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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Alumni oral history interview with Lowell Baker '63. Recorded June 1, 2013.
I worked as the head waiter in the men’s dining room for two and a half years and that helped me pay for school, but it also gave me an opportunity to learn about how to organize schedules and to get along with a lot of different types of people.

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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.

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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.

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Alumni oral history interview with Livija Denavs-Rebane '64. Recorded May 31, 2013.
I was very fortunate to be one of the six recipients of what was called in those days, a Travel Service Scholarship, or fifth year abroad.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.