In Memoriam

Fall 2017

  • David C. Skinner ’69, Bisbee, Ariz., June 4, 2017.

  • Christopher R. Owen ’70, Superior, Wis., Feb. 16, 2017. Chris served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and then went to work for CenturyTel, a telecommunications company in Wisconsin. In his retirement, Chris was a frequent car show attendee with his ’56 Buick convertible. He also volunteered at a local veterans’ museum. He is survived by his wife Julie Owen, four children, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. 

  • Kate Lester Vasha ’70, Saguache, Colo., April 28, 2017.

  • John D. Watkins ’77, Des Moines, Iowa, April 14, 2017. After finishing his degree at Graceland University, John worked at Iowa Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines on the Inpatient Adolescent Psychiatric Unit. John was passionate about education and often visited schools to share his love of reading with students. He also tutored students in mathematics. John is survived by his wife Priscilla Watkins and their daughter. 

  • Nathan Hadley ’93, Madison, Ind., June 1, 2017. Nathan died at age 45 after a long battle with chronic depression. He was a college and career-readiness coordinator for Madison Consolidated School Corp. He was also president of the board at the local Girls Inc., an advocacy group that equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers. Since graduating from Grinnell, he never missed the annual Super Bowl gathering of his best Grinnell buddies, whom he met during their first year in Rawson Hall. Survivors include his wife Kathryn Gold Hadley ’92.

  • Jessica Southard ’10, Des Moines, Iowa, June 20, 2017. Jessica died in a house fire while visiting an aunt in Algona, Iowa. After Jessica graduated with honors in history and gender, women’s, and sexuality studies, she spent a year working with at-risk youth as an AmeriCorps volunteer. In fall 2016 she began law school at Mitchell-Hamline Law School, where she was on the dean’s list both semesters and taught constitutional law to underserved students at a local high school in her spare time. Survivors include her sister Emily Southard ’15 and uncle Ben Whitehill ’51.

Summer 2017

  • Mary Joan Kuyper Farver ’41, Pella, Iowa, Feb. 27, 2017. Joan graduated from Grinnell with a degree in music. She met her husband Paul Farver in Washington, D.C., during World War II. They returned to Pella, where Paul took a job at Rolscreen Co., now Pella Corp., a window and door manufacturer founded by Joan’s father in 1925. Following the deaths of Joan’s father and brother in the early 1980s, she became chair of the board of Rolscreen Co. at age 61. In 1995 she became chair emerita and replaced her factory walks with factory golf-cart rides. She served on several boards, including Central College, Iowa Public Television, P.H. and E. Lucille Gaass Kuyper Foundation, Pella Rolscreen Foundation, and Joan Kuyper Farver Foundation. She is survived by a son and two daughters, including Suzanne Farver ’77, as well as eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

    Margaret Holmes Eaton ’42, Urbandale, Iowa, Feb. 26, 2017. A Waterloo, Iowa, native, Margaret moved to Tennessee after graduating from Grinnell to work for the Tennessee Valley Authority. Not long after, she married her college sweetheart, Mayhew “Make” Eaton ’42, who died in 2004. She then worked as a homemaker and volunteer in Waukon, Iowa, for the Waukon Hospital Auxiliary, Meals on Wheels, and a battered women’s and children’s program. She also mentored elementary school girls and provided meals for children. She is survived by her three children, six grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren.

    Alfred L. Frisbie ’43, Omaha, Neb., Feb. 24, 2017. Al had journalism in his blood. His dad was publisher of the Grinnell Herald-Register when Al was born in Grinnell. After serving in the Marine Corps during World War II and earning a Purple Heart in the battle for Okinawa, Al took a job with the Omaha World-Herald. He served as a general assignment reporter and columnist and also as a sports writer, copy editor, makeup editor, and Saturday edition editor. His column frequently featured his black cat, Pepper, with whom Al had verbal sparring matches about various issues. It was a chance to let his humor shine. Recipient of a College Alumni Award, Al served as a class agent whose letters left his readers laughing and in tears. He ended each letter with a crossword puzzle. 

