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Reviewing Tosca

Fri, 2009-12-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)
students and Prof. Maynard

Assistant Professor of History Kelly Maynard (center) with students (clockwise from lower left) Paul Dampier ’12, Kim Knudsen ’10, Erik Jarvis ’12, and Briel Waxman ’12. Knudsen authored the review titled “Italian Opera Insults Catholics.” Photographer: Jim Heemstra

Each student in the course Tyrants and Tunesmiths: Music and the State in Modern Europe wrote a review based upon the experience of the performance, but adopting the perspective of a particular cultural or political figure from the original premiere in 1900 in Rome.

According to Assistant Professor of History Kelly Maynard, the exercise provides a good way for students to apply the historical training they have been receiving in this unique course to their evening at the opera.

Two students share their reviews:

Kim Knudsen ’10 — Role: Offended Catholic

Kim Knudsen ’10

Kim Knudsen ’10 wrote this review of Tosca from the point of view of an offended Catholic.

Italian Opera Insults Catholics

by Kim Knudsen

The weather in Rome is quite miserable this time of year, but the activities of the Holy Year have done much to keep my mind off the cold and the rain. After being thoroughly exhilarated by my religious activities, I decided to enjoy some of the sites of Rome and was fortunate enough to be able to see the new opera by Puccini called Tosca. Although my recounting of these events may sound positive, Rome is the location of many small anticlerical factions, which although annoying to those traveling for the Holy Year, did very little to bother us. The one place I was not expecting to see these hostilities was at the Teatro Costanzi, where Tosca premiered. Although I was delighted in being able to participate in the events of the Holy Year, my voyage was troubled by the anarchists who caused strife around the city as well as the events of Tosca, which darkened my mood.

The city itself was crowded and so was the opera theatre. The streets were overrun with individuals unable to find a hotel room who had to resort to living outside. Luckily, I was able to find a hotel due to my early arrival in Rome. The Teatro Costanzi was also filled to capacity with Italian dignitaries and I heard that Queen Margherita also attended, but I was not fortunate enough to see her with my own eyes. Being quite excited when the opera was scheduled to begin, I was concerned when it was brought to a halt and there were rumors of a bomb threat being murmured around me in several different languages. Besides their nervous mumblings, the audience was altogether polite, even though there were attendees that held very negative views of Puccini, including several of his critics. The building itself was rather luxurious, and although it was able to hold a large number of people, was very crowded, and the seat that I occupied was quite far away from the stage, so distant in fact, that I wished that I had brought some opera glasses. The sound carried well, even to my far away seat, even though I was unimpressed by what I was hearing as a whole, but if a more favorable opera was performed there, I can imagine my opinion to be far more positive than it is.

Tosca is done in by its very poor taste, as it is very violent and the characters seem to be lacking in any unique characteristics, but aspects of the opera besides the plot were performed beautifully. The technical characteristics of the opera were well done, including the lighting as well as the costumes, especially Tosca’s when she was in a crimson gown. The color was rather stunning and reflected the violence that would occur later in the opera, a foreshadowing, if you will, through her garment. The lighting was beautiful, as well as the props, which added to the setting. The major problems I had occurred in the second act of the opera. The setting was very minimal compared to the rest of the opera and although the lighting was stunning and added a frightening element of the shadows of Tosca and Scarpia climbing up the wall, much of the effect was lost due to my seat. I was unable to see whether Scarpia remained on stage though Tosca’s aria and this desire to know lost some of the suspenseful effects that were occurring in other parts of the opera.

This opera was rather disturbing due to its portrayal of the Catholic Church. The opera contains two murders, a suicide, a torture scene, and an attempted rape; all of these elements disturbed me greatly. Yet, the portrayal of Scarpia, a police commander who seems devout but is willing to mislead characters and use his power to influence others’ actions, is probably the most disturbing character to me. The man is a representation of the Catholic Church and to have him be so deplorable in nature astounds me, and to add insult to injury, the fact that this premiered during the Holy Year is very offensive. Aside from the plot, the singers performed exquisitely and their acting helped to add some life to the characters that were not very developed. The music was also rather disappointing, as some of the music does not relate to the stage action at all. For instance at the beginning of the third act, a beautiful sweet song begins with a lovely flute and French horn melody, but the scene opens on Cavaradossi who believes he is going to be executed. The scene, I thought, should have darker music to go with the mood. The lead soprano was excellent in supplying the necessary emotions with her voice, and her arias gave me chills several times during the performance. Both the singers and the performers did the best they could to add the necessary sensations into the pieces they were performing, because the libretto was short, blunt, and right to the point of action and had little room for the feelings of the audience to come to fruition, instead going from major event to major event without a period of calm.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about my trip to Rome. Although I immensely enjoyed the events of the Holy Year, seeing the opera Tosca has upset me and made my experience in Rome one that I would not care to repeat. Although the technical aspects of the opera were rather enjoyable, the plot and the characteristics of Scarpia have left a sour impression in my mind of how the Catholic Church is portrayed in its home country. If the opera had been different, I would have enjoyed my experience in Rome a lot more. In fact, I could not understand why the performers received several curtain calls, perhaps only for their skill and not Puccini’s; regardless, I clapped along in order to be polite, but as a whole I was not impressed by this opera. If I were to do this again, I believe that I would enjoy the events of the Holy Year very much and hope that the city itself is in less discord, but I would not attend an opera for it might give me a false impression of how the church is operating in Italy. Until then, I am very content to be back in my Spanish homeland and will continue to celebrate the Holy Year in a safer, more enjoyable place.

Anne Weeks ’10 — Role: Eager-to-Please Reviewer

Anne Weeks ’10Anne Weeks ’10 wrote this review of Tosca from the point of view of an eager-to-please reviewer.

October 3

Giulio Ricordi

Casa Ricordi

2 Via Berchet

20121 Milano

Signor Ricordi,

Please find enclosed a copy of my review of the October 3 premiere of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Chicago Lyric Opera, to be published in tomorrow’s paper. I hope that you will find it sufficiently complimentary for the promotion of Puccini’s work, and that I have preemptively addressed some of the points likely to be criticized by Signor Torrefranca.

The opera was a pleasure to watch, and I sincerely hope it does not suffer the box office disaster you anticipated.


Anne Weeks, freelance music critic


October 4

Tosca: Puccini’s Latest Triumph

by Anne Weeks

Years of waiting have finally been rewarded! Last night’s premiere of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Chicago Lyric Opera was an event worthy of the international reputation of Verdi’s heir. After such a performance, it may now be said that even on a crisp, overcast Chicago night, a ray of Tuscan sun may shine.

Although far from the composer’s home, the Chicago Lyric Opera has proven itself a worthy vessel for Puccini’s masterpiece. The elegant décor of the opera house, reminiscent of its prestigious European counterparts complete with golden flower motifs and richly colored wall panels, befits the début of such a highly anticipated work. Modern advances, however, also have their place: the orchestra is hidden in a pit below the stage, after the German fashion, and there is not a single obstructed view in the house. This last improvement was, to be sure, much appreciated by the multitudes of spectators who filled the theatre, anxious to be among the first to witness the newest Italian triumph. Come from far and wide, these people filled the theatre with countless languages, no doubt expressing their great anticipation, as we awaited the beginning of the piece, but all was silent as the curtain rose and the music began.

From the first, the remarkable acoustics of the venue, seemingly tailored to the needs of Puccini’s music, were noticed. Not a note of the beautifully exposed woodwind passages, nor a word sung onstage, was lost to the eager ear of the spectator, even in the highest tier of seats where perched your humble correspondent, and the powerful harmonic passages, incorporating the entire orchestra, filled the hall. This extraordinary dynamic range, and the variation in orchestration which so expertly sets the tone, showcase the composer’s individuality: refusing to be bound by Wagnerian ideas of organicism, he rises above any such equation to create a music that is truly Italian.

The production of the opera was also fantastic. The lavish costumes were realistic, tailored to the role of each character so that the visual aspect alone could be used to supply each figure’s pedigree. My readers in Italy will appreciate my noting that the representation of a cathedral was very well done, even in America, showing a great attention to detail. Scarpia’s bureau and the castle were also well represented, with the former set in an Italian color scheme dominated by red and gold and the latter an accurate likeness of a typical Italian fortress. However, it was not the sets themselves that were most impressive, but the lighting. In the second act, especially, the use of shadow to suggest actions taking place just off stage was a brilliant innovation. Nonetheless, even this carefully crafted space would not do justice to the opera, were it not populated by singers worthy of Tosca’s premiere.

Performers can make or break an opera, no matter how brilliant the composer, and, with so much of the opera devoted to scenes with only one or two characters, Tosca is especially dependent on the quality of the singers. The Chicago Lyric Opera is, therefore, fortunate to have such talents as Deborah Voigt, in the title role; Vladmir Galouzine, as Tosca’s lover Cavaradossi; and James Morris, as the devious Baron Scarpia. The chemistry between Voigt and Galouzine is especially remarkable in the first act, with their spectacular performance of the repartee between Tosca and her lover, and, of course, during the moving duet in the last act as Cavaradossi awaits execution.

