Letters to the Editor

Spring 2023

It was with great sadness that I read of the passing of Robert Haveman, emeritus professor of economics. In the eight years (1962–1970) that Professor Haveman taught at Grinnell, he was an amazing teacher and scholar who challenged students to think creatively about economics, markets, and the social institutions we create to alleviate poverty. During the 1960s, he was a core member of a strong department that sent many graduates to pursue graduate degrees in economics. 

As a 20-year-old student from a small town in Iowa, I was so stimulated by my first Haveman class that I was determined to pursue the study of economics. Indeed, I followed Professor Haveman’s path to Vanderbilt, and it led to a 45-year career in academia. 

It was because of Robert Haveman and other great teachers at Grinnell that I was so thrilled to have my grandson, Charles Peppers, graduate from Grinnell in 2022. 

- Larry Peppers ’66

That Professor Sheila McCarthy conducted a 36-student class in the fall semester of 1980 as an engaging, affirming, and challenging discussion still stands out — over a lifetime of working and studying at colleges — as the ideal way to teach college students. Modern Russian Literature had so many students that fall because Sheila was a popular and caring professor who would rather adjust her teaching style to 36 students than cap the class at a smaller, more Grinnell-like number. 

I started the course with a passion for Dostoevsky and left it transformed by the unforgettable ways McCarthy brought us into the literary world of Russia in the 19th century. I still remember her telling us the significance of Ivan Karamazov’s devil speaking in French and how Turgenev was derided by his literary peers as more European than Russian. I also remember being very sad when the class came to an end, the way that you are sad when you know you have experienced something special that may never happen again. 

It is hard to imagine a college professor anywhere who was better than McCarthy at conveying passion for her subject, at pacing and communicating its complex material in clear and vivid ways, and at showing a genuine interest in each of her students. 

I was sorry to learn of her passing and wanted to pay tribute to her life by sharing these memories that have lived on for more than 40 years. 


- Paul Marthers ’82

North Campus in summer with red heart drawn around Gates Rawson TowerDear Grinnell,

I know it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other. But I still think about you — often. I’m not sure exactly how, but you helped me prepare for all those years after we parted. 

To me, you were always ahead of your time, yet you made time for me — to catch up. You were demanding but forgiving. Hip, but not over the top. I wouldn’t use the word pretty, but I was always struck by your beauty. 

I guess I was lucky. These pairings don’t always work out. But you helped me do a better job of becoming me. That sounds so 1960s now. But seriously, I’m grateful. And forever in your debt. 

- Michael Reinemer ’76

Fall 2022

I read that Twila Thompson ’76 died and wanted to add to her story because it relates to her time at Grinnell. After we graduated, Twila and I took a play I had put together and performed at Grinnell (Dear Mrs. Evans) and improvised and added to it until it was an entirely new show, Sirens. Twila and I formed Woman’s Collage Theater and toured with this two-woman show with artwork and costumes by Judy Hoffman ’76, also a Grinnell graduate. We eventually performed in 23 states, twice returning to Grinnell College to perform Sirens. I was so sad to hear in The Grinnell Magazine of Twila’s death and wanted that aspect of her life honored.Barbara Tholfsen, Michelle Casey and Tom Loddengaard

Left: Twila Thompson’s senior photo. Right: Barbara Tholfsen (left), Michelle Casey, and Tom Loddengaard ’76 working on the set of Dear Mrs. Evans. Photos from the 1976 Cyclone yearbook.


- Barbara Tholfsen ’76

Do you realize that Forbes Magazine (June/July 2022) and The Grinnell Magazine are similar? They both extol Grinnellians and the College.

Ham Serunjogi ’16 from Uganda and Maijid Moujaled ’14 from Ghana, who are still in their 20s, met at Grinnell. The former is CEO and the latter president of Chipper Cash, which enables transnational financial services in Africa. The company has 350 employees, 5 million users, and a valuation of $2.2 billion.

