Jean McKenzie '86

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  • Jean McKenzie
    Jean: Jean McKenzie from Eugene, Oregon, and I’m class of 1986.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Jean McKenzie
    Chelsie: OK, cool. Heather out there is from Oregon as well.Jean: Yeah.
  • Chelsie Salvatera
    Chelsie: OK. So first question. Why did you come to Grinnell College and what is your first memory of the campus?
  • Jean McKenzie & Chelsie Salvatera
    Jean: OK, I had come to Grinnell a couple of times with my older sister. I have a sister who’s just about fourteen months older than me, and what’s kind of funny is my sister Peggy is a genius, OK? She’s a very gifted pianist and it was just slightly painful coming through gradua- grammar school and high school right behind my sister Peggy because she was brilliant - I mean really off the scale. So my sister Peggy, after her junior year in high school had come right to Grinnell.Chelsie: Oh, wow.
  • Jean McKenzie & Chelsie Salvatera
    Jean: Yeah, and so I would come and visit her and we had a lot of fun and everything but I wanted to give her her space. So I didn’t come to Grinnell initially, and I went, instead, to Beloit College.Chelsie: Beloit College?Jean: Uh-huh. In Wisconsin. And then, y’know we'd always swim over here every other year and so I came over and I saw the pool and the facilities that are here and y’know, having the experience of Beloit I think helped me decide to come over to Grinnell. But I waited until my sister graduated and then I came over and I guess she - no she was still here for one semester, and it was really super fun. But I had met her friends from Grinnell all through high school.Chelsie: Awesome.Jean: Yeah.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Jean McKenzie
    Chelsie: So was there a professor, student or staff member who had a particularly strong influence on your life?Jean: You know, well... I enjoyed, I took a Tolstoy class with John Mohan and he was a lot of fun. He was in the Russian department.Chelsie: Okay. Were you a Russian major?Jean: No, no. I was a Psych major but the Psych department was really, completely male at the point that I transferred in. So I had, I just took about four courses in Psych and then I did an internship over at... it was in Newton at Jasper County Mental Health with some older Grinnell alum. Eva Christianson and her husband, David, were over there.
  • Jean McKenzie & Chelsie Salvatera
    Jean: Who else? I participated in Marimba Band, and we had a Professor Ted Solis at the time, and he was really a big influence at that time. Really a neat guy and really had a lot of interest in Caribbean music and all kinds of stuff.Chelsie: Awesome.Jean: He took us all over Iowa and campuses and we’d play for places in Marimba Band.Chelsie: Awesome.Jean: Yeah.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Jean McKenzie
    Chelsie: What are the best memories of your time at Grinnell College?Jean: Oh, let’s see. Y’know, I can’t really think- I mean I have some crystal memories. They were very magical moments like when it was snowing here and it really snowed deep and having - ‘85 - and it was just a, sort of magical time being a junior in college and seeing these reflective snowflakes and I took a lot of photographs.
  • Jean McKenzie
    Jean: Another thing I remember is this guy Mark, he’s married to his wife now, Sarah. He was a raku potter, and he just happened to say- I hung out in the Forum. Let me rephrase that: I lived in the Forum and sometimes I went home, back when it was right in the middle of campus where the Computer Center is right now. And so Mark said “Hey, what are you doing? You wanna take some photos? I need some for my senior project.” I was like, “Really? Oh, that’d be really cool. I'll take 'em black and white. You mind black and white?” And so I took a lot of really fun photographs and one of my best friends now, David Ellen, was running the Photography Lab and it was downstairs in that same Forum building.
  • Jean McKenzie
    Jean: What else? President Drake was the president at the time I lived here and one of my favorite memories is running into him in a very small town in Colorado called Marble, and there’s probably 100 people or fewer at Marble, Colorado. And all of a sudden I go, “Hey mom, I think that’s my president over there!” She’s like, “No, you’re trick – You're right! That’s George Drake!” So, it was fun.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Jean McKenzie
    Chelsie: What did your dorm room look like? You can talk about your first year dorm, second year, any one...Jean: Oh yeah, OK, so I came over as a junior and I lived in, I think Hendricks? Hendricks?Chelsie: What's that? What part of the dorm?Jean: North.Chelsie: I don't-Jean: I don’t know if I got the name right. I had a roommate, Heidi Hopkins, and she was a freshman. She was a very serious student and we had a very beautiful room. It looks like some of the rooms from Yale or Oxford. It has the window in the center of the room after you come through, and then each of our sides of the room sort of mirrored each other and we had real skinny singles and a beautiful bathroom.Chelsie: Oh, you had a bathroom?
