Letters to the Editor

Spring 2019

“What did you want to be when you were nine years old?” That’s how I started many career-counseling sessions back in the ’70s. Invariably, the initial response was gloomy. “Well, I wanted to be a transatlantic Concorde plane pilot, but heights make my nose bleed.” We would then set about to translate the nosebleed scenario into other air/space related possibilities and their requisite aptitudes and skills. Had lots of success but no research to bring me counseling notoriety.

So, “Blind Turns and Cryptic Crossroads” [Page 18, Winter 2018] warmed my heart, as if I needed credibility beyond Grinnell alumni status. What does being a French major have to do with career development? Contemplating career goals can seem to be a pretty, foreign exercise — no?

- Stephen Fischer ’53

As a usually proud alum of Grinnell College, class of 1984, I was shocked and appalled to read [in The Des Moines Register] that the College is fighting the unionization efforts of its students and potentially threatening the organizing rights of college students across the United States. Such action couldn’t be further from Grinnell’s proudest traditions of promoting social justice. When Debra Lukehart, a Grinnell spokesperson, argues that unionization undermines the College’s core educational mission and inserts priorities that are “economic, not educational, into learning outside the classroom,” she misses the boat. To paraphrase the U.S. Supreme Court in its Tinker v. Des Moines School Board decision from 50 years ago, students don’t shed their rights to economic justice at the schoolhouse gate. On a practical matter, less than two percent of Grinnell’s operating expenses go toward student salaries. Is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in opposing unionization really worth the risk of alienating donors and alumni who expect more from our alma mater

Editor’s note: For context, for the 2016–17 school year, institutional grant aid to students comprised about 27 percent of Grinnell’s operational budget.

- Jon Krieg ’84

A couple of years ago I posted a blog [grinnellstories.blogspot.com] devoted to appearances of Grinnell and Grinnell College in modern fiction: Stuart Kaminsky, Robert Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury all make mention of Grinnell. Kaminsky and Heinlein both had personal connections to the College, but what Bradbury’s was I don’t know. 

Later I encountered Grinnell references in several of John Grisham’s books: Runaway Jury (1994), Testament (1999), and Last Juror (2004) all mention Grinnell College. What I haven’t learned is what Grisham’s connection is to Grinnell. Were it just one mention or were Grinnell paired with similar institutions, I might conclude that it was happenstance. But the frequent mentions and the characterizations indicate that he knows something — or someone — at Grinnell. 

The online Scarlet & Black knows no reference to him except in a series of bestseller lists; the online alumni directory knows no Grisham. So I send this letter to the magazine, wondering whether any Grinnell grads out there know John Grisham or know how he came to know about Grinnell? Contact me at kaiser[at]grinnell[dot]edu.

- Daniel Kaiser

Horse jumping on farmThank you for including my notice about my first photography exhibit. I’m a 67-year-old woman, just concluding a career as a religious studies/English professor. So as I turn from my 40 years of teaching and scholarship, I’m excited to be learning a new skill and a new medium for expression — photography. I’m the owner of Free Spirit Photography LLC, and my first exhibit, Defy the Machine, paired images of horses with political images by a colleague. 

My turn toward photography was previewed by the Grinnell Activism exhibit (2012) that I curated with David Hechler ’72. He did video and text; I did the images. We supplied the archives with a treasure of original materials from the 1969–1973 era.  

I like having the “Artists and Scholars” section distinguished from “Classnotes.” It gives rightful prominence to Grinnell’s ongoing body of creativity. But, I’m very disappointed that you didn’t print one of my photos with my note. Would you reconsider? 

- A.J. Morey ’73

Once again I write to mourn the recent loss of another member of Grinnell’s English department in the 1970s. I was saddened to learn of the death of Ed Moore [“In Memoriam,” Page 50, Winter 2018). His grace, humor, and fearsome intellect created memorable introductions to the humanities and Shakespeare in his classroom. His upper-level seminar in Shakespearean studies ranks among the top three seminars of my undergraduate and graduate career. He had high expectations of his students, tempered by his sense of humor. My classmates remind me that when he called the roll, he would recite my full name, Anne Brickey Barriault, as if he were amused by its sound. His students were certainly inspired by the sounds of Shakespeare under his careful guidance. Rest in peace, Ed Moore, and thank you.

