Letters to the Editor

Fall 2021

Gary Cooper's star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame Yes, Gary Cooper ’26 is a Grinnell College alumnus. He earned the coveted pink and brass star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame for his five Academy Award nominations, including best actor for High Noon and Sergeant York. Born in Montana, he transferred from Wesleyan College in Helena to Grinnell in 1922. There’s a legend he was rejected by Grinnell’s drama club for stage fright and stuttering. Erin Peterson ’98 did some deep archival research for a Grinnell Magazine article about a decade ago and confirmed this was actually true. She even found evidence that the club snubbed him multiple times. Failure — being the best preparation for success — led him to adopt a laconic, restrained, yet intense persona suited to popular Hollywood westerns.

 

- Dick Knapp ’76

The summer 2021 magazine feature, “Grinnell College: 175th Anniversary Quiz,” included this bonus question: “What buildings on campus, familiar to all alumni, recently were renovated and are now part of the Humanities and Social Studies Center (HSSC)?” The correct answer: Alumni Recitation Hall and Carnegie Hall.

The Grinnell prize package went to Isaac Mielke ’18, whose name was randomly drawn from the many correct submissions. Congrats, Isaac!

The Lambs and Nyhart in a group photo, arms around each other

Left to right: Cliff Lamb, Norma Lamb, Bonny Neyhart ’75

I always look forward to reading The Grinnell Magazine and am often touched by the “Grinnell Connection” stories. What follows is a brief piece concerning the chance meeting of three people whose connection to Grinnell spans three generations:

Taking a break from helping her friend Michael move into his recently purchased house in rural northern California, Barbara (Bonny) Neyhart ’75 set out to introduce herself to the neighbors. Bonny’s persistence was rewarded by what has become a close friendship with Grinnell-connected neighbors Norma and Cliff Lamb. Over the few years since their meeting, Bonny, Michael, and the Lambs have often gathered to watch political debates, share meals, and support one another during power outages, fast-moving wildfires, and mandatory evacuations.

Norma attended Grinnell in the early 1950s as an exchange student from a historically Black college. Norma remembers that she had to travel from Grinnell to Des Moines to find someone capable of styling her hair and that many of her sheltered Grinnell dormmates were puzzled when Norma’s skin tone didn’t lighten after she showered.
Cliff, a retired psychiatrist and musician, is a Grinnell “chip” whose father, Arthur Clifford Lamb, attended Grinnell in the earlier half of the last century.
 

- Bonny Neyhart ’75

In mid-July, when I was between books and tidying up, I found a stack of Grinnell magazines I’d set aside until I had more time. After opening the Spring 2020 edition and reading a well-written letter on Page 2, I noticed that the signature, Tamar Nyman Lasky ’76, looked familiar.

Years ago, a gregarious neighbor started a roster of the residents on Blacksmith Drive that has somehow fallen to me to maintain. I checked the roster and found that, indeed, a new resident in the cul de sac was Tammi Lasky, whom I had met once or twice.

Could this be the author of the letter? I sent her an email and she immediately responded. What a surprise! Two Grinnell alumnae on the same street. How often does that happen? The closest so far was that a grad school classmate of John Mohan lives two doors down. We met a few days later to discuss our Grinnell experiences. We’d both had classes with Ken Christiansen and Joe Wall ’41, but the Grinnell climate changed significantly after 1970.
Kathleen Haberman Larson ’64

And I would add: I moved to Columbia, Maryland, from Baltimore County in 2019 to be closer to my new job at the Food and Drug Administration (of course, not knowing that I would be working remotely a year later). The nice neighbors were a bonus, but not part of my house search; and I didn’t expect a fellow Grinnellian to live down the street from me. We think we may be the only street in Maryland with two Grinnell households and would love to hear from others. And I would also like to coin a name for such occurrences. In the meantime, hello from “Grinnell-in-Columbia.”
Tammi (Nyman) Lasky ’76

- Kathleen Haberman Larson ’64 and Tammi (Nyman) Lasky ’76

I’ve never been academic in my approach to humor. However, Janet M. Gibson’s “A Day Without Humor Is a Day Well-Stressed” (Spring 2021) is by far the most substantive explanation of humor’s impact on individuals and audiences I have ever read in my 40 years as a professional storyteller, after-dinner speaker, and humorous poet.

