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.

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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.

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Alumni oral history interview with Melanie Drake '92 & Susan Ratcliff Drake '58. Recorded May 31, 2015.
I came from Minneapolis, and I was just gonna come to Grinnell for a couple years, and then it turns out that- and then go back to the University of Minnesota- that was kind of the thing to do in our day in the 50's, was just come wait at a small college for a couple years and then go back to a larger university, and it turned out that I loved Grinnell so much in my two years here I just stayed on.

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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.

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Alumni oral history interview with Susan Fisher '59. Recorded May 31, 2013.
There were two times in my life when I felt like I had reached a turning point in my life. One was when I was 50 and I looked back and I said, “Five decades, that's a long time. You're more educated than you were.” I always felt like Grinnell taught me to be educated so I didn't have any trouble educating myself, but I was better educated, and when I turned 75 this... just a few months ago, I thought, “Look at what has happened in the last 75 years, in my lifetime. So much."

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Alumni oral history interview with Aris F. Yanibas '60. Recorded May 29, 2015.
I wanted to go to a small town and a small college, get away from Chicago. I figured I'd be living in Chicago before coming here, I'll be living afterwards in Chicago, so I wanted to, you know, taste some country life and this was the ideal place in every respect.

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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.

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Alumni oral history interview with Judy Mahle Lutter '61. Recorded June 4, 2016.
I'm not going to do much with the list of questions, but talk more, I think, about how my Grinnell education allowed me to do a lot of very interesting things. It also introduced me to the love of my life, a fellow Grinnellian.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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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.