Letters to the Editor

Fall 2016

Thanks for your great article on the history of "Concerned Black Students" (Summer 2016). I would love to see additional articles about the history of other minority groups at Grinnell.

- Jacob Sagrans ’09

I’ve noticed that you have made a subtle change to the format for alumni receiving advanced degrees. Previously, it was always at the end of the “Classnotes” section. Now, it is included with news within the person’s class.

As an undergrad, I knew I wanted to attend graduate school. However, my senior year, despite having been accepted at several programs, I decided that I should take a break from academia. This was, in retrospect, a very good decision.

As I got busy with other things, I stopped thinking about graduate school. But I was always a little wistful about it; and you know, there was this whisper in my ear every time I read The Grinnell Magazine.

At first, I saw that the advanced degrees were mostly afforded to people from my class. But if you watched the advanced degrees section as though it were a narrative unfolding, you couldn’t help noticing that even though the majority of the degrees were from the cohort that had recently graduated, one or two random stragglers would come round the bend.

Grinnellians sometimes took nontraditional paths through higher education. Every time I saw that someone who had graduated 10, 20, 30 years earlier was just now finishing their advanced degree, it gave me a little boost of inspiration. It wasn’t that I hadn’t gotten there; it was that I hadn’t gotten there yet.

I finally received my Ph.D. in May of 2015, 30 years after graduating from Grinnell. And I confess I was a little disappointed that my Classnotes announcement was in the classes section rather than in a separate section. I knew that, like me, most people probably only read the notes from their cohort. I had pridefully hoped that my accomplishment might offer some inspiration, or perhaps just a subtle reminder to another alum who might have put it off that their advanced degree is still out there, waiting for them.

 

- Heidi Brumbaugh ’85

From the editor: Ken Burns, documentary filmmaker, gave the keynote address at Stanford University’s 2016 Commencement. Rep. Tom Cole ’71, R.-Okla., spoke at Grinnell’s Commencement. Both addresses are available for viewing on YouTube.

Ken Burns, in his Stanford commencement speech this year, impassionedly told the graduates: “For 216 years, our elections, though bitterly contested, have featured the philosophies and character of candidates who were clearly qualified. That is not the case this year. One is glaringly not qualified…. [one] is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything, offering only bombastic and contradictory promises, and terrifying Orwellian statements; a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan.”

Congressman Tom Cole ’71, recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree at Commencement, gave this election advice to the graduates: “It doesn’t matter whether you are on the left or the right. First, look for an institutionalist — someone who believes in the institutions of the country, who believes in fair play, who believes in open elections, who believes in the public process and understands something about the institutions he or she wants to lead.”

Rep. Cole had the audacity to say his words to the graduates while not disavowing the man Ken Burns described above who threatens our institutions. He even urged the graduates that “when you confront something, be willing to take the risk. And be willing to see it through to the end.” I really hope that the congressman’s position has changed by the time you read this, for his sake and our country’s.
 

- Austin Frerick ’12

Summer 2016

As the chair of the committee that proposed the [Mentored Advanced Project] MAP program to the Fund for Excellence during the Osgood administration, I was delighted with “The Essence of Inquiry” focus in the spring 2016 issue. I realize that the subject is too big to cover in a single issue so I look forward to further treatment of the range of MAPs done in the social studies and humanities divisions. We too produce and publish new knowledge.

Many of my student collaborators, for example, have been presenters or co-presenters at one, or preferably two, professional conferences. They also co-author journal articles, book chapters, and newspaper articles. Some of our papers even win prizes from professional organizations.

[The article] plausibly contends that MAPs are one reason why “Grinnell ranks seventh among all private and public national institutions for graduating students who go on to earn Ph.D.s.” This kind of research collaboration is one of the reasons that the Department of Anthropology, among other Grinnell social studies departments, is so highly ranked, third among national institutions for graduating students who go on to earn Ph.D.s in anthropology.

Thanks for the good start to the story of MAP research collaboration at Grinnell.

- Doug Caulkins, professor emeritus of anthropology and director emeritus of the Wilson Program in Enterprise and Leadership

My copy of the spring Grinnell magazine arrived today, and I have read it cover to cover. The magazine keeps improving, and this one had many of the features I have been hoping for for a long time including small bios of those who have passed on.

- Judy Mahle Lutter ’61

Piles of kudos to everyone involved in the redesign of The Grinnell Magazine. It manages to be both more informative/engaging and less stuffy — a fine line to walk. I especially like the combined layout and graphic design of “Classnotes,” Kevin Cannon’s illustrations, the overall size and paper stock, and the Grinnellian feel of the whole thing.

I know undertakings like these aren’t easy, and it can feel like your work disappears into the void with little to no — or only negative — feedback. Consider this a ping from the darkness that your work hit its mark.

- Sarah Cook ’98

Congratulations on the latest issue of The Grinnell Magazine. It has the look, feel, and editorial judgment of a magazine that I want to read from cover to cover with good surprises on almost every page.

The double page spread is a beautiful example of eco-friendly printing. One small suggestion: Use the adjectival form of “pertaining to all things Grinnell” — which is Grinnellish. Save Grinnellian for references to “Grinnell people.” Now that is so Grinnellish.

Old English majors never die. We just parse away.

- Mark Schorr ’66

I was disappointed that The Grinnell Magazine showcased the series of prints entitled “All Hands on Deck” in its Spring 2016 publication. The hands-up mantra was shown through eyewitness accounts as well as the grand-jury testimony to be a total fabrication, to such an extent that even Obama’s sympathetic Justice Department didn’t deem it worth pursuing.

From the grand-jury testimony: “… Brown then reached into the SUV through the open driver’s window and punched and grabbed Wilson.” “Brown used his right hand to grab and attempt to control Wilson’s gun.” “… Brown’s hand was within inches of the muzzle of Wilson’s gun when it was fired.” “… Brown was moving toward Wilson when Wilson shot him.” “… [W]itnesses describe Brown then dropping his hands and ‘charging’ at Wilson.”

Tragically, a decent and honest police officer will never be able to work in his profession any longer due to this fabrication.

- Rich Bohm ’86

Of all the instructors I had at Grinnell, [Dennis] Haas was the one who had the greatest influence on me. Not only did he offer the normal course of instruction, amplified for some by his regular Sunday sermons, but he also opened his own home for additional, voluntary seminars for students interested in pursuing biblical study more seriously. I attended none of his sermons but went to every one of his seminars, inspired by him to read far beyond the requirements of his courses, inspired by him to positively enjoy close textual analysis and the discipline of biblical exegesis.

While I had approached biblical study with little more ambition than to finally read all the texts, Haas inspired me to go much further, transforming my life in the process. It was he who encouraged me to go on to his old school, the Union Theological Seminary in New York, and it was he and the seminary itself which led me to further study in philosophy afterward. Even now, never employed in any related field and never converted to any variety of Christianity, I continue along the political, intellectual, and scholarly paths he pointed out.

- Erik Graff ’74

Career change is well articulated in “Right Livelihoods” (Spring 2016). Career change was not always acknowledged as an appropriate remedy for employment malaise. Indeed, the notion of “giving up” a job was seen as aberrational at best, mentally ill — insane — at worst. In the ’70s when I was a career counselor, work certified [one’s] status as an honorable citizen. Absent this confirmation brought self-assessment of disgrace and socially raised eyebrows. Ironically, it was the extent of unemployment at that time that brought about tolerance for being out of work and nurturance of career change as an acceptable strategy.
I am pleased to have a special relationship to career counseling at Grinnell. The College’s first career counselor spent a week training with me.
 

- Stephen Fischer ’53