Letters to the Editor

Fall 2018

Just wanted to add my thoughts about the article “Dean of the Cage” [Summer 2018, Page 18] regarding Roger Bauman. I was one of the first student employees to work with Roger in the “cage” in the PEC [Physical Education Center] when he started in 1985, and I was subsequently one of the first to benefit from his mentoring and friendship. Roger was there for me in many ways. He fixed my car to get me home by Christmas. He organized a hayride for a friend’s surprise birthday party. And I believe my friends and I were the first of many students who have had Roger barbecue a hog for a post-Commencement party on High Street. But even more than these things were his friendship and the example he set each and every day just by being himself.
Since graduation, I’ve worked for almost 30 years in higher ed. The fact that I’m a staff member working with students, just like Roger did with me, may certainly be in part because of his influence. I hope I have been the friend and mentor to my students that Roger was for me. And now that my daughter is a high school senior and we have been touring colleges, I find myself looking at the faculty and staff on those tours and hope she will find someone like Roger to help her find her way like he did for me. I only wish there was a U.S. News & World Report list of Top 20 College Mentors. Roger and his big Grinnell family would most certainly be on that list.

- Mark Gempler ’88

In response to the letter from Daniel Litten ’94, “Your partisanship is showing” [Summer 2018, “Letters,” Page 2]: how can The Grinnell Magazine report on our school without representing values that are biased? The values which are the essence of Grinnell — ethnic and gender diversity, intellectual curiosity, help for the less fortunate, and the embrace of ugly questions — directly oppose an American president whose policies attack immigrants, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and the science of global warming.

As Grinnell students from travel-banned countries fail to return to school this fall, as transgender women have our rights rolled back under this president, as Iowa braces for climate changes that threaten its crops, why would Grinnell and its magazine not be the ideal stage for us to debate what our country and world should be?

- Marin Luria Harbur ’94

In response to Daniel Litten ’94, I would like to point out that nothing, including The Grinnell Magazine, is nonpartisan... . After all, aren’t Grinnell College’s “values” diversity and social responsibility? The fact that U.S. Rep. Tom Cole ’71 [R-Okla.] is a Grinnell alumnus certainly provides a “real Grinnell angle” to the piece.

- Isaac Mielke ’18

In this recent poem, I attempted to recapture something from my own experience that might resonate with other Grinnellians as well. I always felt there was something magical about the sunlight that streamed down the South Campus loggia, especially how it looked after coming down from the stress of midterm or final exams. 

One afternoon the yellow sunlight

One afternoon the yellow sunlight returned 

that used to stream down the South Campus

loggia after final exams when most of 

the students had already left for home. 

I was lying on my bed after a walk and 

there it was, coming in through the window,

the sun from 35 years before, whispering

How could you forget me? How, through the long, 

long row of windows, I spread myself thin

across the red, blue and gold bicycles, 

along the smooth grey concrete stretching

200 yards to Main Hall. Were you not cold?

- David de Young ’86

Editor’s note:

Among the three statehouse candidates profiled in the Fall 2018 story, “The Year of the Grinnell Woman,” one alumna won, one lost, and as of this writing, one is still in a virtual tie. All are Democrats. 

Laura Clymore Ellman ’87 was behind on election night by 12 votes but won her race for Illinois State Senate after mail-in votes were counted. She won by nearly 1,200 votes. In northwest Wisconsin, Kim MacDonald Butler ’83 ran for state assembly and lost by about 4,400 votes. Kayla Koether ’12 ran for a seat in Iowa House District 55 in northeast Iowa. The incumbent leads Koether by seven votes, out of 13,831 votes cast. Koether has requested a recount.

- Michele Regenold

Summer 2018

I had great admiration for Mr. [Kenneth] Christiansen as a scientist and really enjoyed him as a person [“In Memoriam,” Page 46, Spring 2018]. I learned a tremendous amount from him, and he had a great positive influence on me. He was one major reason I was inspired to get a Ph.D. in entomological sciences from University of California, Berkeley.

