Back Talk

“They called themselves the Velvetones…like velvet,” said my mother, Catharine Herr Van Nostrand ’59, as she reminisced over her 1958 photo of my father, David Van Nostrand ’58, singing with Herbie Hancock ’60 and two other students at the piano.

Typical January temperatures in Fairbanks, Alaska, hover near 20 below zero. Some of my jogging friends would brave the cold and continue their pastime outdoors. I chose an alternative venue, a narrow track circling the Olympic-size hockey rink at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

Grinnell has always impressed me by having few glitzy, headline-hogging alums. I’d like to think the College instead produces serious, hardworking leaders in all sorts of fields; the kind who do, rather than boast about doing.

After graduating college, I spent a long time searching for the perfect job. Most important in my search was finding a job where I felt like part of a team that was pushing me to be the best I could be.

As a 12-year-old polio victim in the early 1950s, I faced isolation, closed school doors, and bullying, including a common use of the circular motions recently used by the now president of the United States against a partially disabled writer. 

Art is a language. Artists communicate with us through color, form, subject, scale, texture, movement, and symbols. We all know how to “read” this language, if we stop and engage with the art.

I recently became a U.S. citizen; and the day I took my oath, I voted in my first presidential election.

This past spring, I and 14 fellow first-year students enrolled in a semester-long course of a lifetime.

A Grinnellian’s transformation.