  • Jean McKenzie & Chelsie Salvatera
    Jean: Yeah. I think it was in our room. I’m pretty sure it was. I don’t know. I can’t remember for a fact, and I only lived there for one semester and then I decided to create a house and the house that me and Nikki Carlson created was Juggling House. It’s over on 6. Highway 6, and it’s not there any longer. They just- Yeah, whatever.Chelsie: What was it called?Jean: Juggling House.Chelsie: Juggling- Juggling House?Jean: Yeah.Chelsie: Was your house like a juggling club?Jean: We all juggled, but we couldn't decide, what on earth could bring this disparate group of people together? We couldn’t find any common interest or any single thing but juggling was... And, it was a really nice house.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Jean McKenzie
    Chelsie: I had an alumni come by. She had- she started juggling club but no one... I guess they were the last, so I guess she wasn't the first? I should tell her you were the first.Jean: Yeah. Well, there were many, many jugglers, too. Dan Mckewan was juggling knives and flying- flaming objects-Chelsie: Oh, wow.Jean: Things like that.Chelsie: Yeah, I don't think that was that intense for her club, but... What kind of clothes did you wear as a Grinnell student, and on special occasions too?
  • Jean McKenzie & Chelsie Salvatera
    Jean: OK, now, I was a- I was definitely a punk.Chelsie: A pu-Jean: I wore skinny, skinny, skinny jeans that were really dark.Chelsie: Sweet.Jean: And then I had this flashdance thing. I think I wore it all four semesters I was here. And, I wore it inside out and the next day I'd wear it the other side out. It was an off-the-shoulder eighties number.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Jean McKenzie
    Chelsie: Alright, how about special occasions? On Waltz did you dress up, or..?Jean: Ooh, you know I dressed up in a tuxedo on one occasion for Alice... Alice or some senior recital I think it was. Or she gave a recital downtown. She was a great violinist. I think she’s over the room right now.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Jean McKenzie
    Chelsie: What book influenced you most in college, if you can recall a book?Jean: Well, y’know I really enjoyed the book "Mother Camp" that was assigned for one of my Sociology courses. That was just a study of, y’know, camp. It was probably the first endeavoring to gay clubs, transgenderism, any of that stuff. It was a good read.
  • Chelsie Salvatera
    Chelsie: Okay. What memories or images do you have of the town of Grinnell?
  • Jean McKenzie
    Jean: When I was here, it was pre-Walmart, OK? So there was a couple of really cool places that.... The Louis Sullivan Bank was called Poweshiek National, and that’s where I kept my money, and I came here with, I think, two hundred dollars, and what was good about that is they had a five cent coffee place right next door. Cunningham’s, and you could get a malted over there, or a Candyland malt, or a bottomless cup of coffee which is what I did, was have bottomless coffee for five cents and eat Cunningham’s. And then there was also this place, Pamida, which, Pamida I think was officially a variety store but it was on the other side of sixth and you could get anything.
  • Jean McKenzie
    Jean: And a good friend of mine owned The Longhorn at the time, which was a steakhouse and burger joint, so he let me eat free there. He was, there was a- They were a gay couple of guys. Mark had gone to school here and then started a bagel run so he would provide bagels or deliver bagels and then he had dropped out of Grinnell and he had gotten with David, who owned the Longhorn.
  • Jean McKenzie
    Jean: The Louis Sullivan Bank had kind of a confessional where you would go up and... you kind of open the door and say you’d like to cha- checkout this much money. It was pretty fun. But other images- I did some student teaching here at one of the grammar schools about three blocks... What is that? It’s west, I guess, of campus and that was super fun. I taught in the fourth grade classroom and there was some of the kids from around town, and I’d see them here and there. It was really fun.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Jean McKenzie
    Chelsie: Describe your favorite place on campus.Jean: Well, yeah, I had a couple of favorite places where it was very easy to find me. I studied over in...Chelsie: Grill?Jean: No, in this building, ARH. In one of the- there was a little private room a long time ago and it had a really nice surface table that I really liked. And.. so I studied in there quite a bit. I also studied in one of the carrels in the library but the one that’s underneath the – I haven’t gone in there to see if it’s still there but it had a bunch of ladders and stuff on it.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Jean McKenzie
    Chelsie: I think I know what you’re talking about. In the ARH or in Burling?Jean: Burling Library.Chelsie: Is it one of the jungle gyms?Jean: Yeah, but under the jungle gym.Chelsie: Ah. Okay.Jean: Alright. I would be in there. There’s a great classic picture of me sleeping in Burling but I only slept there very rarely, but one of the times I fell asleep was in a.. yeah, was.. came home (???). I really like the Forum as I said.Chelsie: Yeah, that was a really popular place back then.Jean: Yeah, and there were two really really nice women who ran it. Betty and somebody else, and the Friday sandwich was a dollar twenty-five so I ate lunch there oh, three times a week I bet. Yeah.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Jean McKenzie
    Chelsie: If you knew then what you know now, what would you have done differently during your time at Grinnell College?Jean: Y'know... I probably would’ve gone pre-med, knowing what I know now. It’s kind of ironic because both David and Eva Christianson, who had mentored me at Jasper County Mental Health in Newton had both said, "No, no. You don’t wanna be a Psychologist Jean, you wanna be a Psychiatrist. You do the same work, you do a little bit less of it and you get paid about four times." And I said, “Four times? That’s not right.” So, they were trying to convince me and I said, “I don’t think I can make it through medical school,” but I think in retrospect I could’ve done that.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Jean McKenzie
    Chelsie: If you met -did you meet your spouse or partner here?Jean: No, I didn’t meet my spouse or partner until after I left Grinnell, but I know for a fact that my spouse or partner was very impressed with the fact that I’d survived Grinnell College.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Jean McKenzie
    Chelsie: Okay. That's awesome. Describe student and campus life as you experienced it during your time at Grinnell.Jean: Mmkay. Well, I know what I wanted to tell you. 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.