All of the performers not only sang magnificently, but also truly embodied their character, perfectly conveying the host of complex passions found in this opera. Puccini’s skillful portrayal of emotions reinforces the Italian nature of his art: here there are no Germanic formulas, but only spontaneous feeling that warms the work from within like the Italian sun. In this way, Tosca is an improvement, even over its predecessor, La Bohème, in that the new work represents man’s strongest passions, and not merely an ambiance, as certain critics had claimed of Puccini’s earlier work.

The quality of the performance was not lost upon the audience, which was almost completely silent during each act and seemed quite fascinated by the action on stage. Each intermission, however, saw the halls outside the theatre filled with people of all ages, from young children to those of an advanced age. It was heartwarming to see the crowds that had gathered, many in elegant attire, to view the latest work of Italy’s most talented and beloved composer. The singers were called out for numerous curtain calls, facing thunderous applause from the delighted American audience. Yet again, Giacomo Puccini has proven himself the successor to the internationally renowned Verdi, a composer whose works will continue to remind the world that Italy is now, and always shall be, the home of great opera. I congratulate Signor Puccini on his latest triumph and speak for many, I am sure, when I express my impatience for his next success.

For those who wish to view the latest Italian masterpiece for themselves, a production of Tosca is planned in Rome, where tickets will soon be available. For more information write to Ricordi Publishing House at:

Casa Ricordi

Via Berchet 2

20121 Milano

Originally published as an online web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Winter 2009

Jewish at Grinnell: Tushnet

Fri, 2009-12-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Naida C. Tushnet ’61My Experience: Naida C. Tushnet ’61

My story is that I came to Grinnell in 1958 as an early entrant (didn’t graduate high school) from an East Coast suburb.

Not only was I Jewish, but also I came from a secular Jewish, left-wing family. I think my Grinnell experience solidified my Jewish identification because I was seen as “odd” in a number of ways.

One small story: I was very blonde and have a fair complexion. During my first week at school, a classmate from a small Midwestern town and I were sharing information. When I said I was Jewish, she was astounded. She had never met a Jew and thought they all had dark complexions. When I said that I was, in fact, Jewish, and that all my family was fair, she thought a minute. And then she said, “Oh yes, I guess you really are Jewish. You wear half slips.”

I was too young and too taken aback by that particular stereotype to ask what she thought wearing half slips meant, but when I tell this story now, everyone thinks it was an image of Jewish girls as a little bit slutty.

My secular, left-wing background was also a subject of some issue to the other Jews at Grinnell. But in the next two years, two people I knew from before Grinnell with similar backgrounds became Grinnell students, so I didn’t feel so isolated … although isolated enough that I did summer schools and heavy course loads so I could graduate in three years.

Originally published as a web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Winter 2009

Jewish at Grinnell: Rabinowitz Ericson

Fri, 2009-12-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Deborah Rabinowitz Ericson '71My Experience: Deborah Rabinowitz Ericson ’71

I am writing because I am intrigued by The Grinnell Magazine’s call for stories about the unique perspectives of Jewish students  the Grinnell Experience. I am a secular Jew who graduated from Grinnell in 1971. I was born in New York City and lived there until I was 12. My Jewish identity was then something I took for granted as so many other Jews lived there. After this period, my family moved to a town west of Chicago where people were churchgoers and there were only a handful of Jewish families. My Jewish identity became problematic because I did not go to church like everyone else; it was not something I cared to talk about.

When it was time to apply to college, my Jewish identity had nothing to do with my choice, Grinnell College. Thinking back, there was very little that was Jewish at Grinnell: I was able to take a literature course on writers from the South but no course on Jewish writers, courses in French but no course in Yiddish. There was no Jewish club or Jewish worship on campus. There were, however, numerous Jewish students, imported from New York or California. Some of these became my friends, while others were campus stars, well-known names because of their particular personalities and interests. The lack of Jewish culture at Grinnell never bothered me, as I was used to living in a non-Jewish community and wasn’t looking for Jewish culture at school.

I do remember two experiences at Grinnell that were related to an interest in my Jewish identity. The first is a rather dim recollection of participation in a Jewish holiday at a synagogue in an Iowa city: I don’t recall exactly where. A group of Jewish students took a bus there in the evening. It must have been a conservative synagogue, as I remember sitting upstairs with women in a cramped space and that there was a lovely yellow glow from ornate lights on the ceiling. I didn’t know any of the people I went with, and the event didn’t feel meaningful: this was the only time I participated in Jewish services there.

The other Jewish experience occurred in my senior year at Grinnell when I applied for a culture stipend. The previous year I studied in Tours, France, as part of my French major. During the summer I visited Scandinavia, since I knew nothing about those countries. I also visited a cousin from Chicago who was just beginning her life in Israel. There I met Sephardic Jews and read a book about their second-class status in Israel. This topic introduced me to another Jewish identity, and I was disturbed that Jews mistreated other Jews, something that I knew nothing about. I chose to apply for Grinnell’s culture stipend with a project on Israel’s Sephardic Jews. Unfortunately, I formulated my application too naively. Instead of writing neutrally that I wanted to study the Sephardic Jews by doing fieldwork, I said that I hoped to do something to improve their social status. I came close to getting the stipend, and was interviewed by the committee, one of which was a Jewish political science professor. He seemed mostly uncomfortable having to discuss my application. The winner of the stipend was one of the Jewish campus stars who had a project on comic strips, a topic less provocative than mine.

Although I didn’t receive that stipend, I was later able to do fieldwork in a Jewish community, not in Israel, but in Stockholm. Instead of going to Israel on a stipend, I went back to Sweden to study for a year on an exchange program. My stay has been much longer, and I’m still here in Uppsala, Sweden. After a couple of years in Sweden, I decided to continue university studies: I completed the equivalent of a major in social anthropology at Stockholm University with a fieldwork study on Jewish identity in Stockholm. Using that, I was accepted to the Ph.D. program where I replaced Jewish identity with Swedish artists, and I wrote my thesis, “In the Stockholm Art World.” After that I worked at the department of social anthropology for many years doing research, teaching, and working as dean of undergraduate studies. I am now retired. I wonder if I would be living in Israel and working in other ways if I had received that culture stipend at Grinnell. That project was, in any case, the fi rst impulse for my career as a social anthropologist.

By the way, Uppsala has a very small Jewish community, so my Jewish identity is as low-key as ever. Maybe that’s why I responded to Grinnell Magazine’s call for Jewish stories.

Originally published as an online extra in The Grinnell Magazine, Winter 2009

The Magical Place

Fri, 2009-12-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

James R. Holbrook ’66

James Holbrook '66 with Meg Holbrook, his wife.

Originally published in the Summer 1976 Grinnell Magazine

Before I recount my tale about The Magical Place, I want to make one simple observation: Angels fly because they take themselves so lightly.

Once upon a time, a little boy named Jimmy discovered himself in a magical place. The place was like an island in a sea of gold or white or green, depending upon the season, as Jimmy was to learn.

The place which was like an island had many tall, sturdy trees and many mysterious buildings. It also had people: young people, like Jimmy, and some older people, like Jimmy wanted to become.

At first, it seemed to Jimmy that all the younger people did only ordinary things. Sleep, eat, walk, sit, and listen. The older people, however, did extraordinary things; they told stories to the younger ones. Each older person had a different story to tell, but each story was exciting. Some were about strange and exotic places where people spoke incomprehensible languages. Others were about faraway times when kings and nobles walked the earth and did good deeds. Still others were about tiny alive things that lived inside big, seemingly dead things and made the big things big.

The story Jimmy liked best was about the magicians who looked at the world in various ways and who could make the world seem first one thing and then another. Jimmy decided that most of all he wanted to become a magician when he grew up.

And he did begin to grow up. In fact, the other young people and Jimmy got older, while the older people got younger. Soon all the young people participated in the storytelling. Some young people were even able to tell a story better than an older person could, or so it seemed.

Finally, one unspecial day, Jimmy got old enough to know that The Magical Place and its magical time would not last forever for him. The magic of the place and time began to grow smaller and smaller until Jimmy was no longer able to perceive it. Soon after, Jimmy discovered that he had a new magical name — Boo Bear — and that it was time for him to leave The Magical Place and venture forth on his own.

First, Boo Bear traveled to a factory which turned would-be magicians into professional magicians. But instead of finding that he enjoyed being turned into a magician, Boo Bear learned that magicians had very dull lives. He stayed in the magician factory only long enough to become an apprentice magician and then he left, deciding it had all been a waste of time.

From the magician factory Boo Bear traveled to a strange and faraway land where people cried and slowly disappeared. There Boo Bear learned that good people can do very bad things to other good people, all the while believing they are doing good. Boo Bear left this sad country, but many good people stayed behind to cry and slowly disappear. This was a very unmagical time and place.

