Academic

Lavender Country Concert

Patrick Haggerty, founding member of first openly gay country music group, Lavender Country, will perform with his band at Grinnell College on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017.

The concert is free and open to the public. It will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Herrick Chapel, 1128 Park St., Grinnell. No tickets are required.

AJ Lewis, former Grinnell College visiting professor of gender, women's and sexuality studies, will open the show with a banjo act with Lavender Country.

Grinnell College Public Events is sponsoring the concert, which is co-sponsored by Student Government Association Concerts.

In 1973, Haggerty formed the first openly gay country band. The group, called Lavender Country, released 1,000 bootleg copies of its self-titled and community-funded album. They played LGBTQ benefits and festivals for a few years and then disbanded with little fanfare.

In 1999, Lavender Country's album was archived at the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2014, a still-unknown user uploaded one of Lavender Country's songs to YouTube. Up-and-coming record label, Paradise of Bachelors, rereleased the album to enthusiastic reception.

Since then, Lavender Country is bigger than ever. The band has recently been the subject of award-winning documentaries and there is talk of a feature-length movie in the works.

Arms control expert to discuss U.S. policy toward Iran, North Korea on Sept. 25

Greg TheilmannGreg Thielmann ’72 will return to campus on Monday, Sept. 25, to present "Unleashing the Dogs of War: U.S. Policy Toward Iran and North Korea." His lecture, which is free and open to the public, will start at 4 p.m. in Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 120, 1226 Park St., Grinnell.

 

Thielmann is a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors and an expert on nuclear weapons policy, missile defense and nuclear nonproliferation. He served in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government for more than three decades, working as a senior professional staffer for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and as a foreign service officer.

 

He also worked in the Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and was the State Department adviser to the U.S. delegation at the Geneva Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces arms controls negotiations. His foreign service posts included Brasilia, Brazil; Moscow, Russia; and Bonn, Germany.

 

The Grinnell College Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations and Human Rights is sponsoring Thielmann's lecture.

 

"This lecture is especially timely because of President Trump's comments about Iran and North Korea in his recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly," said Barbara Trish, professor of political science and director of the Rosenfield Program. "Greg has phenomenal depth in intelligence and security, and I look forward to hearing his thoughts on the challenges to the U.S. posed by Iran and North Korea."

Head Hunters: The Music of Herbie Hancock

Cover of Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters albumThe Grinnell College Jazz Ensemble will perform “Head Hunters: The Music of Herbie Hancock” [’60] on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

The free, public concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Herrick Chapel, 1128 Park St., Grinnell.

Hancock is a renowned jazz composer, musician, bandleader, record producer, arranger, and actor.

The ensemble will pay tribute to Hancock by performing the music from one of his most seminal albums, Head Hunters. Recorded in 1973, Head Hunters had an enormous impact on the trajectory of jazz. Following on his earlier work with the Miles Davis electric bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hancock incorporated sounds drawn from funk, rock, and soul music, creating a package that was equal parts experimental and groovy. 

Hancock, one of the most influential and prolific innovators in the history of jazz, has been on the creative cutting edge of American music for five decades. His omnivorous musical imagination has taken him from his longstanding collaborations with Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter to working with songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder, and to performing and recording with contemporary artists like Christina Aguilera and Kanye West.

Directed by Mark Laver, assistant professor of music, the Grinnell Jazz Ensemble performs music from a wide variety of jazz-related styles and frequently performs works by both veteran and contemporary jazz composers. While the ensemble focuses primarily on traditional jazz ensemble literature, the group occasionally embarks upon large-scale musical performances of a nontraditional nature.

Past concerts have included pieces by composers such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Sammy Nestico, Charles Mingus, Maria Schneider, Gordon Goodwin, Thad Jones, and Oliver Nelson.

Both Sides Now: Can the President Pardon Himself?

To observe Constitution Day at Grinnell College, law professors Andy Grewal and Brian Kalt will present different arguments about whether the president of the United States can pardon himself. The free, public event will begin at 4 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 17, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

During the event, the two constitutional scholars will address the question Can the President Pardon Himself? Each will speak briefly to lay out the arguments, and then they will discuss together and open the conversation for questions from the audience.

