around and got me going in a different direction. I never had any realization that I could be a capable student. That was completely a discovery for me, at Grinnell.

Alumni oral history interview with Jerry Eggleston '62. Recorded June 2, 2013.
There’s still the same type of people, the friendliness, the intellect, the... I don't think-- you know, obviously different personalities, but the general overall personality is pretty much the same, and I don’t want to see that change, but I don’t think it will, so no problem there.

Alumni oral history interview with Joseph Piersen '62. Recorded June 2, 2012.
Poor Sammy was devastated but he decided he was going to show them a lesson, so he wrote Brooks Brothers a letter telling them what had been done and how devastated he was. And he asked for more buttons and they sent him a whole package full of buttons, which he had sewed back on and he got his revenge, so to speak.

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.
And the academic environment is very rigorous. People don’t go there who are not serious about studying... But it’s a place where, if you’re a serious student, I think you can do well and the results will be reflected in the careers that you choose and the life that you lead.

Alumni oral history interview with Ray Horton '62. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I was a well-known high school basketball player and I wanted to be a baseball player, and it wasn't until, I think, I took a philosophy course in my sophomore year that I began to have any kind of appreciation of an intellectual life, so that's probably the debt that I owe Grinnell the most for.

Alumni oral history interview with Mike Lehmann '62. Recorded June 3, 2012.
And the nicest thing about Grinnell, when you go downtown, is that it's still there. The shops are there, and there's been turnover of course, but they're not- you don't have a whole row of empty storefronts.

Alumni oral history interview with David A. McBlain '62. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I took Differential Equations as a freshman, and that was quite an experience because Dr. Apostle, who had agreed that I could take the class, said, you know, “How many seniors do we have, how many juniors and how many sophomores,” and he said, “How many freshman? Ah, one.” And everybody else in the class went, “Oh gee, what’s he doing in here?”

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 John M. Peterson '62. Recorded June 2, 2012.
Talked with Robert Sauers, the director of admissions, and I asked him, I said, “Y’know, you send out invitations to quite a few more students than you have places for." And I said, "What happens if more students accept your invitation than you expect?” He said, “Well, then the director of admissions has made a terrible mistake and it’s up to the rest of the faculty to work it out.” So I thought that was pretty good too. He had a sense of humor.

Alumni oral history interview with Margery Hendrick Piersen '63. Recorded May 31, 2009.
During my freshman year I was in something called Uncle Sam's Club. Uncle Sam's Club was kind of an effort to, it was kind of like a community house, down in the poor part of town. We went down there once a week and we played ping pong and other games with the children and just got to know them, made them feel comfortable with us, tried to keep them doing constructive activities rather than less so.

Alumni oral history interview with James Fisher '63. Recorded May 31, 2013.
After the first act, the then-director complained that there was no energy, you know, "C'mon, get some energy out there! It's not going well." So I opened the second act, and I guess this is the birth of my improvising career, but there was a piece of chewing gum under the chair, and proceeded to do about 7 minutes of improvising with not being able to get rid of the piece of gum.

Alumni oral history interview with Anne Anderson '64. Recorded May 31, 2013.
Some of my best memories include things like... I hadn't seen snow, not real snow. And the-- my first year, my freshman year, it snowed two feet before Thanksiving, and I had no idea that there-- that snowflakes actually looked like those crystalline structures that you could see in books.

Alumni oral history interview with Margaret Patricia Stahl Hubbell '64. Recorded May 31, 2014.
The Rosses invited us who belonged to the Canter Club- it was a... well, club of students who wanted to participate more in horse activities, and they invited us to their house for Thanksgiving dinner. It was my second Thanksgiving dinner because I had one at the college, but I remember I was stuffed, but it was fun to be in their house.

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 Karen Adkinson Reixach '66 and Mark Schorr '66. Recorded June 2, 2012.
Another way that that was a life-changing experience for us, we realized that all of us were liberal arts students and we had a kind of... it was a validation of our careers here at Grinnell that we met other students who were interesting in different ways.

Alumni oral history interview with Leanne Hoepner Puglielli '66. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I've had probably ten different careers that have sort of tangentially gone off, and when people ask me how that could possibly happen my number one response is, “My Grinnell education.” And the reason- and I don’t do that lightly because what Grinnell did for me was to just expand the way that I looked at the world and I honestly could see the interconnections of all knowledge.

Alumni oral history interview with Nicholas G. Nonas '66. Recorded June 3, 2012.
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.