- Jeff Miller ’64

Summer 2021

James MageeI was sorry to hear of the death of Professor Jim Magee in late 2019. I took Professor Magee’s course in international politics at Grinnell in, I think, 1967 or 1968. Although I hadn’t been especially keen on the subject, he made it interesting. He was energetic and enthusiastic. He was especially good at helping us understand the motivations of countries who opposed us. He explained the very sensible and practical reasons why our enemies (mostly the Soviet Union at the time) did not want to do what we wanted them to. They saw things differently and did not see cooperating with the United States as always being in their best interests. After his lectures, we understood why. This approach has served me well. Professor Magee was also a warm, kind man.

- Carol Branscomb ’69

I just read that Grinnell is eliminating student loans and replacing them with scholarships. As the parent of a soon-to-be college-age child, I applaud the school for leading the cause to reduce student debt. But this is not a new cause for Grinnell, which has always been incredibly generous with its financial packages and puts student need front and center. My experience in 1982 bears this out.

The summer before I was to return to Grinnell for my senior year (only my second year at Grinnell as a transfer student), with my father desperately ill, my mother let me know that there was no money for me to finish college. When I reached out to the school to say I would not be coming back, the person I spoke with immediately told me to return to campus and that the school would help me make it work. After I maxed out student loans and accepted a job on campus (at the wonderful preschool lab), Grinnell gave me the rest of my tuition and board in the form of a need-based scholarship. I truly believe my ability to graduate college came down to the care and generosity of the school. Thank you, thank you, Grinnell!

- Wendy Frey ’82

I just want to take the time to recognize the nice article that you wrote about my dad, Waldo S. Walker. He would be pleased with the content, perspectives, and insights that were given highlighting his dedication to Grinnell College. As you illustrated, his contribution to the College cannot be overstated, and the positive impact that he had on countless students past, present, and future is immeasurable.

Thank you for taking the time to research and accurately portray the “Iowa boy who appreciated differences” who became a real difference-maker in the lives of so many.

- Martha (Walker) Sheffield

Fall 2020

I just received my most recent Grinnell Magazine and was dismayed to see a complete absence of nurses in the article “Stories from the Pandemic.”

I am a proud Grinnellian and family nurse practitioner and know I am in good company as a Grinnell alum in nursing. Our contribution to patient care and community wellness during the pandemic has been significant.

I work for a community health center that provides care to Chelsea, Massachusetts, along with other communities that made headlines in the spring for the way they were impacted by COVID-19. I share this not to seek attention, but as an example of one of surely many Grinnell nurses playing a role in pandemic response. I am disappointed that the magazine fell in line with hierarchical, status-based views on healthcare by highlighting only doctors and administrators.

- Rebecca Freedberg Nuernberger ’99

Wally Walker in his officeI came to Grinnell in 1960, two years after Wally Walker did. I had never taken a biology class before, but did so in 1961–62 under Dr. Walker’s leadership and became enthralled with biology, majoring in it at Grinnell. I was so taken by his caring approach to his students, his sense of humor, his generosity (he invited many of us students to his home for wonderful warm brownies and popcorn — just to “shoot the bull” — on several occasions), and his knowledge. I must have learned what xylem and phloem did in his Plant Physiology class, but I remember his engaging smile and welcome whenever I saw him again! I was a babysitter for his two girls, Martha and Gail, and in fact was with them when President Kennedy was assassinated. I couldn’t figure out why all the TV channels just had NEWS.

When I received my acceptance into Stanford’s grad program in physical therapy, Dr. Walker was one of the first people on campus I told! I feel like I’ve lost a friend … and know that he was a friend to many students and faculty at Grinnell. I was blessed to have known him!

- Anne Hart Cleghorn ’64