Andy Grewal

Andy GrewalGrewal is the Joseph F. Rosenfield Scholar and Professor of Law at the University of Iowa. He is primarily interested in tax law and the intersections between tax, administrative law and statutory interpretation. He has testified in Congress on tax administration issues, and the United States Supreme Court recently cited Grewal in a case involving a complex tax shelter. He earned his J.D. from the University of Michigan, where he was a contributing editor on the Michigan Law Review and received the Richard Katcher Senior Tax Prize.

Brian Kalt

Brian KaltKalt is a professor of law and the Harold Norris Faculty Scholar at the Michigan State University College of Law. He studies primarily structural constitutional law and juries. He earned his J.D. at Yale Law School, where he was an editor on the Yale Law Journal. He has published two books and numerous law review publications, including Constitutional Cliffhangers: A Legal Guide for Presidents and Their Enemies and Pardon Me?: The Constitutional Case Against Presidential Self-Pardons.

The Rosenfield Program In Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights is sponsoring this event.

Pioneer Weekend

Pioneer weekend is an opportunity to showcase and validate your ideas, experiences, and innovation through a 3-day competition. Test out your innovations in teams of 3 – 6 people and discover if your ideas are viable. Cash prizes and a focus on educating, networking, and most importantly – fun – pioneer weekend is a can’t miss for Grinnellians with big ideas!

Adriana Zenteno Hopp '17 wins 2017 Helena Percas de Ponseti Senior Award

Adriana Zenteno Hopp ’17 is the winner of the Helena Percas de Ponseti Senior Award for the Academic Year 2016-2017. This award recognizes the quality of Adriana's academic record as well as her commitment to the department's program.

In the forty years Professor Helena Percas de Ponseti taught in the Department of Spanish, she earned national and international recognition as an outstanding teacher and scholar. The first book she published represents one of the first major examinations of Latin American women poets. Professor Ponseti’s subsequent books and articles on Cervantes enhanced her scholarly reputation. Not surprisingly, after retiring from active teaching Professor Ponseti continued to lecture and publish on Cervantes and his art. Generations of Grinnell students benefited from the mutual enrichment of her research and teaching.

Transcript of Kumail Nanjiani's Commencement Address at Grinnell College

KUMAIL NANJIANI: Am I at the right podium? Am I? Should I be over there? Oh, you don’t need to translate this. I haven’t started yet.

President Kington, Board of Trustees, faculty, parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, that one random guy from town that always shows up for these things... Thank you for having me.

Sixteen years ago, almost to the day, I sat where you are sitting today, desperately trying to stay awake while a very smart man said some very smart things. I think. I cannot be sure they were smart, because I couldn’t focus on anything but the gaping maw of uncertainty facing me in that moment. The same gaping maw of uncertainty that is facing you in this moment. What do you do in the face of this gaping maw of uncertainty? I have no idea. Good luck.

I’m joking. I don’t know what to do, but I’m not done talking yet.

Sixteen years ago, the man who stood here was Robert Harris Moses, an American educator and civil rights activist known for his work as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee on voter education and registration in Mississippi during the Civil Rights movement. Today, you have me. A man who pretends to do stuff on TV that he was supposed to have learned how to do in real life, at this very institution. Today, you join an illustrious group of alums including Robert Noyce, the cofounder of Intel and co-inventor of the integrated circuit, and John Garang, who literally created a country. No pressure. And I haven’t named the two most famous Grinnell alumni in the entertainment industry, Herbie Hancock and Gary Cooper, who both dropped out. Perhaps that was the mistake I made. I graduated. I should have dropped out. It’s the same mistake that you all are making right now. History is full of stories of extremely successful individuals who dropped out of college. You and I will never be among them. Because today, today you graduate from Grinnell.

