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 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 Jon Royal '70, Diane Alters '71, Mary Brooner '71 & Sheena Thomas '71. Recorded May 29, 2015.
We're here to talk about the memory we have, we were part- four of the six exchange students with a black college in Memphis, Tennessee in 1969. It was called Lemoyne-Owen and we kinda wanted to share some of our exploits and experiences and memories of that process.

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.

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.