Next Boo Bear traveled to a second factory. This factory was designed to take its workers apart, piece by piece, more or less quickly, and then let the workers put themselves back together again. Most workers did put themselves together again; a few could not. Some who put themselves together emerged very different from what they were when they had entered. Boo Bear emerged with his heart where his head had been.

After he left the second factory Boo Bear was employed by a dragon to help the dragon be a strong dragon. The dragon was always good to Boo Bear, but he singed and burned many others with his fire.

While working for the dragon, Boo Bear began to recall the original magical place where he had slept and eaten and walked and sat and listened. The Magical Place had not really grown so small that he could not recall it. In fact, Boo Bear recollected the time he had spent at The Magical Place so well that he pledged little gifts as tokens of his deep and abiding affection for its magic.

Recently, Boo Bear has learned a number of surprising things. He’s learned that having a heart where a head should be is not at all a handicap. He’s learned that choosing a magical name for another prevents the other from having a magical name. (Everyone who has a magical name should choose it for himself, but only after he finds it, of course.) And, most surprisingly, he’s learned that magical times and places exist without magicians to create them. Magical times and places exist because that is what they are supposed to do.

Now Boo Bear has found and chosen a new magical name, which he cannot reveal because he is still using it. He is learning to see that many, if not most, things in the world are just as magical as The Magical Place, but he never would have learned this had he not first discovered himself there.

Magical places are good for people. They help people grow and change from one thing into another. Those younger or older people who are not now in a magical place should search for one. It would be a nice change.


Originally published as an online extra in The Grinnell Magazine, Winter 2009

A Look at Historic Grinnell in Grinnell

Photos Courtesy of the Grinnell College Archives except where noted

For 150 years, the community of Grinnell and Grinnell College have grown and thrived, side by side, sharing a name as well as a beloved place. The Grinnell College Archives provided this photo slideshow, offering a look back at where we've been.

Large two-and-a-half story building with porch
Grinnell’s second hospital was located in this house on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Elm Street. It has now been restored.
snowy street with ornate stonework on one building
The view looking west on Fourth Street, with the Merchants’ National Bank on the right (designed by renowned architect Louis H. Sullivan in 1913) and the Candyland, a popular student hangout, just up the street.
Small, rather bare-boned buildings with detritus in the foreground
Central Park after the 1889 fire, which devastated a section of downtown bounded by Main and Broad Streets and Fourth Avenue and the Rock Island Railroad tracks. Visible in the photo are the temporary huts of the downtown merchants who were displaced by the fire.
View from a high angle showing brick buildings, railroad tracks, a smoke stack, and a church in the top right corner
This postcard offers a bird’s eye view of Commercial Street in Grinnell.
plots of burned land and rubble walls
The devastation of the Congregational Church after the 1889 fire ravaged Grinnell.
a drug store counter with fixed stools, with food and drink for sale, and a back wall with signs
Generations of Grinnellians found a warm welcome and sweet treats at Cunningham’s Soda Fountain, shown here in January 1956.
Men climbing through the rubble of two buildings one with partial wals, the other flattened
Just before Commencement in 1882, a cyclone killed two students and destroyed the College’s two buildings. The Rev. David O. Mears, who was in Grinnell to deliver the Commencement address, later wrote: “There was a fearful terror of blackness and the deadly roar -- and all was still as if the shrill whistling train of death were passed. There was only death and ruin left in its track.”
street lined with large houses and trees
Grinnell, circa 1899, with large homes on the west side of High Street, between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.
Large stone building
The imposing edifice of the Grinnell Junior High School seems to reflect the seriousness with which the community regards education. The building is now the Community Center downtown, across from Central Park.
storefront on a corner with a turret above
Grinnell’s largest clothier occupied a choice storefront at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Main Street in downtown Grinnell.
store front with striped awning, and Spurgeons on awning and above.
Spurgeon’s Department Store was for many years a staple for shoppers in downtown Grinnell. The building is now the home of Grinnell Home Decorating.
large building with wide stair and tower to the left of the main entrance
Stewart Public Library on Broad Street as it looked in 1912. Funded by Joel Stewart, the library had seen just over a decade of service when this photo was taken.
Frontage of the theatre with stained glass fixed awning and large lightable sign saying Strand
The original Strand Theatre opened in Grinnell in 1916 at 921 Main Street, which is today the site of the recently restored and refurbished movie theatre of the same name.
people standing around Union Depot as train steams in
Two rail lines intersect at Grinnell’s Union Depot, the Chicago Rock Island and the Central Railroad of Iowa. The depot opened in 1893 and served as a hub for passenger rail service until the early 1980s.
long line of cars and people walking along, drugstore with cigar advertisement on left
The west side of Broad Street as it appeared prior to the construction of the Merchants National Bank. (Postcard courtesy of Mickey Munley ’87)

Wrongfully Convicted

Attorney Josh Tepfer ’97 is one of the founders of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth (CWCY), part of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, Ill. He shared this video about Johnnie Lee Savory, who hasn't been exonerated but is one of the center's clients seeking testing. Tepfer also shared this link to footage from an actual juvenile false confession, Michael Crowe, who confessed to killing his sister.

This article appeared as a web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Fall 2009.

J.B. Grinnell : Abolitionist, minister, land speculator

Portrait of J. B. GrinnellJ.B. Grinnell is a towering figure in the history of Grinnell, Iowa. Josiah Bushnell Grinnell -- better known as J.B. -- was born in Vermont in 1821. He grew up a farm boy, working in the fields in the spring and summer and attending school only in the winter. He learned quickly and began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse by the age of 16. After spending a few years teaching, he left Vermont to attend Oneida Institute in New York, a radical institution that opposed slavery.

It was there that Grinnell became a staunch abolitionist. He would remain vocally opposed to slavery for his whole life -- even founding the town of Grinnell based on this tenet. He once hosted abolitionist John Brown in Grinnell as Brown was bringing several freed slaves along the Underground Railroad to Canada.

After leaving Oneida, Grinnell cycled through many jobs. He studied with a physician and considered a medical career, but then decided to head into the Wisconsin Territory to discover and survey new tracts of land. He went west with the American Tract Society, a religious organization, and while working with this group, he decided to go into the ministry.

Returning east, Grinnell settled in Washington, D.C., after being ordained in New York. He started the First Congregationalist Church there and gave the first anti-slavery sermon the city had ever heard. Most people in Washington were strong supporters of slavery at the time, and Grinnell was forced to leave the city because of his opinions.

Although the story may be apocryphal, it is said that Grinnell heeded the famous advice to "Go west young man," delivered to him by politician and friend Horace Greeley. At any rate, Grinnell did set out again for uncharted territory. He enlisted the help of Homer Hamlin, a minister; Henry Hamilton, a surveyor; and Dr. Thomas Holyoke to find a location for a new settlement. They looked at different locations in the Midwest, including Minnesota and Missouri, but decided on the divide between the Iowa and Skunk rivers, where the east/west and north/south Rock Island railways were set to cross. On this site, the city of Grinnell was founded.

J.B. Grinnell and his three companions commenced building the settlement in 1854 with three temporary log cabins. They began to sell land for $1.62 an acre, and the town quickly grew. The one stipulation on all the deeds sold was that alcohol could never be sold or consumed on any of the properties, as Grinnell strongly opposed the use of alcohol. This rule was upheld for many years, until a court overruled it.

With the founding of the town, Grinnell also founded "Grinnell University," although it was a university only in name. He created a board of trustees and listed all the members of town as professors. No buildings were ever built, nor classes held, but after J.B. Grinnell persuaded Iowa College to move to Grinnell from Davenport, Iowa, all of Grinnell University was signed over to the Trustees of Iowa College.

Grinnell went on to serve in Congress, where his abolitionist stance often put his life in danger. After winning re-election twice, he lost a third bid and moved back to Grinnell. He remained there until his death in 1891 from bronchitis and asthma after a trip through Texas into Mexico.


This was originally published in The Grinnell Magazine, Fall 2009 edition 

Joanna Harris Haines 1865

Tue, 2009-09-15 03:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Joanna Harris HainesJoanna Harris arrived in Grinnell in 1855 at the age of 11, and did not venture much farther until her death at the age of 87 in 1931. She graduated in 1865 as the first female graduate of Grinnell College and one of the first women to graduate from a college west of the Mississippi.

Her family traveled by covered wagon from Mercer County, Pa., where she was born, to Farmington, Iowa. The family didn't stay in Farmington long, because their neighbors there were mostly pro-slavery. The Harris family "believed in freedom for both black and white," according to the funeral address given by Rev. E.M. Vittum, the family's pastor at the Congregational Church of Grinnell. The Harrises moved to Grinnell from Farmington because they liked the "New England colony" atmosphere of Grinnell.