  • Jean McKenzie & Chelsie Salvatera
    Jean: Adam Burr, and this is a guy I knew in high school. Kim Counsel, I also knew her from high school. David Ellen, he’s out in Seattle. He works for Boeing. Kirstin’s back in Chicago after.. he’s originally from Brooklyn. Who else do I hang around with? I hang around with quite a few Grinnellians. Dan Mckewan.Chelsie: All class of ’86?
  • Jean McKenzie & Chelsie Salvatera
    Jean: About ’84 to ’87.Chelsie: Okay.Jean: Yeah, and Kim I think is ’88.Chelsie: Okay.Jean: Yeah, and that, I just visited her down in Atlanta, Georgia. She’s an OBGYN surgeon and it’s, you get to be my age and you think, “Oh I should -" Kim goes, "I can do surgery tomorrow morning,” I say, “Ooh, well you better get to bed.” It’s hard to imagine somebody your age being that responsible.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Jean McKenzie
    Chelsie: Okay, one final question. If you were writing a history of Grinnell College what would you include from your years here?Jean: OK, um, let’s see. From the late eighties... Well... What would be the lasting importance of the eighties? Y’know we had fifty percent female students at the time, but there was a real gap that’s sort of hard to describe in retrospect, and that was that I don’t think I had a single female professor while I was here at Grinnell.
  • Jean McKenzie
    Jean: It was a little different from Beloit, and I had left Beloit thinking, "Well, I’ve taken all of my, maybe 7/8 of my Psychology coursework from this one professor, Deb Pool, and I thought, I don’t wanna get a degree in Deb Pool Psychology. I'd like to get a degree in Psychology."
  • Jean McKenzie & Chelsie Salvatera
    Jean: So I came over here and I take Lopatto, Frank Goodkin, this real brilliant guy, Tom Brosowski, and I still remember his final question was: Discuss the importance of sleep on the central nervous system. And I spent about fifteen minutes just pulling my hair out because I thought, “Oh, the importance of sleep! Oh, God! You're cramming all of this stuff - nothing had to do with sleep, nothing!” It was a good unifying question, but again, David Lopatto was my advisor and so I said, “Dr. Lopatto, do you want me to be on the selecting committee. I feel like we need more representation for selecting maybe a female faculty member.” He'd go, “Jean, we’re going to get the very best qualified psychologist that we can." It's like, “Yeah, yeah, I know, but how could a group of men select, and continue to select and always select male candidates?" "Dr. Goodkin was out of University of Michigan," and I’m like, “Yes, but he sleeps with students.”Chelsie: Oh, my.Jean: He was a little- It was a little tough on that front.
  • Jean McKenzie
    Jean: There was also- Roberta Atkins was in Secondary Education and there was a couple of French professors who were female. Beverly Onning was here on campus as our pianist accompanist, and she was really fun. Babe Diedrickson was here in dance and there was a couple who taught in the art, and then there was also one female scientist, and the reason I mention her is she died with a group of students down caving in, I think, eight- very close by here. It was a whole caving accident that David Ellen had been on.
  • Jean McKenzie & Chelsie Salvatera
    Jean: But lasting legacies from the eighties, I think probably just the catching up of female academicians. The punk movement that was going on was really, y'know...Chelsie: Blossoming?Jean: Yeah, or taking hold. Some of the musi- that’s the music ethnocology thing, I think went way ahead, and I did wish that Ted Solis had been tenured because he was so interesting and he had a really lovely wife and three lovely little kids. And he was one of the people who took time on the weekends and picked us all up and drove this van. He really didn’t have to, y’know? Right? I felt like he was somebody who went above and beyond.Chelsie: Right. Well, that's all my quesions. Nice to meet you.Jean: Yeah.Chelsie: OK, thank you so much for your time!
Alumni oral history interview with Jean McKenzie '86. Recorded June 4, 2011.