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 Mary Kay Kasang Allen '72. Recorded June 2, 2012.
We had an ice storm in Grinnell when I was here. I don't remember what year it was but I remember, after the ice storm, walking through town and it was just.. It was like being in a wonderland, because the sun was... All the trees were covered in ice and the sun was just glinting off all the ice and that was just... It was like twinkling trees without lights on them. It was very very cool.

Alumni oral history interview with Greg Thielmann '72. Recorded June 1, 2012.
I sometimes think that some of the experience that I had at Grinnell which encouraged sort of independent thought and going against the grain contributed to my ability to do that later in my life.

Alumni oral history interview with Greg Vranicar '72. Recorded June 2, 2012.
And really, after my first year when I was a really scared person at Grinnell, with being the only person out of my high school class of 44 that went out of state to school, and thinking that I was in a sea of people a lot more talented and smart- smarter than me, that I wouldn't make it. But, I did and was a Rhodes Scholar candidate and actually was the President's Medalist of my class, and so I was... I did fine at Grinnell. And largely, it was because I had Burling Library.

Alumni oral history interview with Carolyn Ashbaugh '73. Recorded June 3, 2012.
He was my faculty advisor, who at one point accused me of majoring in revolution since I had a strong interest in left-wing politics and the history of revolutions.

Alumni oral history interview with Mary Margaret Coffield '73. Recorded June 3, 2012.
I particularly remember that feeling of almost social liberation in terms of being able to enjoy relationships with peers, to be in such a non-restrictive environment and to be able to explore so much.

Alumni oral history interview with Carol Edkins '73. Recorded June 2, 2012.
You know, there's the difference between a big city and a small town, and feeling comfortable enough that you can just greet strangers with a "Hello"!

Alumni oral history interview with Laura Korach Howell '73. Recorded June 3, 2012. The photo on the right shows Kit Howell.
I just wanted to share Kit's presence. I'm- this is my first reunion, and it's been.. It's been really wonderful, reconnecting with some people and meeting new people, and just remembering.

Alumni oral history interview with Keith Kozloff '73. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I was a DJ, if you will, at the Grinnell radio station, which was only a few watts, although there was some, maybe urban legend that somehow, some clever student figured out how to use the railway tracks running through campus as an antenna and expanded the broadcast range of the radio station.

Alumni oral history interview with Jan Palmer '73. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I think, looking back- well, not looking back, in the present... Grinnell continues to nourish me in a profound way.... I often find myself asking why or asking how else things could be done, or suggesting alternatives and I rarely assume a position without creating some new program within it that wasn't part of the job description, some way of trying to translate part of my vision to the organization.

Alumni oral history interview with Clay Williams '73. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I'm really impressed now there's a lot more advice. There were no advisors then. There was the swimming coach, who was a nice guy. He was the boy's- the men's counselor. That was it. Then there was some student advisors and RAs, who were, you know, 24-year-olds or something, but there were no- there was no advice as far as professional, what to do.

Alumni oral history interview with Avram Machtiger '74. Recorded May 31, 2014.
Well, I had a really cool room my senior year. It's the double window facing 8th Avenue, and because I didn't have a home in the states, this was my home. So, I had.... to like, find places for stuff for summers, for example, you know, friends' basements, garages, so I had a lot of books. I had, you know, a... concrete block and wood bookcase. I had a big Indian printed bedspread on the wall. I had all kinds of English posters.... My big trunk from England was my coffee table. I had millions of records 'cause I was a KDIC DJ..... I had to make it a very home-y room, 'cause that's where I lived.

Alumni oral history interview with Margaret Bogie '76. Recorded 2012.
I think it was really cool on campus, but even afterwards, it doesn't end. It just doesn't end, because it's like this network, and I’m sure you will run into this, other alums, who- especially if you're married to a non-Grinnell spouse- they'll say like, "What is it? Do you people send out Z-waves and attract each other?" 'Cause, you know, you can walk down a street, you know, I could- have your little Grinnell thing on, people will stop you.

Alumni oral history interview with Mark Butterman '76. Recorded June 4, 2010.
I walked out of there exhausted, realizing that maybe I was not above average and that maybe that I had a lot of work to do—but also that it may be a challenge and fun to produce the kind of work that would satisfy a really inquisitive, demanding mind.

Alumni oral history interview with Caryn Chaden '76. Recorded June 5, 2010.
Getting to know people in town and getting to see the town of Grinnell, independent of the college and riding my bike in the middle of the night and riding in the corn fields- in the roads with cornfields on either side at dusk with fireflies, are really important memories for me.

Alumni oral history interview with Nancy Ganschaw Frakes '76. Recorded June 4, 2010.
This is still such a beautiful, peaceful campus in a lovely small town. It’s a little haven in the midst of the cornfields. And on that note, I’ll stop. It’s been a…what a long strange trip it’s been. I never had any idea what I was getting into when I came here. I’m so glad I did.

Alumni oral history interview with Paul Scott Stanfield '76. Recorded June 4, 2010.
Don Smith, who was in the history department in those days, particularly impressed me because he treated us—he took us seriously—he treated us as grown-ups. He didn’t expect us to be experts, but he treated us, not as peers or equals, but as historians, so to speak, who had an obligation to be honest and rigorous and scholarly and he had such a, sort of, gentle and gentleman-ly way of maintaining high standards that he made a tremendous impression on me.

Alumni oral history interview with Carol Tuttle Moseson '77. Recorded June 2, 2013.
And so that's so much of what he brought to me, was just that you could be your own authentic person and color outside the lines and just live your life. And... I think that was every bit as important as, you know, the wonderful books and the way of reading and understanding that he taught me.

Alumni oral history interview with John Aubry '77. Recorded June 2, 2013.
A bunch of other Russian House people there and we started talking about, "What if we were to have like, a ball? You know, like a grand Rousseau, Franco-Russian Imperial Waltz. Wouldn't that be cool, you know? And maybe we could get the Margot Triodo to play." They didn’t play, but that was sort of an idea, "and we could do it in the Quad." And we just talked about this, and carried it around, and it happened, and I understand it became a real tradition that continues on.

Alumni oral history interview with Andreas Vassilos '78. Recorded June 1, 2013.
My spelunking buddy and I, we discovered the tunnels underneath the sidewalks, and we broke into the dining hall. We lowered ourselves in through a window that we found out didn't have a lock on it, so we used to go in at night, and-- and break in and get ice cream, and to the halls, the dining halls.

Alumni oral history interview with Ellen Liebman Glatstein '79 and Ann Lion '78. Recorded June 1, 2013.
There was a really cool vibe on campus at that time. Everybody was just honest, and nobody locked the-- their dorms, the loggia was never locked, people's rooms were never locked, cars were never locked, and there was a sense of pride that we all had confidence that nobody would ever lose anything. And I don't remember one theft during my time on campus.