One summer I was in Grinnell, I volunteered to drive the camping equipment from site to site for someone biking RAGBRAI [Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa]. It was mostly so I could spend some time with a girl I had a crush on. Through some miscommunication, I was accused of stealing a van, arrested, and spent two days in jail. When I told the magistrate that I was a Grinnell College student, he set my bail at $10,000. Lissa Mack ’98, my roommate at the time, had to call my parents to break the bad news. It turned out fine, although I did have to buy the person who had me arrested a new tent.
Prompt: Tell us about a memorable summer experience from when you were a Grinnell student. Who or what made it memorable?
Mitch Erickson ’72 and I spent the summer of 1971 in Grinnell as summer research fellows with Luther Erickson. Only a few science students were on campus during the summer then; the College was beautiful, peaceful, and quiet.
Our project went well, and we were eventually able to publish our results. My future husband, Craig Gordon ’71, had not been so lucky the summer before. After the compound he had worked all summer to synthesize mysteriously disappeared overnight, he decided science was not for him and went to law school. The gift to me of that summer was my growing friendship with both Luther and his wife, Jenny. They have remained important players in my life.
Grinnell’s director of facilities in the summer of 1956 took his position very seriously. Indeed, the student paint crew thought perhaps too seriously when we noted a huge staffing chart on his office wall. At the top in caps was “NORMAN P. MARBLE.” Below, the chart flowed like tributaries to the Mississippi until it included every employee under his jurisdiction, including the lowly student painters.
We decided the personnel chart was missing an important name. Painting a dotted line below and to the side of that of Mr. Marble that suggested an advisory role, a talented colleague stenciled “God.”
Thanks to funding from the Center for Careers, Life, and Service, I was able to create an internship for the summer before my senior year with my state senator, John Marty. Nicknamed the “Bernie Sanders of Minnesota,” Sen. Marty is a longtime progressive stalwart in Minnesota who has devoted his career to advocating for single-payer health care. Throughout the summer, I responded to constituents, organized a town hall, and conducted research on environmental policy. My experience forged both a lasting relationship with Sen. Marty and a passion for progressive politics in Minnesota.
Prompt: If you could travel forward or backward in time to experience Grinnell during a different era, when would you want to visit and why?
If I could time-travel to Grinnell, I would choose to go to 1898, when my maternal grandfather met my maternal grandmother. According to their Grinnell yearbooks, William Lindsay was a four-year letterman in football and baseball. Did they meet after a game? Mary Kinnick was active in a number of women’s debating clubs. Did they meet at a debate? That era was pre-in loco parentis (which ended circa 1970), where the College rule was that no young woman could allow any young man to “escort” her anywhere on campus. Did they break the rule? (I doubt it.)
Grinnell football team circa 1897
Like many people, I would have liked to experience Grinnell’s campus at the height of hippiedom. For me, that would span from 1967 to 1972.
A 1972 peace rally in Herrick Chapel featuring Richard H. Stein ’72 speaking to the attendees.
It was an exciting time of change: the end of the Cold War, the rise of technologies like email and the internet, the advent of third-wave feminism (to name a few). Plus, who wouldn’t want to dress up in neon spandex and dance to “Like A Prayer” and all the other latest releases by the likes of Madonna and Prince at the new Harris Center?
Ah, I imagine myself sitting on the steps of Mears Hall in 1905, long skirt and petticoats, hands clasped against my knees, chatting with my grandmother and her friends. We pause our conversation as a train rumbles by; I construct my question: “What impetus brought you to Grinnell?”
Those young women might demure, and, in fact, family lore says that my grandmother herself returned to Knoxville one Christmas and declared, “I’m not going back.” But she did. “Why are you here?” I might insist. And gesturing toward North Campus, “What made you realize that education is equally important for women?”
Mears Cottage circa 1895
Prompt: Team-teaching can be a powerful learning experience, and not only for the students. If you could teach any course at Grinnell with any other teacher, what would you teach and with whom?
I’d love to teach Global News Media with political science professors Eliza Willis and Wayne Moyer. I learned so much in their classes that helped me while working with the media in Costa Rica and Paraguay. The relationship between media and the government plays such a crucial role in change or hegemony around the world, from China to Russia to Turkey to the United States. We would focus both on legacy media and new media.
If the College and the Congregational Church (now United Church of Christ) are ready to revisit George Herron, George Gates, and the era of the Social Gospel movement, I would love to team-teach with a UCC clergy person, a professor of American studies, political science, perhaps even economics (since the “boogeyman” of the Social Gospel movement was the inequality created by unbridled capitalism). In Grinnell College in the Nineteenth Century – From Salvation to Service, Joe Wall ’41 cites the era as the origin of the “path which the college has continued to follow. Grinnell students in every era since have been active in protests, education on issues, support for politics, and action on causes they believe in.”