After growing up in Grinnell, Joanna became a member of the first female class to attend Grinnell College. In the mid-1860s, most male students were off fighting the Civil War, and the school needed to increase enrollment. The women were allowed to study in a "ladies' course," in which they received diplomas, but not bachelor of arts degrees, at graduation.

Vittum remarked at Joanna's funeral that members of the first female class--graduating in 1865--was denied their degrees because the college officials "felt a little delicacy in declaring that the young ladies were bachelors of arts.

"Afterwards," Vittum continued, "they atoned for their neglect and gave the degrees the ladies had earned."

At Grinnell, Joanna met Robert M. Haines, who graduated with Joanna in 1865. They were married two years later in 1867, and Joanna, then 22, became Joanna Harris Haines.

Her obituary in the Grinnell Herald Register referred to Joanna a "natural teacher." At the time of her marriage to Robert, Joanna held a teaching position at the College, where Robert also worked. Before that, she spent two years teaching at a school in Troy, Iowa.

Her income from teaching helped support her family while Robert pursued a law degree at the University of Iowa. After receiving his degree, they moved back to Grinnell; they remained there for the rest of their lives, living in a house on High Street, a few blocks from campus. Robert would eventually become a trustee of the College, and Joanna would teach at Grinnell High School.

While living in Grinnell, Joanna and Robert raised six children. Following in their parents' footsteps, all of them attended the College and three of them married other Grinnellians. The Haines family ended up sending four generations of students to Grinnell -- more than 20 family members in total.


Originally published as an online web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Fa;; 2009

Judge James R. Wilson ’68

Tue, 2009-09-15 03:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Judge James R. Wilson ’68I knew Jim from the time that he was a senior at Grinnell College and I was on the admission staff. He and Judge Dale Mossey '68 and I started at the University Law School together in the fall of 1968, an incredible year of presidential resignation, two assassinations, exploding Democratic convention, a close race for the presidency, and the war in Vietnam.

The demand for soldiers caused both Jim and Dale to be drafted after one semester, to return to the law school class of 1973. That same war had caused our original class of 1971 to start with 50 fewer students and 18 women, seven more than the prior class, and 15 more than the class of 1969.

My favorite Jim Wilson story is the golf game that wasn't.

I was scheduled to argue Huntley v. Huntley before the Court of Appeals in Bemidji, Minn., on a summer morning. So I arranged to meet Jim, then city and county attorney in Bagley, for a round of golf in with Terry Holter in Bemidji. The day came, bright and sunny, and coincided with Gov. Perpich's decision time for a judgeship in that area. Jim was a finalist, and had heard that Rudy didn't want a bunch "golf-playing judges." Jim worried that the call would come while we were on the course, to his regret. Thus, I had a fine time with my new friend Terry, while Jim awaited the call — ultimately received by Peter Cannon!

Fortunately, Jim was appointed to the next vacancy, Roseau, to Carol's everlasting delight. When David Ten Eyck '76 was appointed in Brainerd, that made four graduates of our small Iowa liberal arts college on the Minnesota Bench, a source of pride for all of us.

We saw each other at bar and judge conventions until his memory began to fade. He was kind enough to let me dance with Carol. Of course, he hated dancing himself, so was not grudging.

Myrna and I visited with Jim at the assisted living facility in Roseau a year ago last May on our trip to and from Winnipeg for a barbershop contest. We had great visits, both remembering more than we expected. He was as gracious in his handling of his memory loss as anyone I have met.

We will miss him terribly, even as the bench in the sprawling 9th District has missed him for years and much too early.


Originally published as an online web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Fall 2009

Priming the Pump

Tue, 2009-09-15 03:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Seeking to maximize the benefits of the decennial accreditation process for formative reflection and conversation, the College requested and received permission from the Higher Learning Commission to engage in a Special Emphasis self study focused on an issue critical to improving our ability to achieve our mission: reinvigorating our traditional commitment to train leaders in public service and social justice as we enter the 21st century. The College's mission reads, in part:

As a teaching and learning community, the College holds that knowledge is a good to be pursued both for its own sake and for the intellectual, moral, and physical well-being of individuals and of society at large....The College aims to graduate women and men who ...are prepared in life and work to use their knowledge and their abilities to serve the common good. (emphasis added) 

Our Special Emphasis theme arises out of ambivalence about leadership on our campus. Our students hope to "change the world," but tend to eschew leadership, one of the qualities that might contribute to that end. Views on campus differ as to whether leadership as commonly understood (or misunderstood) is essential to effecting positive change. Our students' desires to effect positive change while disavowing leadership aspirations are seen by some as self-defeating. Others are deeply suspicious of the language of leadership. How do we conceive of leadership at Grinnell? What is social justice? What do leadership and social justice have to do with our approach to liberal education? In order to help us think about our Special Emphasis theme, we conducted preliminary interviews with faculty members and alumni who approached the topic from different perspectives. Some of these people were chosen because they had expressed concerns about emphasizing leadership at Grinnell and had offered alternative models. Others were chosen because their teaching, research or position has given them a particular insight into leadership and social justice at the College. We asked this group the above questions and received rich and varied insights into possible meanings of these terms for Grinnell. In his interview, Dan Reynolds foretold the approach we hoped to take in our faculty discussions: "I think rather than provide a [hard-and-fast definition] of leadership, I'd be more interested in thinking about ways in which we could look at various models and emphasize those that are more about community-building and about motivating than they are about authority." Taking Dan's comment as our point of departure, we invite the faculty to consider conceptions of leadership, social justice, and liberal arts education at Grinnell and their relation to our mission --what we're doing, why we're doing it, and where we might go in the future.

Leadership and Grinnell culture

Doug Caulkins was to the point in discussing his notions of leadership, both as it is generally understood and as it is understood at Grinnell, where our interviewees were nearly unanimous in their observation that Grinnell students are deeply suspicious of leaders and their exercise of power. Caulkins paired leadership with group membership and offered an anthropological analysis of the dominant Grinnell culture based on the work of Mary Douglas, whose important works include Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, and, with Stephen Ney, Missing Persons: A Critique of the Social Sciences. According to Caulkins:

Leadership means motivating others to help change the status quo; making a difference. However, Grinnellians tend to think and feel that "leadership" implies hierarchy--having authority over people. According to the egalitarian cultural bias here, Grinnell should be a leadership-free zone. An anthropology framework involves two dimensions of social constraint: Group [identified as an X axis] or incorporation into groups, and Grid [constraint applied by external sources, identified as a Y axis]. These axes range from low to high, and a four-quadrant grid placed on the axes contains four theoretical groups:

Grid/Group Analysis image explained in text

Quadrant A: Competitive Individualism (where there is low group constraint and low group membership). In this [sector of the quadrant], individualistic free actors create and break social networks as needed for their daily life. 

Quadrant B: Isolated Subordination. Those in this quadrant are fatalistic, highly constrained by external rules, and often have no social network at all to support them). This [quadrant] is an undesirable place to be. On a societal level, many who are poverty-stricken are here. They have little control over their lives.

Quadrant C: Hierarchy. [In this quadrant] there is high group membership and a high degree of restraint. Think of a typical bureaucracy, where individuals are highly constrained but have clearly understood memberships in groups. According to Max Weber, this is the university, the church, or a governmental agency: You're in your group, you know your place, and there are lots of rules.

Quadrant D: Egalitarian enclave/sectarianism. [In this quadrant] there is low external restraint, high group membership. People in this group think about their responsibility to others, and for them the idea of self-managing is not individualistic. Those in this group believe we are responsible to others, and there is a moral authority in the responsibility we bear toward others. Here, leadership is a critical responsibility. This system is always critical of individualism and hierarchy. That's where [this group's notions of] leadership [are located]; we are protestors, we are critical of the system. It's often said that, in this [model], universities are the institutions that provide a critical perspective on the other institutions. Grinnell's dominant culture is firmly located here. There are lots of subcultures that are either more hierarchical or more individualistic here-international students, for instance. By coming here, they've taken themselves out of their group membership and are more focused on "What's my career going to be like?" In contrast, many of our domestic students come from the middle class, and while they do know they will need to earn a living, it's not yet a critical issue for them. They're confident they'll find a role and have a future. This has traditionally let them focus on cultural criticism, the Social Gospel Movement, etc. Many of our students [from this demographic] start in grass-roots activities — Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, soup kitchens, etc. They don't assume they are elites to be catapulted into leadership positions; they [know they] have to earn their way into leadership. At Grinnell, tolerance comes first: we're not rule-based but morality-based. No culture is without its contradictions, though; we're intolerant of the hierarchical.

