Where is Grinnell? Small-world stories
Every day, Grinnellians make connections with others through their experiences of Grinnell. We invite you to share your stories of Grinnell small-world experiences. Below is a sampling of what we received. Be sure to check back for new stories!
A Very Grinnellian Wedding
Melanie Drake ’92 and Tom Wickersham ’90 were married on November 7, 2010 in their hometown of St. Louis. From Melanie: “The wedding was took place in our hometown of St. Louis. Tom and I met and were good friends while in college together, but we reconnected about seven years ago. As you know, Grinnellians tend to stick together, and several of our wedding guests are Grinnell couples, including my parents, George ’56 and Susan Ratcliff ’58 Drake.”
Other wedding guests included:
John and Jo Orsborn '58, Colorado Springs, CO
Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Luther Erickson and Jenny Erickson, Grinnell, IA
Elizabeth Lewis '92 and Jim Guest '90, St. Louis, MO
Annie Beaver '92 and Neil Sexton '92 or '93, Livingston, MT
Nancy Kaiser '92 and Guy Potter '92, Durham, NC
Kirsten Finlayson '92 and David Gerard '90, Appleton, WI
Irene Faass ’91 and Journey Gosselin ‘92, Minneapolis, MN
Mitch Erickson '72, New Providence, NJ, cousin of bride
George McJimsey '90, Albuquerque, NM
Michael Andrade '91, Santa Clara, CA and Best Man
Elizabeth Banfield '92, Minneapolis, MN
Carol Nielsen '56, Grinnell, IA
Mimi Trangsrud '62, Tucson, AZ
Tom Marshall '55, Grinnell, IA
Katie Mardis '90, Minneapolis, MN
Sally Orsborn Gorges ‘85, Colorado Springs, CO
Maria Wetzel '92, St. Louis, MO
Christie Moran '92, St. Louis, MO
Jim ’81 and Kim Larsen Gilbert ’82, Grinnell, IA
Elizabeth McJimsey Souder ’88 and Will Souder ’90, Overland Park, KS
Kenton Guilbert ’92, Centennial, CO
Rachel Terpstra Warren ’97, Davis, CA
Gail Piersen ’90, Mazomanie, WI
Grinnell small-world stories
Mine isn't an alumnus story. But imagine my surprise when, on arriving at Grinnell in 2008, I found out that Bhoomika Partap '11 was best friends with Ms. McCarter in Nepal, whose younger sister, Charis was my very good friend in Zambia.
- Kajari Ghosh '12
Our daughter will begin at Grinnell this fall. Some neighbors stopped by and inquired what school Mackenzie had chosen, to which I replied, "Grinnell College." The husband replied, "my Grandmother graduated from Grinnell in 1924!"
- Kelly Shanahan '14
I was stopped at red light in Palo Alto, CA. The driver in the car in front of me got out and approached my window. She bent down and asked, "Did you go to Grinnell?" She was a fellow alum and saw my Grinnell license plate in her rear mirror!
- Julie Edwards '07
In line at Walt Disney World, a recent grad with a Where the Hell shirt was right behind me.
- Jed Orth '95
While doing some research at Peking University in Beijing, China, I called my landlord to help me with an internet problem. Her son came along to help and I asked where he was going to school. Turns out, he just graduated from Grinnell!
- Stephanie DeVries '97
When the sesquicentenial book came out, I browsed through and suddenly wondered: "I wonder who is in Australia?" Turns out Bev Fitch, a late 60's graduate, lived 15 minutes down the road from my parents. We have been close friends since!
- Carole Saunders '90
While running the 2010 Austin, Texas 1/2 Marathon, at about mile 11 I saw a person on the side of the road wearing a Grinnell sweat shirt. I yelled, "Go Grinnell!" He looked at me like I was insane. (I didn't know the guy and he didn't know me.)
- Roberta Saielli Lewis '86
In the early 80s we were in the train station in Paris, France. Because two women near us were speaking English, we started to chat. "Where are you from?" "Grinnell, Iowa." "Oh, I lived in Grinnell when I was eight years old. My father taught English and Drama at the college for a couple of years." It turned out to be Joan Baez, Senior, mother of our favorite folk singer. We had a delightful train trip with her to Cherbourg.
- John and Emily Pfitsch
Editor's note: The younger Joan Baez also has a Grinnell connection. She gave a concert at Grinnell College in Herrick Chapel November 6, 2006 as part of the Public Events Series.
Colin Bernard '04 and I were married in Sioux City, IA last fall. My brother and fellow alum, Christopher Hall '07, participated in our wedding as my best man. Other Grinnell guests included: Joe McNertney '07, Jackie Puretz '06, Betsey Blanche '05, Claire Odom '05, Caroline Logan '05, Linda Wells '05, Ellen Satterwhite '05, Egan Liias '05, Annie Beaman Johnson '05, Rick Coriell '04, Adam Hoye '04, Lauren Miller Hoye '04, Sam Taylor '04, Steve Nordlund '04, Lorraine Gaynor '04, Aaron Kase '04, Megan Pluskis '04, Anna Barlow Freeman '04, Amanda Perry '04, Kai Steenhoek '04, Sarah Weiss Steenhoek '04, Matt Beaman Johnson '03, and Arik Anderson '03.
