I loved reading the article “Portrait of a Teacher: George Drake ’56” [Page 20, Summer 2017]. I formed a special relationship with George. To this day, I believe in the phrase “everything happens for a reason” in large part due to our meeting. The year George took over as College president, 1979, I was elected SGA [Student Government Association] president. I ran on a unique campaign proclaiming myself “not just president for the next year, but messiah for the coming millennium.” The campaign was printed in papers nationally by UPI and caused quite an uproar among conservative ministers and others. (I wonder how much worse it would have been with the Internet.) It seems they didn’t have my sense of humor.
I had no idea what to expect from a man who went to seminary. And I had heard from other SGAers that the previous president, A. Richard Turner, was very serious about how SGA was run, although I had no interaction with him. Was I going to find the same sentiments with George?
Of course, George couldn’t have been more opposite those concerns: He was very open-minded with a profound sense of humor. I remember initially and nervously addressing him as “President Drake” and he responded — with that great smile and a handshake — “SGA President Kramer.” We laughed, I learned to call him George, and from that moment on I felt comfortable around him. I would meet with George regularly to update him on student happenings. He never judged or interrupted. He was engaged and interested in everything I discussed with him, as was I with his suggestions. We worked together to make student life a little bit more interesting that year.
In those days, we had a Skip Day, announced by the SGA president on KDIC. Some of the professors, especially in the sciences, were against this inconvenient nonacademic intrusion and scheduled tests for that morning. George was very supportive, feeling Skip Day was an important part of student life. He always seemed to be on the students’ side. In retrospect, this was one of the best years of my life in no small measure due to George’s enthusiasm for Grinnell.
It is so nice to read George is still actively teaching and engaging students with humor and open-mindedness. I hope to hear he is still doing so into his 100s!