Intolerant tolerance According to Caulkins, it is Grinnell's traditional suspicions concerning leadership that have produced this culture of "intolerant tolerance," and that make it difficult for anyone here to use the word "leadership" without encountering resistance. "Changing things, innovating, are positive things if they are connected with [a Grinnellian] sense of morality," Caulkins said. "It's team leadership or team entrepreneurship [that are seen as positives]. That's why there's a proliferation of various groups on campus. In a sense, you have to make [an issue] not just your concern but the concern of some others before it becomes legitimate. Individualistic leadership is right out here." Caulkins continues:

How do you lead? You can create an organization that will make a difference, or you get into a position where you are able to direct an organization's activities in the right direction from within. Let's add a further complication: Let's think about entrepreneurs as leaders. The usual, erroneous, image is of the thrusting individual who's out to make a billion dollars before they're 35. What entrepreneurs do, according to Schumpeter, is innovate, creating new products, processes, or organizations. And one can innovate in any sector — business, non-profit, or government. Entrepreneurship doesn't have to do with making money; it has to do with making a difference and making new institutions. Schumpeter spoke of the "creative destruction" of old institutions that are not adequately meeting needs being replaced by others that do actively meet the needs of society. This view can be harnessed in Grinnell's hegemonic culture. Grinnellians do like destruction and want to change things for the better. We're driven by moral critiques of these other institutions that are failing society in some way. Bob Noyce '49 made a lot of hardware innovations, but he was instrumental in creating non-hierarchical Silicon Valley institutions. Grinnellians can become innovators who create new products, processes, organizations. Consider two of our recent alums.... They have worked with the Latino community in Des Moines. They found that banking institutions in the area weren't serving this community well, so they worked with the savings and loan organizations to better serve the Latino community, the most rapidly growing population in Iowa. This is socially responsible: making the American dream accessible to a community that has not previously had sufficient access to it. It exemplifies the social concern and creative entrepreneurial leadership that is very Grinnellian. Entrepreneurs in the D quadrant are typically "team" entrepreneurs with a high sense of collective or community responsibility. 

How leaders exercise power-four models

Given Grinnellians' avowed suspicions concerning leaders and their exercise of power, we felt it might be useful to move from Caulkins' grid/group analysis to a discussion of power offered by Kathleen Skerrett. In talking about the exercise of power, Skerrett drew on her scholarship and her legal experience to offer a succinct taxonomy of the ways in which power is exercised among human beings: through coercion, through nurture, through attraction and through reciprocity. We quote this section of our interview with her directly:

Power as nurture. I would say this is a strategy of using power as energy to increase the strength, the growth, or the vitality of other human beings. It's a strategy of transmitting and giving energy, gathering energy and then putting it strategically in the way of people who need it or can use it. It's part of what we do with young children; they don't know what they need, so we provide resources and energy and stimulation and vision that enable them to thrive. I chose the word nurture because I want it to be construed as very concrete, as in food.

Power as attraction. This would be a way of thinking about power as mimetic, of offering people patterns after which they form themselves. That can also be very concrete. It can also be a good or a bad thing — power can attract others to vacuous models as well as to good models. Dominance, for example, can be very attractive.

Power as reciprocity. This has to do with both the visceral impress people have on each other constantly, and the ethical regard that can emerge from that; the power we have on each other as incarnate beings is primal. We are aware of each other as consciousnesses, as vulnerable and as influential; we're aware of each other as creatures that have this impress on each other. This sort of power springs from a profound awareness of other beings — that they're not things. That's the basis of ethics in politics.

Power as coercion. This is a strategy of constraining others by force, curtailment of resources, intimidation and degradation. Power that coerces is the weakest form of power, though its effects are terrible. It is what we do when the other strategies have been exhausted. So coercion is the limit of power. I would say it's weak because it works to destroy the beings it wants to move.

According to Skerrett, good leaders are aware — either intuitively or directly — of all these forms of the exercise of power, and know how to use them strategically and humanely.

"It's tempting to set up a hierarchy," she said. "But I think effective leadership springs from an awareness of all these forms of power, although I think I would privilege reciprocity. People who are ethical leaders are constantly aware of power as reciprocity. They feel obliged to generate power as nurture, and are constantly trying to shape their behavior as model, and to avoid coercion through degradation or violence."

Reciprocity as sine qua non in social justice

As is suggested above, Skerrett privileged the reciprocal model over the others as yielding the most direct path to social justice.

"Social justice begins with an awareness of and experience with reciprocity:" she said. "the awareness of the other as a sentient being who can suffer, a consciousness that this being has loves and suffers loss, is organized by direction, and an awareness of the other as a being in time. The consciousness that is before you begins in acute vulnerability and finitude; the contract of reciprocity that we make with each other begins in an awareness of that temporal development. An awareness of the other's developmental needs is a part of reciprocity as well."

Skerrett emphasized that, in her conception, justice begins and ends in leaders' understanding of reciprocity.

"It's a way of governing ourselves with mutual attention to our needs changing through time," she said. "We begin in natal vulnerability and end in death; any concept of social justice has to have an alertness to these truths as its basis. Without that, any way we frame justice will fail. It will produce the excluded, the abnormal, and the outcast. [Reciprocity is] inclusion in an active process, over time; an ability to envision a community of nurture and justice over time."

The centrality of reciprocity in effective leadership also came up in several of the other interviews. For instance, in our conversation with Grinnell alumnus Babak Armajani, founder of the Public Strategies Group in St. Paul, MN, he said: "Ethics and leadership are entwined... [i]n the kind of leadership Robert Greenleaf calls "servant leadership." The foundation of ethics is 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' That's reciprocity. So with anyone who at any point is leading and those who have voluntarily decided to follow, there's reciprocity."

"Follow-ship" rather than Leadership

Pablo Silva has a slightly different version of the path the "servant leader" must follow, which has its roots in a commencement address he heard while at Harvard.

"Harvard's chaplain talked about the need being not for better leadership but for better 'follow-ship,'" he said. "A lot of people come out of college at a lot of leading institutions with very strong ambitions to become leaders. And some will realize these ambitions, over the course of their career, at some point. But for the vast majority of people, and for almost everyone when they're starting out, what they need to prove themselves [as being] is not really effective leaders, but effective followers. And it's that part that I think is the most important: to prepare people for these early stages of their career, in whatever field they're going to go into. In the realm of the pursuit of social change and social justice, no one instantly shoots to the top. There are these few amazing individuals that do rise rapidly through the ranks, yes, but even they have to start out someplace down the line: knocking on doors, doing surveys, doing research — the scut work which is involved in all these professions, whether they're [conducting] academic studies, working for government, or working for a social organization or corporation. There are certain characteristics we ought to instill in people, which will hopefully help them to rise to positions of authority and leadership. But to make that [the central] goal of an educational institution is excessively narrow. And the other problem with that is that it sort of exaggerates the ultimate goal, and it makes it seem like if you don't achieve at a certain level, you're somehow failing.

"That's just not what we want to be teaching students. I think effective follow-ship is important, and it's an important goal to instill. To make it seem like leadership is the only adequate level of achievement actually undercuts the very mission of social justice. So I don't think it should be something we should be doing, nor should the rhetoric we're using be [shaped that way]. Right now, if you think about effective activism for social justice, I think Grinnell is doing an excellent job of that. There are some things we certainly do better, and I think there are things in train moving that direction that are very positive."

Silva suggests that one way Grinnell can do more of what it's already doing well is by helping students to expand their notions of what constitutes fitting work on behalf of social justice.

"I do like the language of 'social justice,'" he said. "[However] the way a lot of our students conceive of [working toward it] ... oftentimes becomes too narrow, and that's my real concern with defining it [this way]. Because I think a lot of students, even by the time they leave here, have too narrow a vision of what would constitute a worthwhile career."

The Gadfly Farm

John Stone also feels that Grinnell can build on its successes by recognizing that many of its graduates work for social justice in a way that often goes unremarked — as social critics or (to use his term) "gadflies." In his essay "The Gadfly Farm," Stone called Grinnell "an institution for developing thoughtful, persistent, effective critics."

"We should accept this image of ourselves and promote it in our public relations," he said. "It is consistent with the College's history and our current reputation. It takes advantage of the College's greatest institutional strengths and converts into additional strengths other characteristics of the College that have sometimes been regarded as weaknesses (such as its location). Finally, it distinguishes us from most of our competitors, placing us foremost in a class of significant and socially useful institutions."

Stone insists that Grinnell graduates "fewer leaders and more gadflies" than its sister liberal arts institutions. He has a particular definition for "gadfly," calling the person who wears that mantle "a thoughtful critic of ideas, customs, and institutions." He holds that there are important distinctions between leaders and gadflies — distinctions it would be useful for the College to consider as we ponder the institution's avowed ambition to produce leaders.

The social role of a gadfly is to effect institutional change by challenging preconceptions and prejudices, advocating reforms, and "speaking truth to power." A leader, on the other hand, is someone who guides and directs the activities of other people within an organization. The leader's social role is to build, shape, and preserve useful institutions. Although the two roles sometimes overlap, the differences are more striking than the similarities. Gadflies usually operate from the periphery of the social structure that they want to change, leaders from the center of power. The traits of character that a gadfly needs most are outspokenness, persistence, clarity of insight, and courage; good leaders, on the other hand, are characterized by self-assurance, loyalty, personal charisma, and professional expertise. Gadflies tend to be politically progressive or radical, leaders to be conservative.