    Lois Gregg Sayre ’43, Portland, Ore., Oct. 31, 2016. Survivors include her sons, Gregg Sayre ’72 and William Sayre ’76; daughter in-law, Susan Hartman Sayre ’73; and grandson, Matthew Sayre ’99

    Henrietta Hayson Nichols ’44, Worthington, Ohio, Jan. 1, 2017. Henrietta completed her bachelor’s degree at Northwestern University in organic chemistry. She married a career Army officer, Wayne Nichols ’44, and lived in many different places, including Japan and France. She and Wayne moved to Ohio when he retired from the army. She liked to do handwork such as knitting, crocheting, and taught herself to tat, which was very hard and resulted in lots of snarls. She and her daughter ran a crafting business called Creative Critters and Crafts. She is survived by her son, two grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter. 

    Laurence “Lorenzo” Mills ’45, Pella, Iowa, Jan. 5, 2017. Lorenzo was a Drake University graduate and a Fulbright scholar. He earned his M.F.A. from the University of Georgia and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He taught art and art history at Central College in Pella for 43 years. His specialty of Mayan art history earned him the honor of a period of ceramics — the Mills Period — being named after him. His wife, Evangeline Lubbers, preceded him in death. He is survived by his three children.

    Ethel “Caroline” Furbay Huggett ’47, Madison, Wis., March 16, 2017. Caroline earned a bachelor’s from Grinnell, majoring in music, and a master of music education degree from Indiana University. She taught school music in Michigan and Indiana before raising her four children with husband Richard in Baton Rouge, La., and teaching private piano lessons after her children were grown. An accomplished pianist, Caroline also had talents for singing, drawing, sewing, and knitting. In her later years she had an enthusiasm for politics and college basketball in addition to her passion for classical music. She played piano for her fellow residents at Oakwood Village in Madison and was noted for “swinging” the hymns. Survivors include her children and five grandchildren. 

    Doris Marvin Patton ’47, Daphne, Ala., Aug. 19, 2016. Survivors include her daughter Jo Patton ’75.

    George R. Bedell ’48, Wallingford, Conn., Jan. 2, 2017. George, a native Missourian, attended Iowa State College and Miami University of Ohio while enrolled in the V-12 Navy training program. He then graduated from Grinnell College and traveled to Mexico to continue his studies. While in Mexico, he met Marilyn “Mimi” Berg ’52 of Chicago. He contracted polio but learned to walk again before marrying her in the Mexico City hospital chapel on Nov. 18, 1954. In recent years, he felt the effects of post-polio syndrome, but his mind remained active. He volunteered at the North Haven, Conn., historical society, read poetry, researched genealogy, and excelled at puttering. He wore the bottoms of his trousers rolled, though he could no longer hear the mermaids singing, nor walk along the beach. Survivors include his wife, Mimi, and niece Moira Buchan Buhse ’57

    Marion Capraro Mattucci ’48, River Forest, Ill., Nov. 28, 2016. She is survived by three children, 11 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. 

    Cornelia Findlay Odom ’49, Gainesville, Fla., Aug., 21, 2016. Born in Grinnell, Iowa, Cornelia graduated from Drury College in Springfield, Mo., with a bachelor’s degree in flute. She earned a master’s in music education from Butler University. She taught private flute lessons and was a grade-school music teacher in Martinsville, Ind., and active on several music and arts boards. She was married to George Thurman Odom Jr. for 45 years, until his death in 1995. She is survived by three children, five grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter. 

    Beverly Culver Oltman ’49, Cedar Falls, Iowa, Jan. 12, 2017. After attending Grinnell, Beverly earned a degree in journalism from the University of Iowa. She worked at the University of Northern Iowa, in the art department, for 20 years. She was preceded in death by her husband, Max Oltman, who died in 2003. She is survived by their four children. 

