Letters to the Editor

Spring 2017

Thank you for the article on Katie Krainc’s project, and congratulations to her on her work.

I recall that Robert Ruhl ’76, a student in the music department, built a harpsichord under the direction of Professor James Wyly in the early 1970s.

There was another student in that era who had a Watson [Fellowship] to play and record his violin in baroque churches in Italy. I forget his name and I remember that someone stole his recording equipment.

I was associate librarian at Grinnell and James Wyly was professor of music. We were on the faculty 1968–1976.

- Mary Porter Wyly ’62

Thanks to Mervat Youssef for her insight and perspective on the 2016 presidential election. I know many Trump supporters voted for “part” of what they thought they were hearing, and I know many are hoping that America is “greater” than the egotistical corporate dishonesty and pettiness to which we’ve been treated since. 

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” My forefathers fought for, and I believe in, the America to which Mervat has pledged her allegiance and is hanging on to. To the extent this new government advances social justice, responsible freedom, and economic prosperity (for all) — fundamental American values, I welcome their work. Should they continue trafficking in deceit, doubt, misdirection, and contradiction (“gaslighting”), every one of us should be prepared to correct their apprehension that “the American people don’t care,” or worse, that we’re too simple to know the difference. 

- Michael Eaton ’71

Winter 2016

I imagine that others have already pointed out a misidentified freshman class picture on Page 16 of the [Fall 2016] issue of The Grinnell Magazine. Although labeled as the class of 1957, it is actually the newly arrived (in 1957) class of 1961.

- Marc Rhoades ’61

I suspect other class members have already alerted you to the incorrect date on the photo on Page 16. I am class of 1961; we came to Grinnell in 1957, and I can clearly recognize myself and many many others in the photo. Another good magazine. 

- Judy Mahle Lutter ’61

I am a little confused re. your “Then and Now” photo on Pages 16–17 of the Fall 2016 issue of The Grinnell Magazine. The inset photo was taken in the fall of 1957. I am the person second from the right of the people sitting in front on the ground. I always thought we were the class of 1961.

The young people in the larger picture apparently had their photo taken fall 2016 and are designated the class of 2020.

So which is it? Are we the class of 1957 and the youngsters the class of 2016, or are we the class of 1961, and they are the class of 2020? Just checking.

- Anna C. Forder ’61

I thoroughly enjoyed Erin Peterson ’98’s “Untold History of Great Grinnell Pranks.” This will add to the record. My classmates were not inert during the 1960s. I recall [a few] events causing local consternation, and at least one wire story.

In a winter of the 1960s, an unusually heavy snowfall blanketed the campus. Being anxious to help with snow removal, a number of young students brought their shovels overnight to the Carnegie building. The next morning, the entrance to the lower level mail room was filled with ice. Many professors in offices above the mail room got to know students better as they trooped through Carnegie Hall, down the stairs, and back up again.

I first heard of the Great Silverware Caper while driving in Minneapolis about 1 a.m. in my mother’s Nash Rambler. The radio reported that “students at Grinnell College, Iowa, awoke this morning to find their dining room silverware being cleaned at the bottom of the chlorine water swimming pool.” Then-Saga Fred [Frederick Huggins Jr., then-director of Saga Food Service] dived for the silver.

It turned out that the caper was incomplete in that some silverware stored in hidden places was missed.  Some considered this a blot on an otherwise creative caper.

I was witness to some of these events, but obviously not all.  Those my colleagues left me out of grieved me a little at the time.  Adolescent energy was expended without anyone hurt, at little cost, and with great, sputtering inconvenience to some.  Perhaps those qualities make these good pranks?

 

- Steve Aldrich ’63

Fall 2016

I’ve noticed that you have made a subtle change to the format for alumni receiving advanced degrees. Previously, it was always at the end of the “Classnotes” section. Now, it is included with news within the person’s class.

As an undergrad, I knew I wanted to attend graduate school. However, my senior year, despite having been accepted at several programs, I decided that I should take a break from academia. This was, in retrospect, a very good decision.

As I got busy with other things, I stopped thinking about graduate school. But I was always a little wistful about it; and you know, there was this whisper in my ear every time I read The Grinnell Magazine.

At first, I saw that the advanced degrees were mostly afforded to people from my class. But if you watched the advanced degrees section as though it were a narrative unfolding, you couldn’t help noticing that even though the majority of the degrees were from the cohort that had recently graduated, one or two random stragglers would come round the bend.

Grinnellians sometimes took nontraditional paths through higher education. Every time I saw that someone who had graduated 10, 20, 30 years earlier was just now finishing their advanced degree, it gave me a little boost of inspiration. It wasn’t that I hadn’t gotten there; it was that I hadn’t gotten there yet.

I finally received my Ph.D. in May of 2015, 30 years after graduating from Grinnell. And I confess I was a little disappointed that my Classnotes announcement was in the classes section rather than in a separate section. I knew that, like me, most people probably only read the notes from their cohort. I had pridefully hoped that my accomplishment might offer some inspiration, or perhaps just a subtle reminder to another alum who might have put it off that their advanced degree is still out there, waiting for them.

 

- Heidi Brumbaugh ’85

From the editor: Ken Burns, documentary filmmaker, gave the keynote address at Stanford University’s 2016 Commencement. Rep. Tom Cole ’71, R.-Okla., spoke at Grinnell’s Commencement. Both addresses are available for viewing on YouTube.

Ken Burns, in his Stanford commencement speech this year, impassionedly told the graduates: “For 216 years, our elections, though bitterly contested, have featured the philosophies and character of candidates who were clearly qualified. That is not the case this year. One is glaringly not qualified…. [one] is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything, offering only bombastic and contradictory promises, and terrifying Orwellian statements; a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan.”

Congressman Tom Cole ’71, recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree at Commencement, gave this election advice to the graduates: “It doesn’t matter whether you are on the left or the right. First, look for an institutionalist — someone who believes in the institutions of the country, who believes in fair play, who believes in open elections, who believes in the public process and understands something about the institutions he or she wants to lead.”

Rep. Cole had the audacity to say his words to the graduates while not disavowing the man Ken Burns described above who threatens our institutions. He even urged the graduates that “when you confront something, be willing to take the risk. And be willing to see it through to the end.” I really hope that the congressman’s position has changed by the time you read this, for his sake and our country’s.
 

- Austin Frerick ’12

Thanks for your great article on the history of "Concerned Black Students" (Summer 2016). I would love to see additional articles about the history of other minority groups at Grinnell.

- Jacob Sagrans ’09

Summer 2016

Career change is well articulated in “Right Livelihoods” (Spring 2016). Career change was not always acknowledged as an appropriate remedy for employment malaise. Indeed, the notion of “giving up” a job was seen as aberrational at best, mentally ill — insane — at worst. In the ’70s when I was a career counselor, work certified [one’s] status as an honorable citizen. Absent this confirmation brought self-assessment of disgrace and socially raised eyebrows. Ironically, it was the extent of unemployment at that time that brought about tolerance for being out of work and nurturance of career change as an acceptable strategy.
I am pleased to have a special relationship to career counseling at Grinnell. The College’s first career counselor spent a week training with me.
 

- Stephen Fischer ’53