Stone emphasized that Grinnell's production of gadflies has strongly figured in the College's history, "both among its faculty (e.g., George Herron, Jesse Macy) and among its graduates (e.g., Hallie Flanagan, Louise Noun)."

Founded by social reformers and given a home by abolitionists, the College has, from its inception, accommodated and indeed cultivated dissidence. It is no accident that, in the proudest public moments of its subsequent history (such as the Social Gospel movement, the NDEA loyalty-oath flap in the late fifties, Vietnam War protests, and divestiture in South Africa), the College itself has acted more as a gadfly than as a leader.

The implication is that the College would do well to remember the gadfly's importance to society, and to stay aware of this importance as it weighs what its traditional strengths best equip it to inculcate in our students. Indeed, in Stone's conception, Grinnell's structure — and even some of its perceived shortcomings — make it a gadfly breeding ground:

Grinnell's open curriculum attracts students who are already skeptical about institutional rules. Once they are here, the open curriculum more or less forces Grinnell students to reflect on the rationale of the plans that they develop for their own education — to examine them critically and to defend their choices as best suited to their needs and goals. This experience, too, teaches them to question arbitrary requirements.

Politically, the Grinnell College community tends to be progressive and at the same time to be tolerant and respectful of dissenters. The students we attract tend to have the same orientation and are therefore predisposed to becoming gadflies. We provide them with an environment in which outspokenness, persistence, clarity of insight, and courage are visibly rewarded more than unthinking acceptance of conventional views.

The small size of the College and its relative freedom from bureaucracy and red tape make it possible for a gadfly-in-training to effect small changes promptly and, on occasion, significant ones over a four-year undergraduate career.

At Grinnell, students work unusually closely with faculty. We spend a lot of time in one-on-one office discussions with students, and we support an unusually large number of guided-reading and independent-project courses and student-faculty research projects. Consequently, there are many opportunities for students to observe and assimilate the attitudes of faculty. But the Grinnell faculty itself includes more gadflies than leaders. The critical stance that comes naturally to teachers, and particularly to faculty members at a college where teaching is highly valued, is one of the attitudes that our students most often learn to imitate.

On the other hand, the College's location, which we have tended to regard as a difficulty to be overcome, actually contributes to its success as a gadfly farm. Our isolation would indeed be a handicap to the development of leaders, because leaders use their undergraduate years to meet influential people who can advance their careers and to establish friendships, or at least share experiences, with one another. It is much harder for embryonic leaders to build up a network of useful contacts when they are placed in a remote, rural area of an unfashionable state. However, our distance from the centers of power is an advantage for gadflies: It weakens the inertial force of established institutions and enables us to look at them objectively, dispassionately, and fearlessly.

Similarly, Grinnell's reputation for idealism and its commitment to social justice, which have sometimes been thought to be signs of dangerous naïveté and unworldliness, are more valuable as characteristics of a gadfly farm. It would be appropriate, perhaps, to train leaders to be pragmatic, so that they can build up their power and acquire followers. For gadflies, however, pragmatic abandonment of ideals is a disastrous mistake, undermining the force of their criticism. In many of its programs, Grinnell College puts its ideals into practice without compromising them. Observing and participating in such programs is valuable experience for our gadflies-to-be.

Rather than selling itself as a producer of leaders, as so many of our sister liberal arts institutions now seem to be doing, Stone recommends that Grinnell should embrace and even "go public" with this traditional, if unrecognized, strength:

Since many of the colleges that Grinnell sees as peers and competitors have focused on the goal of developing leadership, the contrasting image of the gadfly farm is one that distinguishes Grinnell and makes it easier for prospective students to see and understand our unique attributes. Few liberal-arts colleges recognize the social utility of gadflies or present themselves as supporters of the gadfly's role. By most standards, Grinnell is the foremost of them.

In a study released in 1998 (Marketing Grinnell College: Strategy and Recommendations), Jan Krukowski and Company recommended the following "positioning statement" as the basis for the College's public-relations and recruitment efforts:

Grinnell College is an outstanding liberal arts college dedicated to helping students fully develop all their abilities and their determination to have an impact on the world. Grinnell's approach to education in the liberal arts and sciences emphasizes the building of intellectual initiative through academic choice and responsibility. Grinnell views an important outcome of this education to be the confidence to translate ideals into actions, in whatever field of endeavor. An environment of close collaboration, intellectual challenge, and receptivity to diverse views is fostered by a demanding faculty dedicated to teaching. A Grinnell education is not only different — it makes a difference.

I support the Krukowski recommendation and propose the image of the gadfly farm to add specificity, color, and point to this statement.

Re-imagining citizenship

Tyler Roberts also had an alternative take on how the College might steer closer to its ultimate aims by steering away from a focus on leadership. For him, instead, a more fruitful use of our energies would involve reframing, for ourselves and our students, our definitions of citizenship.

"When I first heard people on campus talking about this focus on leadership, I had a strong negative reaction to it," he said. "It seemed to me like more branding, and seemed connected — in my mind at least — to some of the negative elements of the 'No Limits' slogan. Both can very easily play into the some of the worst individualistic excesses of our culture. I think that I have since moderated my view of the leadership idea, though I am still not convinced that it is something we should pursue. I've been thinking about it this way. There are at least two models for thinking about leadership. The first is a kind of George W. Bush model: I am the decider, or, in a less extreme version, the 'entrepreneur.' The second is the citizen. Where the first emphasizes individualism and economic creativity and success, the second emphasizes community and social justice. It seems to me that if Grinnell is going to focus on leadership, it has be leadership of the second type. I wonder, though, whether a more appropriate focus for Grinnell would be on citizenship rather than leadership.

"When I think of the kind of leaders/citizens Grinnell produces, the people I first think of are [a couple of] Grinnell grads who live here in Grinnell, who aren't leaders in any obvious sense, but [who are] really good citizens of the community. He's [headed the campaign to build the new library]; she's on the school board [and has been involved with the League of Women Voters]. Perhaps I shouldn't say that they are not leaders; they certainly have played leading roles in the town. But to me it is the citizenship aspect of what they do that I find admirable. I am also thinking of some of our colleagues on the faculty who have been heavily involved with Democratic politics, local and national, such as Don Smith and Pablo Silva. I worry that the term leadership is too narrow, that it leads us to think first of CEOs and politicians rather than those who do the bulk of the work of creating better communities for all of us."

For Roberts, "responsible citizenship" is determined by one's active engagement with the various communities to which one belongs.

"I think [our ambition to create] a stronger link to social justice is precisely why the meaning of citizenship needs reframing," he said. "Citizenship [as it is commonly thought of] seems kind of passive: 'All I need to do is vote, and I'm a citizen.' But [true] citizenship requires active engagement in the community. I would like to see the College emphasizing the ways in which our commitment to the liberal arts is in large part a commitment to producing graduates who think first of being good citizens of whatever communities they might find themselves in. Sure, it's great to go off to graduate school, and a lot of our students will do that. But how are we helping to shape people who're going to engage the world outside of academia?"

According to Roberts, the advantage this revamped notion of citizenship brings to leadership is the recognition that the individual acts within a community, creating an obvious link between public engagement and social justice.

"One way of thinking about [social justice] and connecting it with leadership [is through notions of] democracy and community," he said. "I mean the ways the leader works with a community to make it a just community, where power is shared and the community recognizes its relations with other communities.

"I think if we're going to redefine or reframe [the word "leadership"], we need to link it directly — and much more closely than we usually link it in our culture — with social justice. Here I think especially about how we forge the kinds of communities and processes that make democracy possible. Let's take the Grinnell College community. It would be my hope that the leaders of this community would see as one of their primary responsibilities the cultivation of the kinds of trust and communication that makes group decision-making, where it is appropriate, fair and effective, and makes individual decision-making, where appropriate, responsive to the larger community. Not all decisions — say about certain appointments or about the budget — are made democratically. But even in those cases, it is crucial to have leaders who facilitate or cultivate the kind of community where information and opinions flow freely and where there is trust that they will be taken seriously by those making decisions. A poor leader inhibits critical thinking or inhibits people from communicating their critical thinking. A good leader is one who lets the community know that he or she values such thinking and seriously considers it in making decisions. To me, this is the kind of leadership that helps create communities of democracy and social justice."

Roberts holds that this sense of the necessity of just engagement at all levels is one of the most important things a Grinnell education can instill, and one of the reasons we should be at pains to maintain the primacy of place we give to the teaching of reasoning skills. It is the ability to reason, he says, that leads the student — and the Grinnell grad — to making the sort of informed judgments and choices that engagement — in community, nation and world — is all about.

"What is critical thinking for?" he says. "It doesn't make any sense to me if it's not for something. And if we think about it this way, then I think that there is an inherent moral/political dimension to what we do as teachers. In terms of my own teaching, there are two ways in which this becomes most obvious to me.