    Renée Petri Raggio ’49, Wilton, Conn., Jan. 6, 2017. Renée earned a master’s in education at Western Connecticut State College and taught special education in Norwalk, Conn. She helped create the program for gifted and talented students and served as vice president of the teachers union. Her husband, Eugene Raggio, who died in 2014, was her best friend. She is survived by her three children.

    William Knight ’50, St. Helens, Ore., Dec. 26, 2016. A lifelong hunter and outdoorsman, Bill died in a duck blind after bagging two mallards that morning. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics-business and earned his M.B.A. from Northwestern University in 1958. He worked in human resources for Continental Can and Crown Zellerbach and retired from James River in 1988. Bill was funny, insightful, and known for his ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. He was preceded in death by his wife, Christine. He is survived by his partner, Brenda Meece, four children, and seven grandchildren.

    David Mooberry ’50, Kennett Square, Pa., Jan. 1, 2017. After Dave graduated from Grinnell College, he went to Purdue University and earned a doctorate in organic chemistry. In 1953 he married FM Gilpin, and they enjoyed 62 years of life together before she died in 2015. A 34-year career at DuPont provided unlimited opportunities leading away from the laboratory to such activities as running the “Prettiest Legs at the 1964 World’s Fair” contest and exploring for oil and gas in a joint venture with Conoco. Survivors include his daughter, son, and granddaughter Elizabeth Mooberry-Roberts ’10

    Georgia Battin Roberts ’50, Seattle, Nov. 5, 2016. 

    Glenn A. Saunders ’50, Lenexa, Kan., Jan. 18, 2017. Glenn played basketball and baseball at Grinnell and was on one of the first teams coached by John Pfitsch in the late 1940s. He earned a master’s in education at the University of Kansas and used to take students to Grinnell College for visits. His wife, Marion, preceded him in death by three weeks. He is survived by three sons.

    Nancy Dearborn Knipe ’52, Bernardston, Mass., Feb. 21, 2017. 

    Charmayne Wilke Kreuz ’52, Lake Forest, Ill., March 4, 2017. Charmayne earned a bachelor’s in English/journalism from Grinnell College. Upon graduation she began her lifelong work in public relations with Daniel J. Edelman Co. in Chicago. Later while in Menlo Park, Calif., she wrote and published the history of Menlo Park for its centennial celebration. Returning to the Midwest, she served as director of public information for the city of Lake Forest and was instrumental in the success of its Depot Day Dedication, Christmas-tree lighting ceremonies, the beachfront restoration project, and Friends of the Library. Charmayne was preceded in death by her husband, Frank, and one stepson. She is survived by her stepchildren, 11 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. 

    Janet Knierim Pease ’52, Cedar Falls, Iowa, Feb. 18, 2017. Although Jan spent most of her life in Middle America, she always looked forward to being near water, whether it meant sailing or spending several months of the year in Florida. She is survived by her husband, Roger Pease, whom she married in 1979, as well as a daughter, a son, two stepdaughters, two stepsons, and six grandchildren. 

    Paula King Adams ’53, Custer, S.D., Jan. 25, 2017. Paula and her husband, Frederick “Fritz” Adams ’53, were dairy farmers in Nebraska for many years. Paula also founded Honey Bear Preschool in the early 1970s, sold real estate, and worked as a librarian’s assistant in the public schools of Alliance, Neb. Survivors include her husband, three children, 10 grandchildren, and a great-grandson. 

    John G. Reddan Jr. ’53, White Bear Lake, Minn., March 24, 2017. Jack was a class fund director, class committee member, and 1997 Alumni Award recipient. A psychology and statistics major at Grinnell, he served as student council president and was active in theatre, college choir, and glee club. His 30-year career with Sperry/Univac/Unisys featured managerial stints in Germany and Brazil. A longtime member of First Presbyterian Church of White Bear Lake, Jack was active with Familia de Fe, the Presbytery of the Twin Cities, and Lakeshore Players. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Dorothy Jordan Reddan ’53. Jack is survived by his wife, Terrie Arfi; his sister, Ann Reddan Rustebakke ’49; five children; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. 

