Letters to the Editor

Fall 2017

I read with fondness, interest, and appreciation “Portrait of a Teacher: George Drake ’56.” In your listing of his roles at Grinnell, you omitted, in my opinion, perhaps his best role: exemplary mentor. Though that role is likely implicit in many, or perhaps all, of the listed roles, it was the one that had lasting effect upon me.

My senior year was my only year of overlap with President Drake, and it got off to a bad start. Shortly before the start of fall semester, he decided to change the long-planned date of Parents’ Weekend so that it would fall on a weekend with more sports activities, if I recall. When I received that announcement I was crushed — my parents had planned on coming to their first (and only) of my years at Grinnell. 

As soon as I got to Grinnell I went to meet President Drake and explain my displeasure: how he screwed up our long-anticipated plans, how my parents have very busy schedules and now can’t come, and further, scheduling it on the weekend of Rosh Hashanah was thoughtless, at best.

By his response and thus his modeling, President Drake taught me that leaders make mistakes [he didn’t change the weekend], and the best ones admit it, apologize, and do their best to rectify the situation. He did so with class, sincerity, and respect toward me, and my parents.

Throughout my career, when I found myself needing to recover from my own blunders, I have often replayed President Drake’s example in my head. I did so with the hope that I was a good-enough student of my one “class” with President Drake.

- Bruce A. Crane ’80

Having just returned from a visit with colleagues at Nanjing Normal University (the big new campus) with side trips to Hangzhou and Suzhou, I very much enjoyed reading this feature [“Around the World, Around the Table,” Page 28, Summer 2017]. My husband and I tasted many of the same dishes described in the story and had similar reactions to some of the more unusual foods. I think I missed the pig brains, but pig lungs, duck tongue, and intestines were definitely on the tables. The Global Learning Program sounds like a brilliant way to learn about history, culture, and cuisine of other countries. Congratulations, Grinnell, on this innovative learning experience!

- Lynne McAnelly ’75

Thank you for a very enjoyable issue of The Grinnell Magazine. For perhaps the first time I read it cover to cover. Each article told me what was going on at Grinnell and was fun to read. I enjoyed reading about George Drake. (What a guy!) About Commencement 2017. What recent grads are doing. Things an alumni magazine should do. 
 

- Nancy Coe Fuller ’57

I loved reading the article “Portrait of a Teacher: George Drake ’56” [Page 20, Summer 2017]. I formed a special relationship with George. To this day, I believe in the phrase “everything happens for a reason” in large part due to our meeting. The year George took over as College president, 1979, I was elected SGA [Student Government Association] president. I ran on a unique campaign proclaiming myself “not just president for the next year, but messiah for the coming millennium.” The campaign was printed in papers nationally by UPI and caused quite an uproar among conservative ministers and others. (I wonder how much worse it would have been with the Internet.) It seems they didn’t have my sense of humor.

I had no idea what to expect from a man who went to seminary. And I had heard from other SGAers that the previous president, A. Richard Turner, was very serious about how SGA was run, although I had no interaction with him. Was I going to find the same sentiments with George?

Of course, George couldn’t have been more opposite those concerns: He was very open-minded with a profound sense of humor. I remember initially and nervously addressing him as “President Drake” and he responded — with that great smile and a handshake — “SGA President Kramer.” We laughed, I learned to call him George, and from that moment on I felt comfortable around him. I would meet with George regularly to update him on student happenings. He never judged or interrupted. He was engaged and interested in everything I discussed with him, as was I with his suggestions. We worked together to make student life a little bit more interesting that year.  

In those days, we had a Skip Day, announced by the SGA president on KDIC. Some of the professors, especially in the sciences, were against this inconvenient nonacademic intrusion and scheduled tests for that morning. George was very supportive, feeling Skip Day was an important part of student life. He always seemed to be on the students’ side. In retrospect, this was one of the best years of my life in no small measure due to George’s enthusiasm for Grinnell.

It is so nice to read George is still actively teaching and engaging students with humor and open-mindedness. I hope to hear he is still doing so into his 100s!

