Mariana Alwell '68

Primary tabs

  • Mariana: My name is Mariana Alwell. I currently live in Boulder Creek, California, and I’m a member of Grinnell Class of ’68.
  • Mariana: I came to Grinnell from California because Grinnell sent me this welcoming letter encouraging me to apply and I applied for early admission and by Christmas I knew I was accepted and had a full-tuition scholarship. I knew I couldn’t afford to go other places, so I came to Grinnell. The decision wasn’t made in the way I would recommend kids decide what college they go to, but, it really was the right place for me. I was young and it gave me a chance to grow up in a relatively protected environment but still have lots of options for making choices.
  • Mariana: My two favorite professors were Joe Wall and Al Jones. I was actually- political science major, but I took a lot of American history, and they were very supportive and in fact Al directed me to a graduate program and got me into teaching when I didn’t think it was anything I was interested in. It actually became my passion, so... And Joe was very supportive. I had trouble passing the PE requirement to graduate, and he actually went to bat for me-
  • Sophie: Great.Mariana: -and helped me graduate... What did my dorm room look like? My sophomore year I was in a two-room triple on Cleveland first, and someone before us had painted one wall this incredibly deep, dark blue, and we spent all year figuring out things to cover it up with, so by the end of the year it was covered with posters of British rock stars and all kinds of things cut out of magazines because it was overpowering to begin with.
  • Mariana: Clothes were interesting. We actually were supposed to wear dresses or skirts to class, when I first came, though, it wasn’t- I mean, I don’t ever remember being told that I couldn’t go to class ‘cause I had pants on.Sophie: Mhm.Mariana: And the clothes that I wore were very different than the clothes that the kids that came from Illinois and Iowa wore, and my second day of New Student Days, I was crossing campus and met a guy coming the other direction and we both pointed at each other and said, “You’re from the West coast, aren’t you?” because we were wearing madras shirts and colored jeans, y’know, in Iowa. In those days we wore, they wore “wheat jeans,” is what they called them, which were these kind of light, khaki-colored jeans.
  • Mariana: Memory of the town- I have two memories of the town of Grinnell that stand out. I’m sure a bunch but, one was, I was dating a guy from Hawaii and we got hassled as we were walking through town-Sophie: Oh.Mariana: -because we were, what appeared to them to be- well we were, y'know, a biracial couple.Sophie: Mhm.
  • Mariana: And another time I had been to the movies and I was crossing the street right by the Poweshiek County Bank, what was the bank, and there was a fire hydrant on the corner and it was a, electrical storm, and I was like two steps into the crossing and lightning hit the fire hydrant, and every hair on my body just stuck out.Sophie: Oh my gosh, yeah.Mariana: It was really scary. I mean, that’s the closest I ever wanna get to lightning, but it was...Sophie: Yeah, no kidding.Mariana: And it would, y'know, never happen in California. We don’t have that kind of lightning.
  • Mariana: Grinnell has really changed.Sophie: Yeah?Mariana: Physically.Sophie: Mhm.Mariana: The physical structure of the campus is much bigger, what’s available to students is unbelievably wonderful... But the- when I come back on volunteer weekends, what I hear the kids talking about and what I hear the... the concerns are maybe a little bit different but they’re still.. They’re still thinking about how to change the world. How to make a difference, what to do, y’know, the topics might be different.
  • Mariana: And, I was really impressed the last time I was here. I got to sit in on a class and I was really impressed with the teaching of the professors. And it made me feel like it might look different, but it still feels the same.Sophie: Mhm.
  • Mariana: I guess my favorite place on campus was the Forum, which is now in total disrepair, makes me kind of sad. But, it was brand new. It opened mid-year of our freshman year and it was.... a place where, in a college that mostly was pretty formal, you could sit on the floor, you could study in a space without a table, you could drop in, in one room or another, and things would be going on.Sophie: Mhm.Mariana: And there was always- there were always pool games and bridge games going on that you could become a part of, so.. And it really was, at that point, a place where the two campuses met because there wasn’t...Sophie: Yeah.Mariana: Like, the Rosenfield Center.
  • Mariana: And I dated several wonderful people but I did not find my husband here. And.... I know that if I were giving myself advice as a young student, I would say.... I did speak up, but speak up more for the things that are important and stay connected to the people that were your friends.Sophie: Yeah. Great, thank you so much!Mariana: You’re welcome.
Alumni oral history interview with Mariana Alwell '68. Recorded June 3, 2012.