    J. Robert Maytag ’53, Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 6, 2017. Bob was a rancher, businessman, politician, and philanthropist. He was involved in local and national Democratic politics and served as mayor of Woodland Park, Colo., in the early 1960s. He then became Colorado Democratic Party State chairman and a member of the Democratic National Committee. He attended two presidential conventions. Bob’s passion for running began when he was 50 and he ran his first marathon, which led to 95 marathons around the world. He is survived by his wife, Margaret, five children, three stepchildren, and six grandchildren. 

    Nancy Cross Lyon ’55, Manistee, Mich., Feb. 4, 2017. Nancy earned a bachelor’s in education at Grinnell. Her 27-year career included teaching grades one through eight. She retired from teaching in 1992 and moved to Manistee,  where she involved herself in the artistic, cultural, and educational institutions, directing at least 12 plays. Her husband Bayard Lyon preceded her in death. She’s survived by two children, four stepchildren, and two grandchildren.

    Carl H. Runge Jr. ’55, Collinsville, Ill., Dec. 31, 2016. After Grinnell, Carl served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. He earned his law degree at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. When Bobby Kennedy became U.S. Attorney General, Carl became part of the “Irish Mafia,” a group of lawyers working for Kennedy, including on the Hoffa squad in Detroit to find out if Jimmy O’Brien killed him. As a special assistant in New Orleans, Carl enforced federal civil rights laws, advocating for the first women and African Americans to serve on federal juries. He opened his own law practice in Illinois in 1976, retiring in 2016. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Marla Case Runge; two daughters; and two grandchildren.

    Lorene Bialek Lehrer ’56, Dyer, Ind., Dec. 31, 2016. She was preceded in death by her husband Richard Lehrer ’56 and is survived by their three children. 

    Robert K. Wolfe ’56, Glencoe, Ill., March 25, 2017. Bob attended Grinnell College from 1952–54, then graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s in economics in 1956. He served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and was promoted to captain in 1959. After his military service, he founded Utilities Inc. and was involved with the company for many years. Survivors include his wife, Diana, his children, and grandchildren. 

    Arthur J. Grana ’57, La Crosse, Wis., April 30, 2016. After graduating from Grinnell, Arthur went to the Chicago Osteopathic School of Medicine and completed his surgical residency in Detroit at Botsford-Zieger Osteopathic Hospital. He practiced surgery in Colorado Springs, Colo., for three decades. An avid hunter in his younger years, Arthur enjoyed sailing, dancing, and scuba diving. After retiring, he built with his own two hands his cabin in the Colorado Rockies. Arthur enjoyed a good conversation, a good cup of coffee, a pet on his lap, and the joy he found with his friends and family, whom he loved dearly. He is survived by his wife, Anita, his daughters, and his grandsons. 

    Barbara “Roo” Farries Hornady ’57, Pacific Grove, Calif., March 12, 2017. After graduating from Grinnell College, Roo traveled through Europe for a year. She then began a teaching career at the Kirkwood, Mo.,  high school while studying and performing dance and theatre. She married Robert “Bear” Hornady in 1962. Among the first Peace Corps volunteers, she and Bear taught in Nigeria from 1963 to 1965. After returning from the Peace Corps, they lived in Nebraska, Maryland, Germany, California, and finally retired in Pacific Grove. Roo enjoyed acting in the Monterey area and played the role of Mrs. Fish, the lighthouse keeper, at Point Pinos in Pacific Grove most weekends for several years. She is remembered for her courage to create her own lifestyle, her love of Bear, her care of cats needing extra attention, her willingness to listen, and her encouragement and generosity to others.

    Joel Pucek Culley ’58, Pacific Palisades, Calif., Dec. 30, 2016. Survivors include his wife, Patricia Reibig Culley ’58.

    Mary Lewis Brylowski ’58, Kalamazoo, Mich., Jan. 6, 2017. After Mary graduated from Grinnell, she earned a master’s in education from Western Michigan University. She was an elementary school teacher for more than 25 years in the Otsego, Mich., public schools. During that time she helped bring the Odyssey of the Mind program to Otsego and served on the state board. Her husband, Arthur Brylowski, preceded her in death. She is survived by their children and grandchildren. 