By the way, you will be shocked at how many people know Grinnell. For a tiny liberal arts school in a tiny town in the middle of Iowa, many, many people know it. You’ll say, “I went to Grinnell,” and they will be impressed. And then they’ll say, “Wow, you went to Cornell!”

And then, you will have a decision to make. Your first important post-college decision. And you will make it over and over many, many times. Many of my friends think I’m in Ithaca, New York right now, giving the commencement to Cornell graduates. But some will hear you properly, and they actually will be impressed. “Oh yeah, my cousin’s ex-fiancée went there!” It’s always your friend’s cousin’s ex-fiancée.

But hey, but I’m getting a degree today too! One that I’ll use just as much as I used the last one. I am getting an honorary Ph.D.! I am now Dr. Kumail Nanjiani. So hold on one second, I have to text my parents. Mom, Dad, you finally have a doctor for a son. I intend to use it. I can’t wait to stand up when someone is like, “Is there a doctor on the plane?” And you go “Guilty! Right here. Honorary Ph.D. from giving the commencement address at Grinnell. No, not Cornell, Grinnell. I’ll sit back down.”

Twenty years ago, I got on a plane in Pakistan, got off a plane in Des Moines, and was driven into Grinnell by a nice elderly gentleman in a college van. I was totally unprepared for my life at Grinnell. I didn’t even know what hacky-sack was. At the time, I only knew America from TV shows and movies, where they generally only show New York and Los Angeles. I landed in Des Moines and thought, this is less cosmopolitan than I was led to believe America would be. That’s okay. They have some buildings. Then I got to Grinnell. And you definitely do not see places like this in the movies.

By the way, there is one exception. There’s a movie called Field of Dreams. You may not know this movie. I’ll tell you what it is. Field of Dreams is a movie from 1989 starring Kevin Costner and a bunch of ghost baseball players. That’s how you know Hollywood doesn’t think Iowa is the most exciting. They’re like, making a movie in Iowa? Well, we’ve got to add ghost baseball players or something. But during this movie, there’s an exchange that happens that was frequently quoted when I was at Grinnell. The exchange occurs between Kevin Costner and a ghost baseball player. The ghost baseball player asks him, “Is this heaven?” Kevin Costner responds, “No, it’s Iowa.” Man, we love this quote. That exact quote was written on the cover of my orientation packet: “Is this heaven?’ No, it’s Iowa.’” What they don’t mention is the rest of the conversation, which goes, “Is this heaven?’ ‘No, it’s Iowa.’ ‘Damnit, I must have made a wrong turn in Wisconsin.’”

The first couple weeks for me here were pretty tough. I was a very shy kid, I missed home, and I felt like I didn’t fit in. Back then, nobody had cell phones, so I spent hours in the phone room on my floor. They used to have phone rooms here. A phone room is a room with a landline. A landline is like a cell phone without apps. I would sit in this phone room and have conversations with my parents for hours. A conversation is like a text message with your mouth. You know what, I can’t keep doing this. Just Google the ‘90s, and then we’ll get back into this.

But I’d get into bed—and I had the bottom bunk, and I saw the metal bars on the bed on top of me—and they looked like prison bars, and that’s how I felt. Like I was trapped. Those bars would be the first thing I would see every morning, and the last thing I would see every night. And then, things started changing. I met people from all over the world. I met people who were white, black, queer, gender-fluid, every religion, no religion. And that was exciting. Pakistan ultimately is not that diverse. And I was meeting so many different kinds of people. And people were curious about me! What is Pakistan like? What do you guys eat? Do you guys have breakfast there? They weren’t all great questions. I started experiencing things I hadn’t experienced before. I shook hands with a girl for the first time at a party at the Harris Center. [Cheering.] Yeah. I remember saying out loud to myself, “This is a great country.”

