An Overview of the Ties Between Grinnell College and Anatolia College
Phil Holland, Anatolia College, 2007
Anatolia College and Grinnell College have been connected since 1890, which was the year that George E. White and his wife, Esther Robbins White, both Grinnell class of 1882, volunteered for missionary service and were sent to Anatolia, which had been founded four years before in what is now north central Turkey. White later became Dean and second President of the school and was responsible for re-establishing it in Greece in 1924 following its forced closing in Turkey in 1921.
Anatolia and Grinnell had common origins in the American Protestant missionary movement, which began in 1806 at Williams College. In the ensuing decades, Protestant missionaries from the Eastern U.S. went to every corner of the world. One of them, Charles Tracy, helped establish a seminary in the multiethnic city of Merzifon in 1867 in the then Ottoman empire, and he founded Anatolia College, with a tertiary academic program, on the seminary grounds in 1886.
Meanwhile, the West was being settled and Protestant colleges were being started there, among them Grinnell, founded in 1846. It was graduates from these colleges that supplied a fresh wave of missionaries in the latter 19th century, including George and Esther Robbins White. Esther White was herself the daughter of one of Grinnell's founders. George White brought his Grinnell experience to bear on the academic program of the young Anatolia, which primarily served the minority Armenian and Greek Christian populations of central Asia Minor. He became President of the school in 1913. In the following year, Carl Compton, Grinnell '13, a classmate of George White's son George D. White at Grinnell, was recruited to teach English at Anatolia.
World War I, the Armenian genocide, and war between Greece and Turkey lay ahead. The campus, with its 45 buildings, had to be abandoned when the order for closing came. But its President had already had experience with a school that had suffered a disaster: Grinnell. George White had been a member of the Cyclone Class and had worked to rebuild Grinnell after graduation. The Prime Minister of Greece invited White to re-establish Anatolia in Thessaloniki, then overwhelmed with refugees. "We had neither bench nor bell nor book," wrote White, but he, his wife, and, soon, Carl Compton and his wife Ruth (also Grinnell '13), and George D. White (Grinnell '15) and his wife Elsie (Grinnell '15) had reopened Anatolia in rented quarters with the support of Anatolia's Board of Trustees in Boston. These three Grinnell couples are largely responsible for building the campus in its present location overlooking the city and establishing Anatolia's reputation for academic excellence in Greece. George E. White retired as President in 1933. Carl Compton served as Dean and became the school's fourth President in 1950, retiring in 1958.
The Greek Anatolia bore a Grinnell stamp, although it changed from a college to a secondary school at the request of the Greek government. Numerous members of the teaching staff in the 1920s and 30s were Grinnellians. Several Grinnell graduates also taught at the school in the post-war decades, and in 2004 the Grinnell Corps began to send two recent graduates annually to Anatolia to work as dormitory advisers and English tutors for one year terms.
Meanwhile, Anatolia began sending some of its graduates to study at Grinnell, thanks to the creation in 1976 by Grinnell of the George White Scholarship, which supports up to one new Anatolian per year at Grinnell for four years. More than 20 Anatolians have held this Scholarship since its inception. One of them, Manolis Maou, Grinnell '86, is now a faculty member at the American College of Thessaloniki, Anatolia's university-level division.
Anatolia and Grinnell share a devotion to liberal education and to the ideal of service to one's fellow man. Their ties began in the 19th century and are still going strong in the 21st. Whether you are headed to Iowa or to Greece, you are now a part of the history that links the two schools.