    Betty Jo Lanier Jenkins ’58, Oberlin, Ohio, Nov. 11, 2016. After her first college year at Grinnell, Betty transferred to Barnard College, where she earned a B.A. in history. She received a master’s in library service from Columbia University and a master’s in American history from New York University. Betty worked at college and special libraries including the Howard University Library, the Metropolitan Applied Research Center, and the Morris Cohen Library of City College of New York. Survivors include her husband, Adelbert, and her son.

    Carl A. Adkins ’59, Asheville, N.C., Jan. 27, 2017. Carl earned his degree in English and then joined the U.S. Army the following year, where he taught English to Puerto Rican recruits. He earned a master’s at the University of Idaho, taught high school English for a few years, and then found a job on the faculty at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, in 1966. He earned his doctorate in English from Kansas State University in 1972. At Buena Vista he taught English composition, creative writing, literature, and poetry and was known for initiating the BVU Shakespeare Bowl and the first African American and women’s literature curricula in Iowa. He served as class agent for 16 years. He was also a member of his class committee and Alumni Council from 2010 to 2014. Survivors include his spouse, Catherine Foster Alter ’60; his son, Charles Adkins-Blanch ’84; and stepdaughter, Sarah Alter-Gershon ’85

    Gary J. Thurston ’62, Wakefield, R.I., March 18, 2017. Gary graduated with honors in history and Phi Beta Kappa from Grinnell College. He received a master’s in 1965 and Ph.D. in history in 1973 from Columbia University. A postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute, he conducted research in post-Soviet Russia. Gary retired in 2011 from the University of Rhode Island, where he had been a faculty member specializing in Russian and European history. He authored The Popular Theatre Movement in Russia 1862–1919, as well as numerous essays, reviews, and publications. Survivors include three brothers, a niece, and nine nephews.

    J. Michael Davis ’64, Centennial, Colo., Dec. 5, 2016. Survivors include his siblings, R. Hunt Davis Jr. ’61 and Nana Davis Horton ’67; brother-in-law, Anthony Horton ’65; and daughter, Molly Davis Slate ’01

    Frederic E. Smith ’64, Bismarck, N.D., March 6, 2017. After college, Fred worked as a publicist for Valley Music Hall in Salt Lake City and in the baggage room for the Union Pacific Railroad in Cheyenne, Wyo. In 1972, spurred by his interest in the fur trade and the Mandan Indians, he and his family moved to New Salem, N.D. Fred wrote a conservative political column for The Bismarck Tribune and was hired as a reporter in 1985. Later, he was named opinion page editor. He retired from the Tribune in 2005. He is survived by his wife, Linda, two daughters, a son, and six grandchildren.

    James B. Fox ’65, Dallas Center, Iowa, March 12, 2017. Jim earned a degree in American studies at Grinnell, after which he went home to join his father and grandfather at Fox Insurance. He was president of the board of directors of the Dallas Mutual Insurance Association, a Paul Harris Fellow, and a 50-year member of the Dallas Center Rotary Club. A class committee member, his hobbies included everything imaginable about trains. Indeed a ferroequinologist, he was a logophile with a colorful vocabulary and a quirky sense of humor. His favorite place was the family cabin in Minnesota. Jim was a kind man with a big heart, a quick wit, and a warm smile. His goal was to “retire to a life of running with the devil at night, and walking with the Lord in the morning.” He is survived by his wife, Lynn, four children, and four grandchildren.