And each time I would go to bed at night, those bars looked less like jail bars. And this little liberal arts college in the middle of Iowa changed the way I saw the entire world. Before America was my home, Iowa was my home. And before Iowa was my home, Grinnell was my home. When I came to Grinnell, I was a devout Muslim who had never romantically touched a girl, and I was going to get a degree that guaranteed me a job. By the time I graduated, I was basically a Rastafarian with a white American girlfriend and a philosophy degree. College changes you, is my point. I did get a computer science degree also, because while I had changed, my parents had not. I got a phenomenal education, I heard new ideas and understood that there are different ways of looking at the world. But it wasn’t all existential stuff like that. It was fun too! It was big cookies, and chicken patty parmesan, and hanging on the loggia, and watching X-Files on the TV in Read Hall lounge. X-Files is an old show about a time when conspiracy theories were shadowy rumors, and not a string of tweets the President just posted.

But while I was figuring out who I was, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. And then my senior year, I performed stand-up comedy for the first time at Bob’s Underground. [Cheering.] Yeah! And it went well! And it was so fun. And it was so exciting. And I was like, I could be good at this! After graduation, I moved to Chicago because I knew a lot of great comedians had moved there. A Grinnell alum helped me get a computer science job. I wasn’t good at it, but I was nice, and they liked having me around. But mostly, it allowed me to do stand-up at night in Chicago. And I did, almost every night. I’d be out late. I’d get up early to go to work. I probably slept about four hours a night for five years straight. And I had the best time of my life. I mean, it wasn’t always easy. I’d get heckled, because back then there weren’t a lot of comedians who looked like me doing standup. “Go back to India!”, they would yell. And I’d say, “I’ve never been to India, you’re just wishing me an awesome vacation right now?” Or, “Go back to Taliban!” I’ve heard that too. And I would say, “You’re right, I am a terrorist. I just do stand-up comedy on the side to keep a low profile.”

By the way, I have this fantasy that when someone is racist to me, I want something awful to happen to them, and then I rescue them, just to see the looks on their face. Like, “Go back to India!” “Haha, good one! Oh no, wolves!” And then I fight off the wolves, and they say, “I was racist to you, and you still helped me,” and I say, “Well, that is the way of my people.” That’s how we cure racism.

Then, when I started auditioning for TV shows, I had some tough times, some rejections for some interesting reasons. I’ve been told they were going for a more all-American direction, before they hired a white Australian guy. I’ve been told I wasn’t good-looking enough, or that I was too good-looking. That last one’s not true. That never happened. But that’s what they should say every time! The truth is overrated. They should be like, “Sorry, but you’re too good-looking to play a technician in a weapons lab. It would be so distracting.”

But even when it wasn’t easy, I loved it. I just loved doing it. And this is the part where I’m supposed to give you advice on what to do with your life, and I truly do not know what to tell you. I can tell you what worked for me. What worked for me was finding something that I liked doing, but more than liked, something that satisfied me. Finding something that satisfied me and doing it. Just doing it that day. I never thought big picture, that would have been overwhelming. So what I’m saying is, you can go slow. There is no rush. Allow your dreams and goals to change, but live an intentional life. Think, am I doing what I want to be doing every day? And, be okay with failing. That’s what I learned getting rejected at all these auditions. Nobody is paying attention to your failure. The world is full of people failing. People are failing all around you. Failure is boring. Your failure will not be so spectacular that people will write articles about your failure. Only you will remember your failure. Unless you’re the person that made the Samsung Galaxy X7. Those are the phones that literally explode. Everyone knows that person’s failure.

Nobody knows what they’re doing. Nobody does. Everyone’s winging it out there. Some people are just better at pretending to be confident. Because nobody, nobody’s done. Nobody’s cooked. People are constantly growing and evolving and changing. When I was a kid, I thought of my parents as these superheroes who knew everything, and that they were already the people they would always be. And as a grown-up, I realize they have the same struggles I do, that everybody does. They uprooted their lives and moved to America in their 50s, started over. In the last ten years, I’ve seen them change in ways I never thought possible.

