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 Audrey (Bunny) Howard Swanson '43. Recorded June 1, 2012.
We had a tradition at the time of borrowing our boyfriend's sweater. He brought his and he started to slip it over my head. I knew, yes, I knew that as he brought that sweater down he was going to kiss me. It was most exciting.

Alumni oral history interview with Edward Shackelford '43. Recorded June 1, 2012.
In order to have a date, you had to walk across the railroad tracks to the women's dorm. And of course, you could only get to the front door, basically and announce who you were, and then they called up to your date and asked her to come down. They had very strict rules. Your date had to be in on 10 o'clock of an evening I think 11 o'clock on Saturdays.

Alumni oral history interview with Beverly Stubbee '48. Recorded June 2, 2018.
I had to talk to the Dean of Women, who at that time was Evelyn Gardner. She was a British woman. And so she asked me some questions about leaving campus, and she said, "Well, is Mr. Stubbee planning to pay your tuition? And is he going to support you?" 'Cause in those days men supported women, you know? Women really- really didn't have careers. I think I was kind of a pioneer in that respect later and in life.

Alumni oral history interview with Virginia Lobell Rosen '48, Phyllis Miller Lawrence '48 and Margaret Lawrence Banning '82. Recorded June 1, 2013.
If you took two different subjects that covered the same period of time, you got an entirely different perspective. For example, Economics and History, you covered the same period in Europe from an entirely different point of view. I think that was part of the broadening experience of Grinnell.

Alumni oral history interview with Douglas Peterson '50. Recorded May 31, 2013.
I’ve always felt that when I’ve picked up a Time magazine, that I had a better understanding of the world, simply because I'd been to a liberal arts college where... you got the best of all the world’s point of view, a perspective that was based on some kind of knowledge you gained in a liberal arts setting, and a better understanding, without which- some people don’t have, and they fall into certain prejudices ‘cause they don’t know any differently.

Alumni oral history interview with Wally Douma '51. Recorded June 4, 2011.
I think that’s one of the real unique things about Grinnell or any small liberal arts school really for that matter. You don’t know just the professors you have in class, but you know the professors that are making up the rest of the staff and that’s quite important, I think.

Alumni oral history interview with Ann Stillman '51. Recorded June 3, 2011.
In the summer of '52, my college- my roommate, who was just graduating then, she and I made a bicycle trip in Europe, a youth hostel trip, and we went from like, about July and we came back in November. We stayed in youth hostels, and so we had this wonderful experience and we- we were so excited. We felt it was the first time we were really learning something. You know, we were on our own and we were curious about everything.

Alumni oral history interview with Loree Pugh Rackstraw '53 and Norma (Tong) Dang '53. Recorded 2011.
What we liked to do was to entertain our friends by putting on art shows. So, I would pose outside on the fire escape to try to conform to whatever title Norm gave to me, to the artwork we- was being exhibited. So she’d y’know, put me through great, a lot of contortions being able to pose whatever she titled. There was, “Man Standing on Head” was difficult.

Alumni oral history interview with Wally Stevens '54. Recorded May 31, 2015.
One of the "prime jobs", if you could believe that, was the cigarette vendor. Cigarette companies used to give a free pack, four cigarettes in a little pack, and the job of this- this job on campus, and was throughout the country, was to pass out these cigarettes. And that was a big job because you got all the smokes you wanted, and, again, we're in an age where people smoked.

Hampton Ditmore, Catherine '54
Alumni oral history interview with Catherine Hampton Ditmore '54. Recorded May 31, 2014.
They would go around all the bulletin boards and take the menus off, so then we went around at night and put the menus in the... in the bathroom stalls, and then they.... And they- they could- I don't think they ever figured that one out, and nobody took 'em down. Anybody could've taken 'em down, of course, but people really liked knowing what was for dinner.

Alumni oral history interview with Foster Rinefort '54 and '56. Recorded June 4, 2010.
So I came into Grinnell a young kid, maybe a little cocky, I don’t know, but reasonable, curious person. And left with an excellent degree and excellent education and motivation to pursue a life that has been interesting, rewarding, and challenging.

Alumni oral history interview with Orlan Mitchell '55. Recorded May 29, 2015.
All my background here is possible because of what I learned at Grinnell College.They literally took what-- I don't mean to be bragging about this, whatever.. They took a poor plumber's kid from Eldora, Iowa, taught him to think, to write, and to speak... and to be somewhat proud of himself.. and to accomplish things professionally that I never would have done had I stayed in Eldora, Iowa.

Alumni oral history interview with Jerry Reed '55. Recorded June 4, 2010.
When I came to Grinnell, wrestling season came up and so I joined the varsity team and our coach was Coach Brown. And for some reason, he didn’t like me. There was another student by the name of Frank who was also in the 165 range and we would practice together and we were almost equal in skills. But Coach Brown wanted Frank to be on first team.

Alumni oral history interview with Don Cassiday '56. Recorded May 29, 2015.
I've been to a couple of graduate schools since then, including Harvard one summer, and... I've not seen any better faculty in those places than I saw here.

Alumni oral history interview with Carol Johnson Addington ‘56. Recorded June 3, 2011.
So, I think for me, just the development, it created in me, a really... drive for knowledge. I love to read. I love to take classes on things, and I guess that's what Grinnell taught me, is that learning is really fun. And that's... that's been my experience.

Alumni oral history interview with Juergen H. Roennau. Recorded May 31, 2013.
I said, "What am I signing?" He said, "You're signing a request for admission to Grinnell College." And I said, "Okay." He went through all that.. problem, why not? I don't have to go if I don't want to. So, about six weeks after that I got a letter from the Grinnell College saying, "Congratulations, you've been accepted as a foreign exchange student with free tuition, and room and board for the first semester. And if you keep up your grade-point average, you probably will have it for the rest of your time at Grinnell." So I figured, after they went through all that, I... said okay.

Alumni oral history interview with James H. Stacey '57. Recorded May 31, 2013.
To this day, I can hear those lines. And he made the poem perfectly clear simply by reading with such sensitivity and grace. And so, you know, that sort of set me up for my Master's degree, and the rest of my life.

Hawtrey, Charles E. '57
Alumni oral history interview with Charles E. Hawtrey '57. Recorded May 31, 2013.
As I told the students—they invited me back to reflect on my career—, and I said that the one thing that I hoped every student did was, if you're interested in a course, take it. You have- This is the best place in the world to get a broad education and I was always glad that I did.

Steiner, David '57
Alumni oral history interview with David Steiner '57. Recorded May 31, 2014.
I had a really, kind of strange, sort of double life, and I owe a great deal of it to Grinnell because it, as badly off as it was in the 1950s- and it was rather badly off- the fact is that the graduates of that period get a bum rap and are considered to be the "lost" generation of Grinnellians, who were just not as good as they should have been. However, the fact of the matter is that Robert Noyce was a graduate of the 1950s, and we had a great many people who went on to graduate degrees and great careers in teaching and elsewhere.

Alumni oral history interview with Howard Ohline '58. Recorded May 31, 2013.
The way I understand it is, Grinnell is still a fairly liberal institution concerned with social improvement, concerned with developing social character, improving the world. Not preoccupied-- well it is concerned with professional excellence, but not primarily concerned with market excellence.