    Gretchen Brewer ’67, San Diego, Feb. 21, 2017. Gretchen graduated from Grinnell with a B.A. in English and secondary education. A 2006 Alumni Award recipient, she was an activist and recycling consultant who helped pioneer the field in the United States. She started her career at the Resource Center in Chicago and later became recycling coordinator and regional planner for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, designing plastics recycling and scrap tire recovery plans for the commonwealth. Fiercely independent and creative, she returned to being a consultant. As principal of Earth Circle Conservation and Recycling, Gretchen spearheaded buy-recycled procurement projects — which won a White House Closing-the-Circle award — for the U.S. naval stations in San Diego and in Hawaii. A board member for the GrassRoots Recycling Network, Gretchen is credited with helping start the zero waste movement in the United States. 

    David Russell Dillon ’67, St. Louis, Mo. March 22, 2017. Born in Ohio, David grew up in Des Moines before attending Grinnell College, where he met the love of his life, Adrienne Lemmons ’68. After graduating from Grinnell, he earned a master’s in the history of ideas from Brandeis University. He taught history at the University of South Florida before returning to Boston to begin a career in business and writing. Later on, he worked as a radio journalist in Des Moines, published a small weekly newspaper, and wrote religious poetry with autobiographical elements. David was also active in the National Federation of the Blind for many years. Survivors include his wife and son.

    Randy S. Goldenhersh ’68, Breckenridge, Colo., Jan. 31, 2015. 

    Richard W. Sprott ’68, Angel Fire, N.M., Feb. 14, 2017. Rick was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He was also an active volunteer. He was a board member of the National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center, a volunteer at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park, and chair of the village of Angel Fire’s wildfire protection and sustainability committees. 

    Marilyn Miller Super ’69, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, Feb. 12, 2017. Marilyn graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Grinnell and then earned a master of arts in Spanish literature at the University of Washington and a master of education in school counseling at the University of British Columbia. After brief teaching positions at Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria, Marilyn devoted more than 35 years to high school teaching in multiple disciplines, lifelong learning, and teacher association service. Marilyn’s junior year abroad in Madrid, Spain, developed into a lifelong passion for travel. On dozens of trips to Europe she honed her Spanish, French, and Italian; visited countless galleries; and savored fine cuisine. Marilyn will be remembered by her many friends as loyal, fun-loving, and compassionate. Survivors include her husband, Douglas “Skip” Super ’69; a daughter; and a sister.

    Stephanie Scherich King ’70, Springdale, Ark., Jan. 1, 2017. Stephanie worked in the human resources field for 15 years. She is survived by her husband, Gordon, her son, two stepdaughters, 10 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. 

    Joel K. Stephens ’74, Washington Depot, Conn., Nov. 11, 2016.

    John F. Curtis ’82, Raleigh, N.C., Jan. 11, 2017. Survivors include his mother and his two daughters.

    Jonathan H. Webb ’83, Cudahy, Wis., Feb. 23, 2017. Jonathan majored in French at Grinnell. He worked in the registrar’s office at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, for 30 years. He is survived by his mother and siblings.

    Joseph M. LaJeunesse ’91, Toluca Lake, Calif., Jan. 17, 2017. Joseph died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He enjoyed his career in the entertainment industry in California. He worked originally for Amblin Entertainment and Dreamworks and then for Walt Disney Studios and NBC/Universal. He is survived by his parents and many friends.

    Patrick Kennedy-Nolle ’16, Bedford, N.Y., Dec. 29, 2016. He is survived by his parents, siblings, and grandmothers.

  • John "Jack" C. Dawson, professor emeritus of economics, died Nov. 22, 2016, in Grinnell, Iowa. He was 90.

    Jack joined the College faculty in 1957, the same year he completed his doctorate in economics at Cornell University, where he specialized in monetary economics and fiscal policy.

    He taught at Grinnell for nearly 40 years. Throughout his career he served as an economist with the Federal Reserve Board, as a consultant to the World Bank, and as a consultant to the International Monetary Fund. He also did mission work with the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development to evaluate financial systems in places such as Ghana, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast.

    While visiting professor of economics at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, from 1969 to 1971, Jack developed a friendship with the late John Garang ’69, leader of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and former Grinnell economics student. Garang lived with Jack and his wife in 1970 while they were in Africa. 


