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 Becky Martin '94, Gretchen Johanns '94, & Nyasha Spears '94. Recorded May 29, 2015.
I just remember my mother basically pulling up, and she read some article that you're supposed to not- the parents are supposed to not loiter when they're dropping their kids off at college. They're supposed to just drop them off and get out. So she literally, like, pulled up to the- to the side, by Gates Tower, and dumped all my stuff on the lawn. And I think she drove away. Like, I think that was it. She drove back to North Dakota. And it's not that I had an unloving mother or that she- but she was thinking she was doing the right thing, like, "Okay! Dump the stuff out, and I leave."

Alumni oral history interview with Christopher Doemel '94. Recorded June 4, 2010.
I guess, for student and campus life, one of the things I liked about Grinnell was the fact that they tried to bring things in on campus that were kind of interesting to do, so you never felt—like even though you were isolated, you never really felt like you were isolated, because there was always something to do every weekend.

Alumni oral history interview with Alesia Niblick Gonzalez '94 and Cesar Gonzalez '95. Recorded 2010.
Well, I was a first generation college student so I didn’t know exactly what to expect of college, and the one thing that really convinced me to come here to Grinnell was the very supportive staff, the supportive people. I actually came also to play football, and the coaches, and the way they approach you was very, very impressive. It was more like family, and to sit and have a call from the coach, and talking about how it is to live here, and also from the recruiters was amazing.

Alumni oral history interview with Renee Bourgeois Parsons '96. Recorded June 5, 2010.
It’s kind of nice to have this deeper connection now, not only with my classmates, but also with the people who I didn’t overlap with at all at Grinnell.

Alumni oral history interview with Michael Carlstrom '98. Recorded May 31, 2013.
Looking at it, most people would think: okay, that would be impossible ‘cause how do you write... how is God represented in the bible in one page, in a paper with like, you know, succinctly, but yet completely? And yet, after taking that course, I think it is possible.

Alumni oral history interview with Timothy Stiles '98 and Catherine Stiles '01. Recorded June 5, 2011.
There’s always gonna be something that people are gonna complain about and that is something that I’ve learned over time is that wherever you are there’s gonna be something that people complain about. It’s just a matter of how seriously you have to take yourself and there reaches a point where you take yourself so seriously that that’s kind of ridiculous, and looking back I’m like, "Really, did we get that passionate about things that really, in the grand scheme of things, don’t really matter?"

Alumni oral history interview with Carlos Macias '99. Recorded June 1, 2013.
When you take students out of that comfort zone, you put them in a completely new environment- yeah, Iowa- and within that microcosm, then you go into Grinnell, which is its own microcosm, and insulated... You don't really drive anywhere, but you spend a lot of time... And add to that fact that, you know, these are some of the brightest kids in the country here, it's- Something happens that just, kind of, changes you and it's pretty magical, I would say. Pretty amazing, at least for me. It transformed me.

Alumni oral history interview with Scott Barkely '00. Recorded June 2010.
The coaching staff here at Grinnell understood student athletes like that and understood the new need to recruit them, which I thought was a phenomenal experience. It was great to get invited to campus, to be invited to stay with current members of the team that I was looking at and really get a taste of the experience here.

Alumni oral history interview with Sarah Davis Worth '00. Recorded June 5, 2010.
It’s funny because when he and I talk about Grinnell, we have the same stories about the same places and the same experiences, even though our time here was split by 14 years. When he says that as a freshman he lived on Norris 4th, I know what that means. And when we talk about different parties and different places on campus, it’s the same. And he and I even know people in common who were classmates of his that then stayed on at the college or whatever- professors we had in common, that kind of thing.

Alumni oral history interview with Camarin Madigan '00. Recorded June 5, 2010.
I had class at eight in the morning, so I got up early, which when you’re in college, getting up for an eight o’clock class is definitely early. But getting up at seven to go over to go over to professor, er, President Osgood’s house, er, his office, and it’s of course locked up, but he always gets to the office very early so I went over to his office window, and knocked on his window. And he was a little bit shocked, I think, to see a student standing out there, because I don’t think any students are usually up at seven in the morning.