- David Kramer ’80

Summer 2017

Along with various things I would do differently were I to return to my days at Grinnell (1965–69), I can now add participation in women’s sports. I never thought of myself as an athlete and had no awareness of the opportunities available to women at that time. It was a major achievement for me to flounder across the pool for the swim test!

In my sixties, I began to dance and play tennis and have belatedly realized that I CAN be an athlete. I try not to dwell on how much better I would be now if I had begun earlier in my life. I just enjoy the experience now.

- Janet Hamilton Triplett ’69

I was delighted to read the article “Fit for Life” [Page 18, Spring 2017] about women’s sports at Grinnell before Title IX. I remember women coming in from field hockey with dirt on their uniforms and smiles on their faces. I remember women proudly wearing their Honor G sweaters. And I remember one particular moment not mentioned.

In early 1963, Grinnell’s women’s club basketball team played in the then-usual six-woman format, three forwards and three guards. Two veterans of Iowa girls’ basketball lit up the court for Grinnell. In one half, Janet Lind [Hewitt] ’63 from Argyle scored 19 points primarily turning around from free throw range. In the other half, Barb Benda [Jenkins] ’64 of Hartwick scored 19 points, mostly from what is now 3-point range.  

All of us in the crowd wished we could shoot like that! They would have fit just fine in Coach [David] Arseneault’s System if the rules had permitted them to play the whole court. 

- Steve Aldrich ’63

Received another copy of The Grinnell Magazine. I was struck by one title that I thought might actually be informative, but it proved to be just a compendium of pretty pictures.
“A Year at the Conard Environmental Research Area” [Page 22, Spring 2017] failed, miserably, in showing anything but wildflowers, skyscapes, a windmill, some geese, and … no substance as to what CERA actually IS.
How about a series of in-depth articles about one or more of the wild species of vertebrates and non-plant life that dwell therein? 
Are no Grinnell students capable of “in the real world of nature” research before the sun comes up? Is Grinnell Magazine just another “rag” for elitist socialists who can afford Grinnell’s overpriced schooling?

- Jim Greaves ’71

Students who work in the dining hall are now paid $9.25 per hour [Page 4, Winter 2016]. Sixty-six years ago when I entered Grinnell as a Younker scholar in 1951, I was required to work in the Student Union 8–10 hours weekly. The hourly wage: 40 cents. In my sophomore year I became the only statistician for the athletic teams with a 25 percent raise to 50 cents and became a lifelong friend of newly arrived Coach John Pfitsch. When I was a junior, Professor George Apostle hired fellow student Charlie Cook [’56, deceased] and me, at 60 cents, to independently solve all the problems in his new college algebra text as a check of his solutions — we found a few errors! In my senior year Professor Grant Gale hired me to grade first-year physics tests and lab reports at the phenomenal salary of 65 cents per hour. That was a 62.5 percent wage increase in three years. Not bad! 

- George Simon ’55

Students who work in the dining hall are now paid $9.25 per hour [Page 4, Winter 2016]. Sixty-six years ago when I entered Grinnell as a Younker scholar in 1951, I was required to work in the Student Union 8–10 hours weekly. The hourly wage: 40 cents. In my sophomore year I became the only statistician for the athletic teams with a 25 percent raise to 50 cents and became a lifelong friend of newly arrived Coach John Pfitsch. When I was a junior, Professor George Apostle hired fellow student Charlie Cook [’56, deceased] and me, at 60 cents, to independently solve all the problems in his new college algebra text as a check of his solutions — we found a few errors! In my senior year Professor Grant Gale hired me to grade first-year physics tests and lab reports at the phenomenal salary of 65 cents per hour. That was a 62.5 percent wage increase in three years. Not bad! 

- George Simon ’55

Spring 2017

That was a fun article about the Writing Lab in the Fall 2016 issue of The Grinnell Magazine. I remember going to the Writing Lab as a regular part of my paper-writing process at Grinnell. Mathilda Liberman was the person I most regularly inflicted myself upon, but I also had sessions with Kevin Crim and, I think, Judy Hunter. Their guidance helped me, I hope, to become a structurally-better writer, even if it took many sessions for some of their advice and comments to sink in.

- Richard Catrambone ’82