My husband and I just yesterday returned from our belated honeymoon trip to Costa Rica. One evening we went out to dinner at a restaurant near the village of Manuel Antonio. Seated at the table next to us was Laura Zdunek '08.
- Catherine Hall '05
In 2006 I was on a cruise on the St. Lawrence Seaway when a "girl" came up to me and asked where I went to school. I said, "Iowa," and she asked, "Grinnell?" I said yes and identified myself. It was Mary Kay Gwynne-Vaughan Del Bianco '66. We spent the next hour or so walking for a Holland American Cure for Cancer 5 km Walk catching up on old mutual friends. I guess people remember even after 40 years even with no red T-shirt to identify you.
About 20 years ago my mother, Frances Hansen Ehrig '37, ran into three Grinnell friends at different times in one trip through Heathrow airport outside of London.
It is a small world.
- Margaret Ehrig Dunn '65
Grinnell once removed: My daughter, Stevie 08' went to visit her Grinnell boyfriend at his parents' home in Montana a few summers ago. Short Story: Steive's mom and her boyfriend's mom were long lost college roommates from the University of Vermont.
- Howard Schein '66
A year after graduation, I was at the Fasching (Mardi Gras) parade in Munich, Germany and ran into a fellow graduate, Alice [Sims-]Gunzenhauser '74. Six weeks later I ran into her again on a street in Copenhagen. We Grinnellians get around!
- Elise Kolbjornsen Anton '75
In 2004, here in Honolulu, I was treated over many months by a surgeon for an infection. His mother, a nisei Japanese American from Big Island, attended Grinnell in the 1950s. Probably meant more to me than to him.
- Helen Baroni '81
While hiking through a small town in remote western China on the way to the Tiger Leaping Gorge I hear a hearty "hello, Ryan" from the upper floor of a nearby guesthouse. Yep, Kevin Pollpeter '90 just happened to be there. There is no escape.
- Ryan McNaughton 1992
Running into Michael Lennertz '87, the year after graduation in 1987, at a random location in Cairo, Egypt (details colorful but undisclosable) is a favorite small world experience. We didn't know each other well, but had sat side-by-side at graduation.
- Mary Lanaghan '87
My husband Rashed '03 and I ran into Adele Trueblood '04 at a restaurant in Montreal's Chinatown. We had thought she looked familiar but didn't realize who it was until she came up and asked, "Did you go to Grinnell?"
- Katie Kiskaddon Chowdhury '05
My brother was at the beach on the carribean island of Antiqua wearing his "where in the hell is Grinnell" T-shirt. A jogger without breaking stride stated "Iowa" and just kept on going.
- Sue Barnes
I was sitting in a bar one time in Namibia with Nadia Manning, talking with a bunch of other travelers that I didn't know, and we mentioned Grinnell. Another woman was surprised because she’d just been to Lesotho and had seen someone running along a mountain road with a Grinnell T-shirt. (It must have been John Aerni '01, the Grinnell-in-Lesotho fellow!) Small world indeed.
- Emily Westergaard Hamilton '02
Within an hour of arriving at my new home just after my plane landed in Dhaka, I asked the sari-clad old woman who was there to welcome me if she’d ever been abroad.
Her response? "Oh yes, I’ve been many places: New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco in California, Iowa -- Grinnell..."
- Julia Tabbut '02
I came to Athens in the summer of 2003 to work on the Agora excavations. I knew my old advisor, Jerry Lalonde, was going to be in town, but I didn't have his address. Once I had moved in, I emailed my new address "Xenocratous 48, 2nd floor," and the reply I received was "Xenocratous 48, 5th floor." He was right upstairs! Later that summer, we both had dinner with my fellow Classics majors Erika Zimmerman Damer '02, who was passing through town, and Ashley Jones '02, who was studying in Athens.
The University of Cincinnati Classics Department is full of Grinnellians getting PhDs and MAs in Classics. Charlie Campbell '05 and Molly Miller '06 are PhD students with me; Jamie Reuben '02 and Alder Brannin '04 recently finished their masters degrees here; and Anna Werner '08 will be joining the masters program next year. We were all made aware of the UC Classics program by two Grinnell Classics professors, Joe and Monessa Cummins, who completed their PhDs at Cincinnati.
- Anne Feltovich '03
I was filling up my gas tank during a road trip in Canada and another Grinnellian saw the t-shirt I was wearing (Where the Hell Is Grinnell...) and came up to me. She was also a sociology major with an elementary education certification and graduated just a few years before I did!