- Anne Barriault ’74

Fall 2018

I support the recommendations on climate impact, sustainability, and divestment as presented in The Grinnell Magazine Summer 2018 issue. What could be better than reducing the College’s carbon footprint? The electric utility that serves Grinnell College offers an optional program through which all (or a portion of) the College’s electricity could be renewable for a reasonable additional cost.
More than two decades ago I led a team that developed such a program for Minnesota electric cooperatives. At that time no other utility in Minnesota or Iowa offered such a program. Now most of them do. That program is easier and more cost-effective, and therefore more likely to succeed, than having the College try to develop its own renewable resources. Over time the College could add electric vehicles and electric boilers, replacing fossil-fueled vehicles and boilers, thus becoming even more renewable. It’s a way to take action that is less showy but more substantive than some of the alternatives.

- Rick Lancaster ’76

Just wanted to add my thoughts about the article “Dean of the Cage” [Summer 2018, Page 18] regarding Roger Bauman. I was one of the first student employees to work with Roger in the “cage” in the PEC [Physical Education Center] when he started in 1985, and I was subsequently one of the first to benefit from his mentoring and friendship. Roger was there for me in many ways. He fixed my car to get me home by Christmas. He organized a hayride for a friend’s surprise birthday party. And I believe my friends and I were the first of many students who have had Roger barbecue a hog for a post-Commencement party on High Street. But even more than these things were his friendship and the example he set each and every day just by being himself.
Since graduation, I’ve worked for almost 30 years in higher ed. The fact that I’m a staff member working with students, just like Roger did with me, may certainly be in part because of his influence. I hope I have been the friend and mentor to my students that Roger was for me. And now that my daughter is a high school senior and we have been touring colleges, I find myself looking at the faculty and staff on those tours and hope she will find someone like Roger to help her find her way like he did for me. I only wish there was a U.S. News & World Report list of Top 20 College Mentors. Roger and his big Grinnell family would most certainly be on that list.

- Mark Gempler ’88

In response to the letter from Daniel Litten ’94, “Your partisanship is showing” [Summer 2018, “Letters,” Page 2]: how can The Grinnell Magazine report on our school without representing values that are biased? The values which are the essence of Grinnell — ethnic and gender diversity, intellectual curiosity, help for the less fortunate, and the embrace of ugly questions — directly oppose an American president whose policies attack immigrants, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and the science of global warming.

As Grinnell students from travel-banned countries fail to return to school this fall, as transgender women have our rights rolled back under this president, as Iowa braces for climate changes that threaten its crops, why would Grinnell and its magazine not be the ideal stage for us to debate what our country and world should be?

- Marin Luria Harbur ’94

In this recent poem, I attempted to recapture something from my own experience that might resonate with other Grinnellians as well. I always felt there was something magical about the sunlight that streamed down the South Campus loggia, especially how it looked after coming down from the stress of midterm or final exams. 

One afternoon the yellow sunlight

One afternoon the yellow sunlight returned 

that used to stream down the South Campus

loggia after final exams when most of 

the students had already left for home. 

I was lying on my bed after a walk and 

there it was, coming in through the window,

the sun from 35 years before, whispering

How could you forget me? How, through the long, 

long row of windows, I spread myself thin

across the red, blue and gold bicycles, 

along the smooth grey concrete stretching

200 yards to Main Hall. Were you not cold?

- David de Young ’86

Editor’s note:

Among the three statehouse candidates profiled in the Fall 2018 story, “The Year of the Grinnell Woman,” one alumna won, one lost, and as of this writing, one is still in a virtual tie. All are Democrats. 

Laura Clymore Ellman ’87 was behind on election night by 12 votes but won her race for Illinois State Senate after mail-in votes were counted. She won by nearly 1,200 votes. In northwest Wisconsin, Kim MacDonald Butler ’83 ran for state assembly and lost by about 4,400 votes. Kayla Koether ’12 ran for a seat in Iowa House District 55 in northeast Iowa. The incumbent leads Koether by seven votes, out of 13,831 votes cast. Koether has requested a recount.

- Michele Regenold