"The first is that in all my classes, but especially those in which there is a lot of discussion, I find it important to think about the class as a kind of community where we will be practicing and exercising our critical thinking as we engage, challenge, argue with one another. How important it is, then, to utilize our critical thinking not just to criticize, or to try to win arguments, but also to do the very hard work of learning how to listen to one another, to really understand what [others] are saying, to interpret what they are saying with generosity.

"The second is in my Religion and U. S. Public Life course. In teaching the course, I'm not trying to turn [the students] into Democrats or Republicans, for or against religion in the public square, but I am trying to get them to think not just as students or critics, but as citizens, as people who are learning about the history of religion in the U. S. or about theories of the relation of religion and politics, so that they can use this learning in an engaged way."

Leaders on the field become leaders in the community

For Andy Hamilton '85, the need to talk about leadership at Grinnell is immediate and obvious. Coaching several of Grinnell's athletic teams has put him in constant contact with the necessity for teaching leadership skills, and his years spent guiding the careers of student athletes have proved a good forge in which to temper theory with practical experience. In comparison to the athletes at sister institutions, Hamilton says, Grinnell's athletes are extremely active in leadership — a circumstance he pins directly to Grinnell's tradition of student self-government.

"This all goes back to the question of what a Grinnell student really is," he said. "[Students] have a voice here, and the College's Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is one more example of how that works. In recent time, the SAAC [was discussing] eating disorders and getting information to student athletes about these disorders. In our area, that's a quiet disease that often gets shoved under the carpet. But the Grinnell student is very aware of their own person [and compassionate toward others]. The compassion comes out in the way we were trying to bring information to these folks — teammates stepping forward and trying to lead a teammate out of their problem."

Athletics, along with SGA, is an area in which student leadership is necessary and assumed. This being so, Hamilton pointed out that leaders are selected (at least on his teams) by their peers, rather than by coaches. Team membership also typically involves another staple of Grinnell life: community service.

"My tennis guys go out and coach kids and a lot of soccer kids go out and work with local groups," he said. "We do a basketball clinic, and — particularly with the Fairview school — a number of different students go over there and read. And then Community Meal is one area where, during an academic calendar, one of our teams will [act as host]."

While many classes at the College approach the question of leadership obliquely, Hamilton addresses it directly in his 200-level class, "Organization and Administration of Athletics." In true Grinnell fashion, the class involves the construction of models and a round of introspection which, Hamilton hopes, will lead to a sense of community responsibility.

"The section I teach spends a couple of weeks on management and leadership," Hamilton said. "We talk about leadership styles — an autocratic leader, a benevolent dictator, a democratic leader. We try to get them to look back at their past and identify some of the leaders from their past and label those leaders. The logical next step is to ask them how they would lead. I try to get the students to understand [that], wherever they end up in life, they're going to deal with a manager or leader or they're going to be a manager or leader. So an understanding of management and leadership is very important."

As part of the course, Hamilton asks students to give presentations on various types of leaders.

"I've had people report in class on Malcom X, Genghis Khan," he said. "I've had a student give a reading on a marine. Through this process, they come to grips with how they're going to be a leader, and what characteristics they're going to have. What I try to get the students to understand is that they're going to be leaders at the youth level, at the community level, and they'll be leaders at the sport level."

One of the ways Hamilton tries to convey exactly what that means is by giving them a ground-level problem in fiscal management.

"I give them a budgetary problem, and they have to explain to me how they're going to deal with it," he said. "Are they going to keep the money-making, revenue side up, and make some cuts in other areas, or are they going to go with egalitarian cuts across the board and risk reducing the revenue side? This is where I see what makes them tick; are you going to be the-dollar-at-all-costs kind of leader, or are you going to focus more on the human element?"

Hamilton is careful, in teaching the various modes and models of leadership, to avoid privileging one type over the other. "What we try to show the student is that in life, an eclectic style is going to be the way to go," he said. "There are going to be times that an autocratic style is necessary, when it's very important to make a decision, and there are going to be times for a more laissez-faire approach."

Hamilton said sport provides an excellent laboratory in which student athletes can test the leadership skills they will take with them into the after-Grinnell world. More than preparing them for the challenge, Hamilton said that being a Grinnell athlete leads Grinnell students to expect the challenge.

"Because of the [student athletes'] experience, there will be wonderful opportunities in their lives to step forward. I'm not sure they'd see it as service; I think they'd see it as opportunity. But there'll be a lot of chances to step up and serve on a student sport board or to coach a local basketball team. And because of their athletic background and academic background, it's almost a natural thing for them to be involved. For instance, one of the guys I graduated from [Grinnell] with in 1985 ... is the chair of the Democratic party in Iowa. He got a law degree, and he comes to college basketball games here, and now he's leading in politics." Hamilton said that Grinnell student athletes use sport to test the Grinnell ethos of service again and again. Indeed, he says, the challenge to "step up" is intrinsic to sport:

"In athletics, there's the [perennial] question: 'Who's going to make a difference today?' These sorts of things continue turning in our students' heads. And once you have done it, it's much easier to do it again. So the students here, in sports, have done it; they've stepped forward and taken a risk, and it's easier for them then to step forward in their communities and in their lives and take risks. There are studies out there that companies want liberal arts students because they think broadly; there are also studies out there that say companies want student athletes because they're used to stepping forward. And whether they use [this experience] in a local nonprofit, or a church, or go to New Orleans and work — they're going to be thinking about it."

Mentoring and intellectual independence

While David Lopatto, like most other Grinnell faculty, doesn't "teach leadership" in the classroom, he said that leadership skills get conveyed nonetheless in his courses. For him, these skills are intrinsic to the collaboration and interdisciplinarity that are fixtures both of today's science and today's Grinnell. His investigation of undergraduate research methods has showed him there are two main vectors through which the skills of leadership are delivered, here and elsewhere.

"In researching [methods of] undergraduate research, what I've found is that students don't talk about leadership, and as far as I know their faculty mentors don't talk about leadership either," he said. "What they do talk about is the development of [intellectual] independence — which you could identify as a prerequisite for leadership. And they talk about mentoring."

Mentoring is part of the fabric of Grinnell life, from the first-year Tutorial through the choosing of a major adviser and the intense, regular contact that follows. And since the addition of MAPs to the curricular landscape, the formation of mentor relationships has become even more of a staple. Lopatto said this runs counter to the common conception of the scientific researcher as the lone laboratory cowboy, working in pristine solitude late into the night. On the contrary, Lopatto said; research as it is conducted here provides students with multiple opportunities to cut their leadership teeth. That's different than it used to be.

"Nobody says that a student doing research as an undergraduate is learning leadership," he said. "Back in the 50s, the scientist who was working in academe was a loner. What Anne Roe discovered about these guys was that they were introverted loners who took great pleasure in doing scientific research. The contemporary view, though, is that you can't be a loner; that you have to work with peers. You can't be interdisciplinary without working with peers, obviously. The idea that you're going to be working with peers is fashionable. No one has taken [this line of thinking] to its conclusion: that if you put five undergrads together to do research you might have a leader emerge. It's peer mentoring. The student who has done research for a professor for two summers will be identified as a peer mentor."

What is referred to as "independence" or "autonomy" in the research Lopatto discussed is referred to at Grinnell as "critical thinking," and is enshrined in the mission statement and revered, as has already been discussed, as one of the primary goals of a Grinnell education. Lopatto had an anecdote which explains why such a characteristic would be useful to a scientist:

"There was a student who was working for a physical anthropologist who was interested in medical archaeology," he said. "The prof was convinced that a skeleton in a New York museum showed evidence of arthritis. Halfway through the semester, the student realized that the professor was probably wrong. She had come to an independent conclusion and that was a real moment of growth there."

This ability — to talk back to authority and to back one's position — might not at first appear to be leadership, but Lopatto emphasized that, if the common view of what constitutes leadership is used in the sciences, one quickly concludes that the sciences must have problems. A different set of standards is necessary.

"If you think about leadership as a personality trait, the science division is in serious trouble," he said. "[The students are] typically quiet, lab-bound; you're not thinking about a bombastic leader. [However] there are limits to what we can do with theories of leadership in the sciences. But there are contingency theories that take in the notion that leadership can be learned."

Oftentimes, he said, the learning opportunities arise not as part of a course's official lesson plan, but as part of the realpolitik that plays out among lab partners and group projects.

"You ask yourself: 'What kind of decision maker should I be?' And in doing so, you ask yourself: 'What's most important: the support of my peers [in my decision making], or the preservation of my autonomy in deciding where the research ought to go, the protection of my decision?' Sometimes, as a leader in the sciences, you have to be able to overrule the will of the peer group if you want to protect your procedure."

Lopatto holds that Grinnell faculty should remember that one of the other important ways Grinnell students learn leadership is by watching their professors lead, both in the classroom and in life.

