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 Judith Roberts Stoddard '66. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I know the program no longer exists and I think the building doesn't either. But at the time it was there, it was very empty. There was no equipment. There was some playground equipment in- on the lawn outside, but it meant that a lot of creativity was required, because you had to come up with something that would really keep the kids engaged and entertained for each time you were there.

Alumni oral history interview with Mark Schorr '66. Recorded June 2, 2012.
As I remember it, maybe the second or third trip that I took to Grinnell, I sat next to philosophy professor Paul Kuntz, whose big topic was order and chaos, and I got a three hour discussion of order and chaos, which got into the discussion. He wasn't lecturing to me at all. He was very Socratic on the train, and that was one of the most fantastic conversations of my young life.

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 Cynthia Peterson McKeen '68. Recorded June 1, 2012.
I had an unusual experience as a prospective student coming to Grinnell, because I was on the Rock Island Line coming from Western Iowa, on the day that John F. Kennedy was shot.

Alumni oral history interview with Mel Thompson '68 and Sioe Thung Thompson '68. Recorded June 1, 2012.
I was well-prepared for what I chose to do in life, so I have no regrets in coming here. I just did- it seems small on coming back and on the other hand, I think it was the right size for that time of my life.

Alumni oral history interview with Kathryn Cline Byrd '69. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I heard somebody say, “I don’t know if today I would be able to get into Grinnell.” But, at the time I was there, one of the things I noticed when I first came, we were all, in high school, used to being at the top of our class and you come to a college where everybody’s really bright, and that takes a little bit of adjustment, not to be automatically the best.

Alumni oral history interview with Brenda Thomas '69. Recorded June 2, 2012.
Yesterday when I was driving down I had a similar experience. It was just so delightful to see the road stretching out in front of me on my way through Minnesota into Iowa, and the endless sky. And the endless, rolling land. It was just, it was just a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful thing. It really revived me.

Alumni oral history interview with Bruce Nissen '70 and David Lindblom '70. Recorded June 2, 2012.
We worried a little about, because they were willing to talk to us, they were farmers, you know, would their farm neighbors think that they were, you know, hanging out with and visiting with a bunch of commies, which is the way a lot of the local people thought of us, as communists or something like that. And the.., they said, “Oh no no don’t worry about them. We’re happy to have you out here,” and things of that sort. They were very great, nice people.

Alumni oral history interview with Robert Wilson '70. Recorded June 1, 2012.
She believed in Darwinian evolution, that humans had evolved from an earlier species. Which, for a person of her age, was not something, in that town, was readily admitted in public. And her belief in that, which was quite at variance with people of her age in that part of the country, came from her experience at Grinnell, which she had picked up in '99 and '00.

Alumni oral history interview with Sheena Brown Thomas '71. Recorded June 3, 2012.
I was supposed to be an SA, but they elected me to be President. So I was thinking, “Oh my gosh. Here I am being President. I’m supposed to be able to advise my students, but I’m in the art department 'til midnight and 2 o’clock in the morning everyday. What help am I?” I was just talking to people at the reunion, who had had me and they said, “Oh, no, you were OK! You were good.” Made me feel better, I- 'cause I’d been guilty about that all this time.

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.”

Alumni oral history interview with JC Labowitz '71. Recorded June 3, 2012.
I got here and Alex had a live chicken in his room that he was raising, maybe for a Biology project. I don't know. But he spent a lot of time trying to teach the chicken to speak the name of another guy in the residence hall who he was sort of having a- something of a conflict with. So, I know enough, I may be a city kid, but I knew enough that you cannot teach chickens to talk.

Alumni oral history interview with William Schooler '71. Recorded June 1, 2012.
It was probably one of the more difficult times in my life, but probably one of the most cherished times in my life because of the decisions and things that I had to either stand up for or stand up against, and probably made it the one encompassing thing that shaped my life and how I approached everything from then on.

Alumni oral history interview with Mara Brewster Munroe '72. Recorded June 2, 2012.
Occasionally, he would try to explain something, singing a little bit of a melody or something and he couldn't sing worth a doodle. But, he could explain it and it was wonderful to have that introduction to music that I've grown to be very fond of.

Alumni oral history interview with James L. Carns '72. Recorded June 3, 2012.
Apparently what happened was, in the middle of his speech, presentation, several Grinnell students, I remember it was four or five, had taken all their clothes off as a protest against Playboy’s exploitation of women.