Alumni oral history interview with Courtney Sherwood '00. Recorded June 4, 2010.
The first memory I have, but I’d already been there for a while, like at least half a day—it was getting late, and I go out in the hall and somebody had put candies, like a string of candies down the hall that led to a door that said like, follow the candy to new friends, and I did! I followed, I went in, and I’m still friends with a bunch of the people that had like followed the candy.

Alumni oral history interview with Paul Bendich '01. Recorded June 3, 2011.
It seems like anywhere that’s centered around an academic place is gonna have a lot of Grinnell people ‘cause that’s where we go. But, it’s- so yeah, totally feels like home and now coming back it’s like, I realize it’s been so long. It's like everything is very familiar and yet totally alien.

Alumni oral history interview with James W. Dunn '01. Recorded June 5, 2011.
At one point I remember looking up and four or five people all.. we all looked at each other like, "I'm cranky. I'm sick and tired. I'm not getting enough sleep. I have way too much to do," and we all just had that moment of.. solidarity, I guess, is the best way to describe it.

Alumni oral history interview with Kristin Durianski '01. Recorded June 4, 2011.
It seems like the ethos is still here. The free spirit, the intellectually curious. It seems to me that no matter if you’re shy or outgoing, everyone who is here makes it through here- to be more precise about it, does have an academic interest, does have a passion that they want to pursue.

Alumni oral history interview with Tyler Bradbury '01. Recorded June 3, 2011.
I was like, "Oh, it's in Iowa? Mm." and I threw it all away. I threw all of it away. I was like, "I'm not moving to Iowa; I'm from New Jersey, and nah nah nah." And then they sent this letter out and it, I wanna know who in the admissions office decided to do this 'cause it was brilliant for those of us who are socially awkward. Where they sent this and like- "Maybe you lost our first mailing, or maybe you're just so busy you didn't have a chance to respond, but we really wanted to hear back" and you know, I was like, [Gasps]. I felt so guilt-ridden that I wrote back.

Alumni oral history interview with Erica Fredrikson '01. Recorded June 4, 2011.
We covered our entire front door with all the beautiful leaves, which don't look as cool when they get super dry, but it was awesome. And then we got a notice after fall break our freshman year from the fire marshal, saying, "Please remove everything from your front door. It’s a fire hazard."

Alumni oral history interview with Paul Pasquesi '01. Recorded June 4, 2011.
I don’t remember ever having conflicts with townies or anything. People would be like, “Oh the townies,” and I’d be like, “I don’t know, I think they’re all pretty cool people. I’ve never had a problem,” which is telling something because I would like walking around town with a dress on and like a dude with a Mohawk and no one was ever like, “Faggot!” No one ever said anything to me, they were always like, “Why are you wearing a dress?” “Oh, ‘cause I’ve got good legs,” and they were like, “Oh, all right. Fair point.” It was very funny.

Alumni oral history interview with Nicolas Schapira '01. Recorded June 3, 2011.
I wanted to separate myself from everybody else, and I wanted to have a completely different experience than a large university. I went to a huge high school. My graduating class was 1,000 kids, so I just wanted something completely different. So instead I was looking at some of the view books that were- that I was getting sent after the SATs and PSATs came out and I got Grinnell and I said, "Ooh, Iowa! Nobody would believe I would go there!" and so I applied and they came back, they offered me pretty good financial aid package and they offered to fly me over.

Alumni oral history interview with Rochelle M. Gandour-Rood '02. Recorded June 1, 2012.
My acceptance packet from Grinnell arrived, and it was like, "Yay! We're so excited! We really hope you'll join us! We love you!" And there's like tons of exclamation points, and like, at the very end it was like, "P.S. You need to fill out this health form," but it wasn't like in the first sentence. And I just- at that moment I knew that like, Grinnell, with this like, just welcoming, inclusive atmosphere, and like, all that- I just knew this was the place I wanted to be.

Alumni oral history interview with Sarah Nuss-Warren '02. Recorded June 2, 2012.
That was an amazing class as well, because instead of listening to someone, I got to sit there and think about the problems on my own, and since it was a computer-based math class, instead of spending all the time doing multiplication and division, the computer did all of the grunt work and you got to figure out how to solve the problems.