I married a woman from North Carolina named Emily. That is not the wife they had pictured for me, and I never thought that they’d get over that. Emily and I got married at City Hall, we just walked in and got married. Then we flew to New Jersey so she could meet them for the first time. The first time my parents met my wife, she was my wife. And you know what they did? They threw a big Pakistani wedding. My grandfather even wrote a poem welcoming her into the family. He did rhyme Emily with family... It’s not our first language. But seeing her white Southern family and my Pakistani family celebrating together, it was so beautiful, I don’t have words. So here’s another concrete piece of advice I can give you: Have sex with an immigrant. We’re going through a tough time right now, and it’s really great for morale. And it’s one way to ensure that you will definitely be on the right side of history. They’re like, maybe this was a mistake...

Immigration is a big topic of conversation right now—do we take in refugees or not, these people are so different from us... And I will say this. Refugees are people who risked everything and left their homes in search of better lives for them and their families. What could be more American than that?

I want to take a moment to give a special shout-out to all the families of international students. To those of you who were able to be here, as nervous as you were to get through customs and immigration, I hope that you are just as proud to watch your children walk across this stage. And I hope that today, you see the America that we love.

There is a member of the House of Representatives from a district not too far from here, and I don’t want to say his name. But he said, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” Somebody else’s babies. That is not the Iowa I know. The Iowa I know understands that there is no such thing as somebody else’s babies. How can you look at a baby and say, “That is not one of my own”? I am thankful that that is not the Iowa I know. I came here and I felt out of place, I felt like I didn’t belong, and the community here made sure I didn’t feel like that for long. They welcomed me, they engaged with me, they were curious about where I was from. And this was the second place in my life that felt like home. Different, weird, but not strange.

So I’ll say, this is another thing you can do. Populate your life with people different from you. Once you leave school, you get to choose the kinds of people you’re going to be around rather than just being forced to be around them. So I encourage you to seek out people, thoughts, and opinions different from yours. It keeps you empathetic, and it gets you out of your own echo chamber. Don’t disregard opposing viewpoints. Listen to them, absorb them, oppose them if you feel that they are wrong, but allow them to affect you.

Understand the pain behind an opinion such as, “Our jobs are being stolen,” and try to empathize with it. Believe me, it is not easy. I wish it was as easy as following a couple of opposing viewpoints on Twitter, and unblocking Uncle Steve from Facebook. But he showed up for your graduation, and he gave you a card with some cash in it, be nice to the guy.

It is not that easy. You really have to listen. We cannot expect others to understand our point of view if we don’t understand theirs. And it’s uncomfortable and awkward and infuriating and it hurts your brain, but with that pain can come growth and real change. Being a fish out of water is tough, but that’s how you evolve. I think that’s scientifically accurate. I don’t know. I had a liberal arts education.

Ultimately, we are all much more similar than we are different. That is what I learned in the Iowa I loved. Our shared humanity. We’re all just looking for food, and love, and meaning. And we find that meaning with each other, with community. So take the lessons you learned in Iowa, and in Grinnell, and get out there. Engage with people. Challenge their beliefs and challenge your own. Whether it is here on this campus in the middle of cornfields, or in a village in Senegal, or in a marble hallway in D.C. Actually, D.C. would be good. Go to D.C.

Engage, care, be passionate. Because each other is all we have. This is all we got, this is all we have. And it may not be heaven, but it can be Iowa. Congratulations class of 2017. Welcome to the real world. We need you out here.

Honorary Degree Citation for Kumail Nanjiani

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Michael Latham:

In a way, Grinnell can take some credit for Kumail Nanjiani’s enormous success in comedy. When he arrived in Iowa from Karachi, Pakistan, he had never seen a standup comic before. A friend showed him a Jerry Seinfeld comedy special, and he was hooked.

After getting his start in comedy in Chicago, which included a one-man show called “Unpronounceable,” Nanjiani headed to New York to pursue work as stand-up comic. He typically performed 25 nights a month to hone his craft.

Over time, he became a go-to guest on critically beloved comic shows including the Colbert Report, Veep, Key and Peele, Broad City, and Portlandia. In 2014, he landed the role of Dinesh, a witty but hapless software engineer on the HBO hit Silicon Valley.