"The students don't seem to be limited to watching us as teachers and scholars," he said. "They're also aware that our children come to our offices, that we talk about having hobbies and traveling. It seems to me that the students are coming [away from this sort of contact] with a desire for a balanced life. Students are looking at life; they want to know if you have enough money, if you have family, if you ever leave the laboratory. They are not satisfied with compromise as much as we may have been or our parents may have been. They're not prepared to sacrifice, not in the same ways.

"When I was an undergraduate, my mentor was a practicing experimental psychologist," he said. "I saw him teach; I saw his research. He modeled for me the professional life and made it possible for me to combine research and teaching because he didn't see research and teaching as opponents."

Lopatto said that there are models of leadership which it might be useful to bring into our larger discussion from his area of research, industrial psychology, while there are others his experience shows should be left out.

"The first model I try to discard is the personality model — which offers the theory that great leaders are born and not made," he said. In terms of the model that works best for Grinnell, Lopatto said he prefers the cognitive model.

"If you're going to send a message to the Grinnell student body that you need to be a leader, then you need to present them with a plan," he said. "And the more cognitive model is going to be more effective than the personality-based model."

That said, Lopatto also agreed with Skerrett, Roberts, Hamilton and others that the best model for teaching leadership may be having no model at all, instead teaching that good leaders are able to borrow from various models, depending on the situation. "With the contingency model, you can be a better leader if the task is very well structured, [which permits us to] spend time on interpersonal relations because the task [has declared] itself."

This sort of heterodox leadership style requires a high degree of thoughtfulness from the leader, he said: "There are gradations of what people can do. You're maintaining a kind of metacognition; you have to remain aware of what the best leadership position is, in terms of the outcomes. You learn to recognize when a decision needs to be protected and when it can be open. Sometimes you don't need to go for acceptance.

"The students aren't confronted with momentous decisions," Lopatto said. "They're apprentice decision-makers [for whom] most decisions are about distant outcomes. [The momentous decision is] a decision that could end up creating a different life path, rather than something with less immediate impact. It's interactive; with the students we're obliged to point out what the distant effects are. You might look at applying for a MAP or going to the Second-Year Retreat as exercises on our part of mentoring good decision-making, which will make them better leaders."

An obvious question arises, though: how does teaching leadership in the lab and in helping students in deciding on what classes to take translate to the teaching of leadership for social justice? Same skill set, Lopatto said; the most important part is teaching the ability to stick by your decision — publicly — if you think it's the right decision.

"There are socially active scientists, sometimes blatantly so," Lopatto said. "The global warming issue obviously has a lot of scientists involved in it. The scientist is less likely to be the hermit of years past."

According to Lopatto, in considering the social and environmental implications of science, the decision-maker is aided by having a solid picture of what's really important to them, to their community. "You will be guided by what you value," he said. "When we promote autonomy and opportunity among the students in undergraduate research, we set the stage for leadership," he said. Rather than [using the phrase] 'value added' [to describe the benefit of a Grinnell education], wouldn't it better be framed as 'value expressed' or 'value revealed,' with every person seen as potentially valuable?"

Lopatto stressed that this is a vital message to deliver to prospective leaders because, at its heart, it is a message of the student's intrinsic value to the greater conversation of the College's intellectual life — a conversation whose integrity we must preserve as being the foundation for everything else that might happen here.

"A person comes to an intimidating place like Grinnell after having demonstrated a certain level of cognitive ability," Lopatto said. "[They ask themselves:] Can they add anything to a discussion of social justice? So we try to empower them to do so, show them they can do something in the public community that they may have been afraid to do. It was always in them; the student had that potential to do that. You just influenced, uncovered, encouraged and cajoled that student to get her to go where she could go. 'Value added' is a model that makes it seem as if you built her; "value revealed" is about advising that person in ways that encourage them to reach their potential. As a member of our community, you operate according to the assumption that you're potentially a leader.

"I'm glad we're doing a Special Emphasis self-study," Lopatto concluded. "Because if you're doing a general, you're facing the battle of assessment. I hope Grinnell never ever goes that direction. There's a movement to measure our worth by pre-test, post-test; it's being driven by a model of corporate accountability. [Under this system,] the most "value-added" place is the college that's cheapest to go to and the one that gives me the greatest rise in my score. You can't measure something as amorphous as leadership that way."

The musical ensemble as a leadership model

During the interviews we conducted for this preliminary document, our sources used many intriguing metaphors to describe leadership and/or group membership as we teach and live it at Grinnell. Roger Vetter's "Ensemble model" seemed to us to be one of the more elegant, exemplifying as it does the truth that a carefully managed whole can become greater than the sum of its parts — and provide a singular learning experience thereby — and that the leader of any enterprise must never lose track of the importance of each individual's contribution.

"While many facets of group participatory music-making impress me as having educational value, one in particular has inspired me to rethink how I structure teaching in a curricular domain outside of the rehearsal room — the seminar classroom," Vetter said. Vetter drew a parallel between what goes on in the musical ensemble and what happens in a seminar involving between five and fifteen students. In a musical ensemble, he said, each individual has a particular voice, but must go through a process of learning and collaboration to bring that voice into relationship with those of the others in the group. The result, as he put it, "produce[s] a collective product far greater than any which could have been produced by any individual."

Vetter said his comparison between the musical group and the seminar group holds at almost every level of the process. Typically, he said, the conflation holds up best if the course's subject is "a general, interpretive-oriented topic" that can be grasped through the exploration of case studies — in this being rather like the music director's selection of the work to be rehearsed and performed.

"Each student selects a specific topic on which they will become the class expert," he said. "[Like] the musicians' individual parts."

The group then works its way into an understanding of the seminar's general topic through shared readings, and during this period, each student works to identify resources that will support them in "playing their part" — rather as individual musicians must practice their own parts in isolation from the group.

"I structure into the course syllabus several themes pertinent to the understanding of the general topic of the seminar," Vetter said. "And several weeks of the course are occupied with the students reporting to one another (orally in class, and in writing in the form of short reports deposited on the course Blackboard site) about how these themes are manifested in their case studies."

Vetter compared this period of his seminars to the period during which a musical group will disassemble a performance work during rehearsal, becoming familiar with each performer's part and coming to understand each individual's contribution to the whole piece.

"From the research and reports each seminar member has carried out on their specific topic, they write an original paper that is conceived of as a chapter in a collected volume on the general topic of the seminar," Vetter said. In tutorial, he also has his first-years present their short chapters orally, as if they were reading a paper at a professional conference. He compares this to a musician's "full mastery of [his] part and a solid understanding of how it is meant to fit with the work's other parts."

"After reading one another's chapters (available on Blackboard), their final assignment for the course is to become the editor of the collection," Vetter said. "Each student creates a title for the collection, decides the order in which the chapters will appear, and, most importantly, [writes] an introduction to the collection in which they [must articulate] overriding themes and [summarize] how the work's individual chapters contribute to an understanding of the general topic of the 'collection.'" Vetter compares this to an analysis of the "informed, collective realization of a challenging work," offered from the interpretive perspective of one of the performers.

"I have been pleased with the results of this approach because it provides each student with a sense of self accomplishment and the responsibility that accompanies it (researching, writing on, and teaching their classmates about 'their' topic) and a sense of cooperative achievement (respecting the work of, learning from, and coordinating with their colleagues)," Vetter said. "I like to believe students feel a strong sense of ownership of the knowledge they have acquired through this learning process — I do very little conventional teaching in this approach, but am constantly providing feedback to individuals and the group as a whole to steer them in what I see as productive directions."

A problem of definition

With this groundwork laid, we can move to a more usefully complicated version of the question posed by the memorandum of understanding with Higher Learning Commission, that being: "How are we as a faculty and as an institution to work to produce the leaders envisioned above — leaders that, Grinnell students' suspicion of authority notwithstanding, work effectively in their post-baccalaureate life on behalf of social justice?"

According to Caulkins and several others, successfully addressing — and circumventing —  Grinnellians' leader-aversion may be a problem of definition. As Caulkins put it, "Leadership is not the linguistic term that has any potency here."

This might be true, Dan Reynolds says; but while he applauds Grinnell students' suspicion of power, he also emphasizes that we must nonetheless help them to come to grips with the concept — and with the notion of someday wielding it.

"I think that there can be a sort of naive belief that you can escape power or you could even escape the exercise of power," he said. "I think we can all exercise power responsibly [by acknowledging] the ways in which, like it or not, we exercise power and we exercise authority. We just have to do it deliberately and conscientiously and not delude ourselves that [power is] an option we can pass on. We don't have to get rid of the concept behind the term, or the somewhat-more-positive associations one could make with "leadership." There are all kinds of examples of leadership happening at Grinnell at a more grass-roots level; all sorts of activism our students do, MAPs that require a certain kind of expertise and leadership and independence of thought." Reynolds further emphasized that, as the faculty and administration work to mint a Grinnell definition for "leadership" and make changes to support it, we ought to avoid being too reductive ourselves.

This article appeared as a web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Fall 2009.