I have many great memories of times with him: collecting Collembola in the forests of Oahu and visiting scientists at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu; working many hours together in his lab as his research assistant, especially during the summer of 1983 when I worked with him full time; publishing a journal article together describing two new species of Collembola; doing an individual guided reading with him on entomology; taking his courses, in particular invertebrate zoology; and appreciating good music together at many times in his lab while we were bent over microscopes. During the summer of ’83, he invited me to join the city of Grinnell’s performance of The Music Man — he acted on stage while I played saxophone and clarinet in the orchestra.

I’ll certainly miss him, as I enjoyed keeping in touch with him by letters and email over the years since I graduated.

Ken was a wonderful adviser and teacher, who really cared about his students.

- Greg Luther ’84

Kenneth A. Christiansen head shotI was saddened to read in the Spring 2018 issue of Ken Christiansen’s death and his wife’s not long afterwards [“In Memoriam,” Page 46]. I took biology from Mr. Christiansen when I was at Grinnell — I graduated in 1959. The classroom was one of those large rooms with banked seats for students. I loved the class, though I was an English and American lit major. What I remember most vividly was that during one of Mr. Christiansen’s lectures, a small squirrel climbed up out of his pocket, where it apparently spent the day, scrambled up the front of his jacket and onto his shoulder, where it peed. Mr. Christiansen smiled and went on with his lecture. What a man!

- Liane Ellison Norman ’59

That's So Grinnellian Winter 2016I find the use of the phrase “That’s so Grinnellian” in your regular photo feature a bit off mark. While my fellow Grinnell friends and I do use this phrase somewhat regularly and I certainly understand trying to tap into that vernacular, using it on a photo simply depicting the Grinnell campus isn’t the proper use of the phrase. The feature as it is currently curated would be more appropriately titled the somewhat less inspired but more accurate: “That’s Grinnell.”

The phrase “That’s so Grinnellian” describes that Grinnellian je ne sais quoi — the charming actions or appearance of a lovable nerd, or maybe in a more serious way, someone who is living out the social justice mission. And it should refer to a person and/or their actions — not a place. A view of the dining hall? That’s Grinnell. Taking the time to write a letter to the editor, nit-picking over the proper use of a colloquialism? That’s so Grinnellian.

- Thomas Agran ’09

Tom Rayfiel standing in tunnelWas there a point to “Back Talk” (Spring 2018, by Thomas Rayfiel ’80) [Page 47] besides his dislike for our president?

The article is a collection of his letters to a congressman berating him for not denouncing Donald Trump. Although the targeted congressman is a Grinnell alumnus, there is no real Grinnell angle to the piece.

Is the magazine now for denouncing public figures whose politics we oppose?

I am sure many of your readers support our president and many others oppose him. But I suggest we leave the rank partisanship to CNN and Fox News. Maybe The Grinnell Magazine can focus on Grinnell.

- Daniel Litten ’94

I read with interest the remarks of Emma Kelty-Stephen ’04 about listening to the tape of Martin Luther King Jr. [“Quote Board, Spring 2018,” Page 11]. I heard that actual speech in the old gym at Grinnell on a very early Sunday morning. I lived in Gates so it was a short walk, but I remember thinking what the hell am I doing at this hour? I kept telling myself it was a chance, and sadly as it turned out, the only chance, to see Martin Luther King Jr., an already historic figure. 

The speech (sermon) was incredibly powerful, and I was absolutely blown away. Hearing him set me on a course, or confirmed my course, for the rest of my life. I don’t even remember exactly what he said. But his powerful voice, his humility and dignity moved me deeply. His basic message was “Respect everyone.” You don’t get to pick and choose — you must respect and love everyone. At the time, he was being excoriated by the right for the usual reasons, and the left for being, among other things, nonviolent. Yet he talked and lived this message. 

Although I have often fallen short of his ideal, I have always tried to do as he preached — I breathe deeply and try to make a mental bridge to each person. This has been particularly difficult since the Trump election but is even more necessary now. I wrote about this speech in a long-ago article that appeared in the Arizona Attorney during a time of personal challenge. 

I’m thrilled that someone else was moved by the speech. The sound of a train going by brings it all back and makes it real.

- Bob Van Wyck ’69