This summer, Nanjiani will add a new role to his already-packed resumé: movie star. Teaming up with comedy superstar and producer Judd Apatow, Nanjiani starred in the movie The Big Sick, which he co-wrote with his wife, Emily Gordon. The film is a romantic comedy about culture, illness, and relationships that is based on how Nanjiani and Gordon met and fell in love. After the movie’s wildly successful premier at Sundance earlier this year—reviews called the movie an “instantly winning heart-stealer”—Amazon landed distribution rights. The movie will premiere nationwide in July.

Beyond his television and film successes, Nanjiani brings his inimitable style to Twitter, where he has attracted more than 1 million followers. Whether politics or pop culture, Nanjiani tweets with unique insight and dark humor.

For pursuing comedy that is both incisive and deeply heartfelt, and for succeeding in this work at the very highest levels, we are pleased to recognize Kumail Nanjiani, Class of 2001.

President Raynard S. Kington:

Kumail Nanjiani, on recommendation of the faculty of this College and with approval of the Board of Trustees, I admit you to the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Summary of Board of Trustees' Meeting, April 2017

The Board of Trustees met Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, April 27-29, on campus. The following is a brief summary of the meeting.

  1. Board members dined with Early Career Faculty and Faculty Executive Council members on Thursday evening;
  2. Board members attended a session on Grinnell’s traditions, organized by the Student Government Association, on Thursday evening in the Spencer Grill;
  3. The Board heard and discussed a report concerning student success at the College, and also continued its examination of shared governance at Grinnell;
  4. The Board heard and discussed a presentation of the FY18 operating budget by Vice President for Finance Kate Walker and approved the proposed budget;   
  5. Trustees heard a report from Dean Michael Latham, who provided an update on faculty hiring and recent faculty awards;
  6. The Trustees approved the list of candidates for the Bachelor of Arts degrees in May 2017, contingent on the successful completion of degree requirements;
  7. The Board approved the award of tenure and promotion to associate professor for Jennifer Paulhus, Mathematics and Statistics Department;
  8. Angela Onwuachi-Willig ’94 gave her final report as President of the Alumni Council. She summarized the Council’s recent work and thanked the Board for the opportunity to serve and share over the last year. Peter Calvert ’79 is her successor, and John F. (Fritz) Schwaller ’69 the president-elect. The Board thanked Angela for her service;
  9. The Board members were introduced to the two SGA officers-elect who were in attendance at the meeting, President-elect Summer White ’18, and Vice President-elect for Student Affairs Kahlil Epps ’18. Current SGA President Anita DeWitt ’17 made those introductions. Vice President-elect for Academic Affairs Michaela Gelnarova ’18 was not in attendance due to her study abroad program;
  10. Trustees elected these College officers to another term: Scott Wilson ’98, Chief Investment Officer; Kate Walker, Treasurer; Susan Schoen, Secretary; Nancy Combs, Assistant Treasurer; and Angela Voos, Assistant Secretary;
  11. The Board elected four new members, Odile Disch-Bhadkamkar and Jeanne Myerson ’75 from California, Julie Gosselink from Grinnell, and Sheryl Walter ’78 from Washington, D.C.;
  12. Trustees elected Patricia Finkelman ’80, to another term as Board Chair;   
  13. The Board reelected two eligible trustees to another term: Barrett Thomas ’97 and Matthew Welch ’96;
  14. The Board attended a tour of Hotel Grinnell at 925 Park Street on Friday evening and later enjoyed dinner at the home of the President, during which the service and contributions of outgoing trustees Clint Korver ’89 and Anne Spence ’66, were celebrated.  

Patricia Finkelman ’80, Chair, Board of Trustees

Raynard S. Kington, President

Sociology Department Names 2017 Award Winners

The Sociology Department hosted a Scholarship Luncheon on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. 

Jack Thornton ‘17 and Maggie Bell ‘17 received the Judith Louise McKim Sociology Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded yearly to a top third-year or senior sociology major by the Grinnell sociology department.

Courtney Petersen ‘18 received the Sociology Book Award, which awarded annually to the sociology third-year major who has the highest GPA.