Forbes states that Grinnell is a small liberal arts college in Iowa known for its strong academics. On almost the last page, Grinnell is listed No. 35 among 905 private nonprofit colleges for financial health, with a grade of A.

- Carol Lingle Mark ’57

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Edmund Gilday, professor emeritus of religious studies. We remember attending his job talk as curious students, and he brought new energy to the department when he joined in 1995. Professor Gilday was incredibly generous with students. His door was always open, and he was always willing to talk through concepts that came up in class, map out research ideas, and provide advice.

In particular, we credit him with teaching us how to read academic texts. “Start with the table of contents,” he advised. “This is like an outline. If you can connect the chapter titles together in a coherent argument and relate them to the title of the book, then you have already learned something.

”If the chapters are divided into titled sections, do the same thing at that level. Build an argument in your mind by connecting the titles together. Then you do not need to focus on every word and sentence as you read. Simply pay attention to where the argument diverges from what you have in mind, ask yourself why it diverges, and decide whether that divergence is useful or interesting to you.”

We both continue to use this technique as needed, and J.R. now shares similar advice with his students. Thank you, Professor Gilday.

- J.R. Osborn ’97 (co-author Anthony Scotto ’97 Brooklyn, New York)

Summer 2022

2 page spread from the beginning of the article If These Walls Could TalkI write to assure your editors and readers that those halls glorified in (“If These Walls Could Talk,” Fall 2021) can indeed talk, or at least could talk with eloquence when I attended Grinnell.

In 1941, a few months before Pearl Harbor, Grinnell employed 15 or 20 students to live on campus for the summer and work on various maintenance projects. For this work, living quarters and meals were furnished, plus 25 cents an hour, a small amount of that in cash and the rest applied to tuition fees.

I was assigned to scrub walls of dorm and cottage rooms, day in and day out, all summer, hundreds of rooms.

Could those walls talk? Indeed, they could, not audibly, but in the form of messages, poems, pictures, caricatures, tales of conquests, slander, or praise directed at other students and faculty — enough material to fill a large book and then some.

So, we got our summer reading in and learned that walls can talk.

- George McIntosh ’45

When I entered Grinnell as a young 16-year-old, I didn’t know I had a disability. (Later) I found out I am cross-eyed; the left is weaker and travels. No wonder I had trouble in those difficult history classes trying to read classics and understand civilizations. Alphabet soup in my brain!

I wish I could go back to those classes now that I know what is happening and take them over.

Thanks for the good article (“Innovation, Inclusion, and Accessibility,” Spring 2022) on helping others with various disabilities. Congratulations to Professor Eliza Willis and Assistant Dean Autumn Wilke for making the effort to identify disabilities for what they are and having an office for aiding students with the various disabilities.

- John C. Orsborn ’58

I was saddened to read of the passing of former Grinnell Professor Clifford Reid (Spring 2022).

I met Professor Reid in fall 1974 when he was the professor for my freshman tutorial. I was a conservative-leaning white student from a small town while he was a liberal-leaning Black college professor from an urban background. I took several of his classes, and he became my student adviser. Despite our differences, I couldn’t have had a better adviser and mentor.

He challenged me and kept me on the right track.

Professor Reid showed me that a mentor does not have to be someone who looks like you or thinks like you. A mentor can be anyone who truly cares about you and has your best interest at heart.

From time to time I considered writing to Professor Reid to thank him. I now regret that I never wrote that letter.

Rest in peace, Professor Reid.

- Dave Chroust ’78

Spring 2022

Back in the 1950s, there was a 10:30 evening curfew when we gals were “bed counted.” After which, once in a while, a few of us would jump out a first-floor dorm window and get over to the Indian reservation in Tama — to drink beer. The hitch being you were unable to get back in until 6 a.m. when the loggia doors were unlocked for the milkman. All these years later, my particulars may be a little inaccurate but that excitement still makes me smile.

- Carol J. Wolff Horky ’58