Morrison Etched in Stone

Caesar. Isaiah. Emerson. Darwin. Shakespeare. Dante. Homer. Plato. Michelangelo. Goethe. Galileo.

For 115 years, these names have stood alone in the limestone of Carnegie Library, inscribed as examples of great thinkers who represented the values, aspirations, and identity of a young Grinnell College.

“I remember walking past that building and thinking that it was interesting that these names were so homogenous,” says President Raynard S. Kington. “But I also remember thinking, wouldn’t it be interesting if we could add some names?”

As the Humanities and Social Studies Center was being constructed, Kington seized the opportunity to inscribe a new name on Carnegie’s walls, one that would better and more fully represent the diversity of opinion, thought, and action of the Grinnell community as the College enters a new era.

To Kington, novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor Toni Morrison was the obvious choice. “She was an intellectual who was grounded in real life and could make this link between real life and very deep thoughts,” says Kington. “I think that that is an important message — that you do not have to think of intellectual pursuits as being somehow separate from life.”

Morrison etched on stone plaque embedded in brickwork above large windowA system for nominating additional honorees is in development so that students, staff, faculty, and alumni may select those whose lives and works represent the values of the Grinnell community.

For more information on Toni Morrison and the inscription project, listen to the All Things Grinnell podcast “Written in Stone: Toni Morrison.”

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