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 Amy Stubenhaus '79. Recorded June 1, 2013.
My kids say, “I don’t know what I want…” It's like, “You’re not supposed to know!" You know? This is not- This is a time of life that’s just kind of this gift! You get these four years, you get to learn anything, you get to have a community and a social life handed to you on a platter. You get fed, and sheltered and you get to absorb as much wonderful learning and cultural experiences as you can possibly have. And that’s what it’s for and you don’t get it back, so enjoy the heck out of it.

Alumni oral history interview with Diane Gutenkauf '80. Recorded June 5, 2011.
Y'know, for me, that's the most meaningful part of the history of Grinnell, is somebody saying, "I got to do that."

Alumni oral history interview with Susan Hagler '80. Recorded June 4, 2011.
When I was graduating, and going up to Minneapolis, I wasn't sure what I was gonna do. But- when I went up to Minneapolis I knew one person and I wasn't sure what I was gonna do, and he said to me, "When you go to Minneapolis," paraphrasing, "if you need to flip burgers, go flip burgers," you know, "and just take care of your life in that way." And not- he's always been a big supporter of mine and very encouraging and he has changed my life.

Alumni oral history interview with David Kramer '80. Recorded June 5, 2011.
When I came here it was like a breath of fresh air. Everybody was intelligent, fun. They were open about things. They- y'know, it wasn't anything like I was used to at home, and it sort of opened and expanded my mind.

Alumni oral history interview with Barry Krost '81. Recorded June 4, 2011.
I think that as I've gotten older the value of my Grinnell experience has only grown even more. I think the first years I got outta here I didn't- I don't think I really understood exactly what had happened to me here in terms of what it had really done to transform me. But as the years have gone by I actually use, and am aware of that experience a lot more. It's actually planted kind of a seed in me, and it's just sort of grown into this whole thing and I always go back to the Grinnell experience, to the start of it.

Alumni oral history interview with Michael Warren Lewis '81. Recorded June 5, 2011.
Students were very free to create the experience that they wanted. There was a tremendous amount of do-it-yourself-ism of all sorts that went on where if you didn’t feel like you were having a good time you were free to make a better time out of it. There weren’t a lot of real restraints on us and what we were expected to be doing outside of the class area, and so. We had all sorts of things happening. Y’know the Rugby Club goes on a tour of Canada. It just, just took advantage of the ability to do it, so we did it, that kind of thing.

Alumni oral history interview with Rod Sinks '81. Recorded June 3, 2011.
These are just experiences I couldn’t have had, I’m quite convinced, at a bigger place. I mean, certainly I compared notes when I got to Stanford and yeah I had some wonderful and unique experiences. I worked at Sony in Manhattan one summer also, through an alumnus from Grinnell, through an alumnus connection. So living in Manhattan one summer, all these things I think were really unique and special. So I have a great, although I was only here five semesters it was really one of the most memorable parts of my life to be here and have the privilege of learning from two great teachers and many more.

Alumni oral history interview with Robert Krause '83. Recorded May 31, 2013.
I think I was very overwhelmed when I came to Grinnell, even though I had relatively good credentials out of high school and so forth, and I was a relatively good student. I was very nervous about the academics, and I think I wold tell myself, if I were talking to myself thirty year ago, I would say, "Just go with it. You can do this."

Alumni oral history interview with Carol Ann Baker '83. Recorded May 31, 2013.
There was a lot more time to do things like watch the moon rise, or... you know, dance 'til one or, you know, just things that... a slower pace of life allows time for. And that is one of the gifts that I really got from being here.

Alumni oral history interview with William Wilcoxen '84. Recorded May 31, 2014.
I liked that I could walk around barefoot, you know? People were accepting of that, especially I think in the, maybe even more so, in the early 80s than today, and I would go, like, an entire day- I would even, we weren't supposed to, but I would even like, go to class barefoot, and go into the dining halls barefoot, which we weren't suposed to do, but nobody ever made me turn around, so.. I would go sometimes 2, 3 days and I felt a little bit like Tom Sawyer, I think.

Alumni oral history interview with Janice Binder '85. Recorded June 4, 2011.
Y'know, everybody needs to belong and be accepted and here's a place where you can do it, y'know, and not get lost.

Alumni oral history with Mike Cleary '86. Recorded June 4, 2011.
The students, it seems... I don’t know. When I was there, I always like to think of this one description, every class non-conformist in the country applied and got into Grinnell, and that’s where they found their home.

Alumni oral history interview with Julie Jones '86. Recorded June 1, 2012.
Everybody was hanging out and there were people wearing Birkenstocks with no socks in the dead of winter and there was snow everywhere. And I thought, 'This is the place for me, where I don’t have to worry so much about being popular,' and all the things that consumed me as a high school student.

Alumni oral history interview with Patrick Kasperitis '86. Recorded June 3, 2011.
I showed up at the airport, I was seventeen. I had never really flown before. I show up at the airport, and I get on the bus, the shuttle, and there’s some Iowans that were pointing out things in Des Moines as we’re driving through on our way to the I-80. I made the mistake of saying, “Wow, what a quaint little town.” It’s the capital of Iowa. They were a little taken aback, but I was used to Philadelphia...

Alumni oral history interview with Jean McKenzie '86. Recorded June 4, 2011.
I wanted to tell you that most of my closest friends in the world were at Grinnell, and it’s kind of ironic because here, yeah, here’s it 25 years later.. Y'know, you wouldn’t think somebody who went four semesters might have had quite the same impact as someone who'd spent four years, but really.. when I count on my hands, y’know the people who are closest to me, so many of them are from Grinnell, from the Grinnell era.

Alumni oral history interview with Susan Sink '86. Recorded June 3, 2011.
I was standing there, people were running to move their cars away and the fire truck came and here comes John Brahmer and he’s going, “Whose car is this? Whose car is this?” and I said, “Hi John. It’s my car,” and he said, “You set this fire on purpose, didn’t you? You just really wanted us to have a fire.” “No, I really didn’t.”

Alumni oral history interview with Dana Johnson '88 & Sarah Jolie '87. Recorded May 29, 2015.
I can't tell you the number of times that I've had the same conversation with my classmates, which is, "Come to Reunion. People don't judge you, it is not about what you have accomplished, what you have not accomplished. People are, for the most part, genuinely interested in hearing what your story is, genuinely interested in each other. It doesn't- it's not just about your class year. Come back; you're gonna feel a connection."

Alumni oral history interview with Ted Amann '87. Recorded June 2, 2012.
I'd made, like, such a connection with the rest of the Student Government that the first meeting spring semester, when I had to officially resign and turn it over to the Vice President, then they made a motion and voted me King for Life of the Student Government. So, I've always been amused by that.

Alumni oral history interview with Daniel Cymbala '87. Recorded June 3, 2012.
I think, fundamentally, and I don’t know that it’s different at any other college or, you know, cocooned society, but it’s about the people, you know?

Alumni oral history interview with Pam Feinstein '87. Recorded June 2, 2012.
It was like, the light bulb went off and it felt so good. And I feel like that was the beginning of me.