- Alison Williams '03
As a med student, I got to robotically remove a kidney stone solely because the surgeon’s brother and sister graduated from Grinnell...like me.
- Kate Pederson '03
I moved to Japan after graduation in 2002, only to find that a band member of two fellow computer science majors (Elias '02 and Hisako '02) was also living in Tokyo. I didn't know Jolyon Thomas '01 at Grinnell, but we quickly bonded over sake, wild Tokyo nights and games of Ultimate. We later joined the oldest bowling league in Japan and he helped things come full circle in this small world when I decided to marry Hisako.
- Joe Simonson '02
In San Francisco with my sister, we emerged from the subway on a long escalator. An older woman in a power suit leapt at us from out of nowhere. "Grinnell!" she screamed, "I love Grinnell." I glanced at my befuddled sister and noticed she was wearing a Grinnell T-shirt I had given her for Christmas years earlier. Then I looked up and the woman was gone--dashing off across the crosswalk under a blinking "don't walk" sign. My sister, a U Chicago alum, said, "That happens all the time."
- Nick Lloyd '04
When I interviewed for my current job, the head of the search committee picked me up from the airport. As I was putting my bags in her car, I noticed she had an old Grinnell parking sticker. Turns out, she worked at the Grinnell library at the same time I was a student. Later on in the interview, I learned that the political papers archivist is also a Grinnellian, class of '82 or so.
- Ann Myers '02
For awhile I received a series of wrong number phone calls from an insurance company about somebody else's medical bills. I looked up the person they were calling, someone whose number was one digit off from mine, and called them to forward the messages. I learned that not only was the phone number just one digit off from mine, but their last name also starts with "Bi", they live next door to my administrative assistant, and the gentleman is Charles Biermann '52, a Grinnell alumnus!
- Ruth Bittner '80
I had a professor in grad school who constantly used Grinnell as an example for all that is weird and intellectual in small colleges (he was teaching at a large university, mind you). He would talk about things like the level of undergrads at the school and then say things like, "It isn't as if we're Grinnell or anything." It took me about a week to tell him I went there and then he was really embarrassed around me for the rest of the semester.
- Gina Hawk Donovan '04
I moved to Montserrat, a 35 sq. mile Caribbean island with a population of about 10,000 in the early 80's. My first week in town, I was walking back up the hill from town, and a very interesting woman stopped in her battered truck and asked if I'd like a ride up the hill. In our short conversation, I learned that she was the local sewing machine repair person as well as the ice and egg lady and local delivery person. Somehow, I also learned that she had gone to Grinnell in the 50s. Imagine my surprise when she said there was another Grinnell graduate on the island, the local furniture importer who also went to Grinnell in the 50s. We gathered at my house the following week and drank rum, ate goat stew and told lots of stories, a Grinnell alumnae party of three.
The other small world story is that when I moved to Benicia, CA, as I walked to town, not a block from my home, there was a white car with a Grinnell sticker. I found out who owned it, went home and donned my Grinnell sweatshirt, knocked on his door and, when he answered the door, I sang the Grinnell fight song from beginning to end. The graduate was the son and was not at home. The dad, Dan, suggested I not give up my day job and he is still my friend ten years later.
- Susan Coop Street '64
We were in Gorky Park in Moscow on the first May Day after the fall of communism, with several hundred Americans and their Russian hosts. Next to me was a young woman, a newspaper reporter, writing with a Grinnell pen. She was a Grinnellian of course.
- Nancy Davis '59
Several years ago when I was running for election to the Berkeley city council for the first time, I decided to knock on as many doors as possible in my district and hand out a flyer. It indicated I was a graduate of Grinnell College. On a number of occasions the person opening the door said, "Why, I'm a graduate of Grinnell, too -- how can I help?"
It turned out that I was elected by a very small margin -- I call it the Grinnell margin.
- Alan Goldfarb '52
I am in shanghai china studying abroad for the summer. The program director saw my Grinnell wallet. He told me he grew up in Iowa. from there, we discussed life in the midwest and we both laughed at the things that make Iowa unique.
- Johana Lozano '11
When I wear my Asa Turner lapel pin many friends look at the pin on my suit coat and ask questions about what it means.
- Charles Hawtrey '57
I was walking in Champaign on Founders Day wearing my Grinnell t-shirt. As I turned the corner, I see Mike Misek '05 and Patrick Choquette '04 singing the very show tunes they learned at Grinnell. It really brought me back. We had a beer and caught up.
- Steve Wood '04
We have three Grinnellians living in the same retirement village in Davenport IA. All three grew up within two blocks of each other.
- Jack Hebbeln '45
A few years ago I was in a tiny Italian restaurant in St. Paul and two customers my age were wearing Grinnell shirts...turns out their son was at Grinnell and we had a great conversation!
- Sue Henken-Thielen '80