  • Saadi Abid Simawe, professor emeritus of English, died Feb. 19, 2017, in Iowa City, Iowa, following a battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 70.

    Saadi joined Grinnell’s English department in 1992 and earned his doctorate in African American literature from the University of Iowa in 1994. His teaching and research interests included Arabic language and literature, Middle Eastern literatures, and the study of literary interconnections between the West and the Islamic East.

    A native of Iraq, Saadi was imprisoned as a dissident under Saddam Hussein during the 1970s. He came to the United States for graduate studies and never returned to Iraq. After becoming a U.S. citizen, he frequently traveled abroad to maintain a close network with the Iraqi diaspora. He was well known as a sensitive translator and an advocate for Arabic literature, particularly Iraqi art and literature.

    A scholar whose body of work bridged cultures, he was known to deploy a formidable wit and a wonderfully plastic sense of language to confront the sorrows of history. When asked how he could be against Saddam and yet also against the Iraq War, he reportedly replied mischievously, “This is why you need a liberal arts education!” 


  • Tribute to Jack Dawson

    This is by no means an adequate tribute to Professor Emeritus Jack Dawson. I feel obliged to say this because his academic field and mine were leagues apart, and I have only the sketchiest sense of where his special expertise lay and of his achievements strictly within his profession. In our acquaintance he shunned self-puffery of all kinds, and in a way my vagueness concerning his curriculum vitae introduces the point I want to make about Professor Dawson’s distinctive contribution to Grinnell College. 

    From the time Jack Dawson joined the faculty in 1957 until many years after his retirement, he embodied in an unassertive, but always in an uncommonly discerning and constructive way, the idea of wide-ranging involvement in the life of the College. I’ll limit myself to just three examples of Jack’s resourceful support for what can only be described by the possibly annoying but nonetheless essential term, “the campus culture.”  

    When the Forum was scheduled to replace the Student Union, a building left over from World War II, a committee representing the various campus constituencies was formed to work with the chosen architectural firm. Every good thing about the Forum, both in intention and realization, from the coffeehouse to the private dining rooms, owes a large debt to Jack Dawson’s discerning input. The overall elegance and appealing tone of the whole building are a tribute to his conscientious care and meticulous judgment.

    Jack very often served on the Public Events Committee; and even in years when he was not an official member, his exacting standards and patient example continued to inspire its work. His role in choosing those cultural occasions loosely named “public events,” no less than in the case of the building of Grinnell’s Forum, entailed a responsibility that was not only considerable but entirely “extra-curricular.”  That’s to say voluntary and uncompensated.  It’s refreshing to recall how wholeheartedly Jack applied himself to such work and how, so it seemed, he relished it.

    That goes equally for those lunches, which provided regular opportunities for sociability and the welcome exchange of views, at Faculty House. These demanded lots of time and attention, generously given by a good number of others besides Jack; but surely it’s fair to regard him, almost to the end of his life, as their propelling spirit. No one put a higher value on opportunities for such interactions within the College than did Jack. He deeply believed that amiable, relaxed conversation in a congenial environment had institutional benefits that may be hard to measure but absolutely justify the care and effort. 

    One last observation: My three examples of Jack’s valuable service all have to do — either figuratively or merely literally — with the matter of taste. He was a man for whom taste always mattered. I’m reminded of the Victorian art critic John Ruskin’s no-doubt extravagant yet sobering assertion: “Tell me what you like, and I’ll tell you who you are.” It wasn’t in Jack Dawson’s nature to make such a self-assured claim, but I imagine him nodding agreement with its implications. The cultivation of taste, through the buildings we live in and among, the music and art we encounter, and — yes — even the food we eat, is essential to our human development and so belongs in any worthy conception of the educational adventure.

    Jack Dawson brought with him plenty of institutional experience besides the strictly academic kind, and he brought it to bear in his years with Grinnell College. He was gifted with a combination of careful thought, persistence, and vast good humor. I’m thankful to have enjoyed his collegiality and his friendship.  

    James Kissane ’52, professor emeritus of English