Letters to the Editor

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

Summer 2018

Kenneth A. Christiansen head shotI was saddened to read in the Spring 2018 issue of Ken Christiansen’s death and his wife’s not long afterwards [“In Memoriam,” Page 46]. I took biology from Mr. Christiansen when I was at Grinnell — I graduated in 1959. The classroom was one of those large rooms with banked seats for students. I loved the class, though I was an English and American lit major. What I remember most vividly was that during one of Mr. Christiansen’s lectures, a small squirrel climbed up out of his pocket, where it apparently spent the day, scrambled up the front of his jacket and onto his shoulder, where it peed. Mr. Christiansen smiled and went on with his lecture. What a man!

 
- Liane Ellison Norman ’59

That's So Grinnellian Winter 2016I find the use of the phrase “That’s so Grinnellian” in your regular photo feature a bit off mark. While my fellow Grinnell friends and I do use this phrase somewhat regularly and I certainly understand trying to tap into that vernacular, using it on a photo simply depicting the Grinnell campus isn’t the proper use of the phrase. The feature as it is currently curated would be more appropriately titled the somewhat less inspired but more accurate: “That’s Grinnell.”

The phrase “That’s so Grinnellian” describes that Grinnellian je ne sais quoi — the charming actions or appearance of a lovable nerd, or maybe in a more serious way, someone who is living out the social justice mission. And it should refer to a person and/or their actions — not a place. A view of the dining hall? That’s Grinnell. Taking the time to write a letter to the editor, nit-picking over the proper use of a colloquialism? That’s so Grinnellian.

 
- Thomas Agran ’09

Tom Rayfiel standing in tunnelWas there a point to “Back Talk” (Spring 2018, by Thomas Rayfiel ’80) [Page 47] besides his dislike for our president?

The article is a collection of his letters to a congressman berating him for not denouncing Donald Trump. Although the targeted congressman is a Grinnell alumnus, there is no real Grinnell angle to the piece.

Is the magazine now for denouncing public figures whose politics we oppose?

I am sure many of your readers support our president and many others oppose him. But I suggest we leave the rank partisanship to CNN and Fox News. Maybe The Grinnell Magazine can focus on Grinnell.

- Daniel Litten ’94

I read with interest the remarks of Emma Kelty-Stephen ’04 about listening to the tape of Martin Luther King Jr. [“Quote Board, Spring 2018,” Page 11]. I heard that actual speech in the old gym at Grinnell on a very early Sunday morning. I lived in Gates so it was a short walk, but I remember thinking what the hell am I doing at this hour? I kept telling myself it was a chance, and sadly as it turned out, the only chance, to see Martin Luther King Jr., an already historic figure. 

The speech (sermon) was incredibly powerful, and I was absolutely blown away. Hearing him set me on a course, or confirmed my course, for the rest of my life. I don’t even remember exactly what he said. But his powerful voice, his humility and dignity moved me deeply. His basic message was “Respect everyone.” You don’t get to pick and choose — you must respect and love everyone. At the time, he was being excoriated by the right for the usual reasons, and the left for being, among other things, nonviolent. Yet he talked and lived this message. 

Although I have often fallen short of his ideal, I have always tried to do as he preached — I breathe deeply and try to make a mental bridge to each person. This has been particularly difficult since the Trump election but is even more necessary now. I wrote about this speech in a long-ago article that appeared in the Arizona Attorney during a time of personal challenge. 

I’m thrilled that someone else was moved by the speech. The sound of a train going by brings it all back and makes it real.

- Bob Van Wyck ’69

The “In Memoriam” section of the Spring 2018 edition has a too-small, too-chilly entry about my cherished friend and Grinnell life trustee and luminary, Fred Little [“In Memoriam, Spring 2018,” Page 46]. “Fritz” was as loving as he was accomplished, and just before he died we spoke wet-eyed about the losses of our classmates of  ’53. He and I were particularly fond of the Oliver Wendell Holmes poem, “The Boys,” written for the poet’s Harvard reunion. In the soft-edged memory of our college classmates, we’ll always be boys.

“HAS there any old fellow got mixed with the boys?

If there has, take him out, without making a noise.

Hang the Almanac’s cheat and the Catalogue’s spite!

Old Time is a liar! We’re twenty to-night!”

 
- Harvey Golden ’53

Fred Little headshotThe “In Memoriam” section of the Spring 2018 edition has a too-small, too-chilly entry about my cherished friend and Grinnell life trustee and luminary, Fred Little [“In Memoriam, Spring 2018,” Page 46]. “Fritz” was as loving as he was accomplished, and just before he died we spoke wet-eyed about the losses of our classmates of  ’53. He and I were particularly fond of the Oliver Wendell Holmes poem, “The Boys,” written for the poet’s Harvard reunion. In the soft-edged memory of our college classmates, we’ll always be boys.

“HAS there any old fellow got mixed with the boys?

If there has, take him out, without making a noise.

Hang the Almanac’s cheat and the Catalogue’s spite!

Old Time is a liar! We’re twenty to-night!”

 
- Harvey Golden ’53