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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.

Two Tributes to Bonnie Tinker ’69

Tue, 2009-09-15 03:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)
group of women smiling at camera
Bonnie organized a reunion of Red Emma, made up of five Grinnellians who moved to Portland in 1971. This photo, taken 11 days before Bonnie's death, includes four of us. From left: Bonnie Tinker '69, Kristan Knapp, Beverly Schnabel '72, Kathleen Clarke, Ann Mussey '72, and Mollie Clarke '71. Courtesy of Beverly Schnabel.

Bonnie Tinker, a lifelong equal rights and peace activist, was killed recently in a bike accident in Blacksburg, Va. A Portland, Ore., resident, Bonnie was attending a national Quaker meeting where she had been presenting her "Opening Hearts and Minds" workshop devoted to nonviolent change.

Bonnie moved to Portland in 1971 with several other women from Grinnell and started a feminist collective, Red Emma. After looking around the community for ways to support women, they started a halfway house for women and a Women's Health Clinic that was a presence in Portland for more than 20 years. In the mid-1970s, Bonnie and others founded the first shelter for battered women in Portland. Bonnie was the founding director of Bradley-Angle House and the first chair of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Bradley-Angle House continues to serve women in Oregon.

At Bonnie's memorial service, her nieces and nephews read from the 1978 Portland Police Intelligence Report as part of the memorial. Bonnie was considered a danger because her sister had been to Cuba and because Bonnie had harbored battered women in safe houses and sought protection for them. Another friend who spoke agreed that Bonnie was a danger, but for a very different reason. Once Bonnie started talking with you, she patiently pursued you to lobby a bill, serve on a board, or do whatever it was she felt you could do, until you agreed.

In 1992, Bonnie put together a documentary, Love Makes a Family, about lesbian and gay marriage in the Religious Society of Friends. She created a nonprofit organization by the same name that works to meet the needs of lesbian, gay, bi, transgendered, and queer families. Public education has always been a need, and Bonnie gave interviews and speeches, even debating the leaders of an Oregon group that initiated a series of vitriolic anti-gay ballot measures in the early 1990s.

Bonnie took a stand for justice and social equality her entire life — on many issues. In recent years she protested the Iraq Surge with Seriously Pissed-Off Grannies at military recruitment centers and got arrested in the process. This was a group that would not yield because as grannies, they had nothing to lose. When Bonnie's attorney spoke to her of entering a plea and going to arraignment, her response was, "I'm a Tinker. Remember that black arm band case on free speech." They went to trial and the judge dismissed all charges on the first day.

There was an incredible sense of energy at the memorial service and moments when those of us from Grinnell felt like we were back on campus in 1968. There was enough history shared that we were reminded once again that we needed to take on the status quo to produce a more just and fair society. Bonnie, of course, took on more than most of us have and did so her entire lifetime.

Bonnie is survived by Sara Graham, her partner of 32 years, three children, three grandchildren, and a menagerie of pets. In 2004, Bonnie and Sara were married when Multnomah County issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples for a period of time.

The diversity at Bonnie's memorial service was high by any measure — age, race, sexual orientation, and shirt and tie/no shirt. Those who spoke, sang, played musical instruments, and performed demonstrated how many different communities and individual lives Bonnie touched. A young man who grew up next door to Bonnie and Sara performed an original rap song that described how Bonnie lived, how she impacted his life, and how he will live now because of her example. Many spoke of her empathy, and through their stories of Bonnie demonstrated how much she helped to expand and foster the common good.

Bonnie Tinker

Four women arm-in-arm at an airport

Taken at the airport following the recent Grinnell reunion (left to right): Susan Shimp '70, Jennifer Riley '70, Barb Duhl '70, and Bonnie Tinker '69.

Photo by Angela Crowley-Koch '00 used courtesy of Jennifer Riley.

I am sad to note the passing of an inspiring Grinnellian, Bonnie Tinker '69. Bonnie made it her life's work to stand up for justice and to do the right thing, no matter how difficult or unpopular.

I met Bonnie in Portland, Ore., when we both ran nonprofits working to end the Iraq War. Working with Bonnie challenged me in many ways, and we did not always see eye to eye. Despite the fact that we disagreed — sometimes vocally — I always had great respect and admiration for Bonnie. Her ability to inspire the same people whose buttons she had pushed the day before is a testament to Bonnie's life and spirit.

In her work for justice, she did what we all felt in our heart was right to do, but didn't have the courage to carry out. Bonnie and her partner Sara stood in front of a tank during Portland's Rose Parade to protest the war. Bonnie was arrested then and other times with members of the group, the Seriously Pissed-Off Grannies.

She fought for civil rights through her nonprofit, Love Makes a Family. In the course of her work for civil rights, Bonnie came face to face with Fred Phelps and his religious hate when defending an Oregon school district's right to display a "Family Diversity" photo exhibit, but she helped the school district stand by its decision to keep the show.

Her participation in causes, actions, and protests are too numerous to list here, but her life was full of noble causes, as evidenced by the Quaker conference she was riding her bicycle to when she was hit by a truck in July. To the end, she lived a dedicated and honorable life. I hope to follow in her footsteps, both now and when I'm a seriously pissed-off granny.

Originally published as an online extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Spring 2009.

Building Excitement

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

Photos by Jim Heemstra

The beauty of a late summer Iowa day provides a backdrop for the continuing construction on Phase II of Grinnell's Athletic and Fitness Center, north of 10th Avenue.

View of Construction Site

The trail around the soccer fields provides an excellent vantage point to view the construction.
yellow flowers with construction crane visible in the distance

Prairie flowers bloom with wild abandon along the railroad tracks on the east side of the construction project.
Interior of natatorium with concrete, beams, construction workers

Grinnell’s natatorium will reflect the latest technology and design, as well as the highest standards of environmental responsibility and efficiency.
sparks and welders

Sparks fly as welders do their work.
Welder leaning over a beam and sparks falling below

The finished facility will offer the College and the community a place to compete, train, and pursue recreational athletic activities.
fieldhouse beams creating the outline of future roof

A blue Iowa sky offers a dramatic backdrop to the beams of the fieldhouse.
construction crane

A construction crane towers over campus.
Welder on cherry-picker

A welder is intent on his work.
crew hangs suspended from beams

Beams form a geometric design against a brilliant blue backdrop.
arching beams

Beams foreshadow Grinnell’s new state-of-the-art fieldhouse, which will feature a six-lane 200-meter track with an eight-lane straightaway.

Grinnell's Unofficial Mascot: The Fox Squirrel

Love 'em or loathe 'em, you just can't ignore the plentiful and beautiful fox squirrels that thrive on the Grinnell College campus. We asked several of our photographers to catch the many moods of Grinnell's squirrel population.

Squirrel knibbling on a nut at the edge of a mossy rock wall
The fox squirrel is named for the fox-like color on its magnificent tail. by Sarah DeLong
Squirrel anchored by a back foot climbs out towards a nut
Streeeetch! Fox squirrels love nuts, insects, seeds, buds, and pilfered fast food.

by Sarah DeLong
Squirrel anchored by a back foot gets close to a nut at the end of a branch
So close! by Sarah DeLong
Squirrel reaches a nut at the end of a branch
At last -- success! by Sarah DeLong
A squirrel peeks out over a leafy branch
The fox squirrel is found throughout Iowa and most of the Midwest. by Sarah DeLong
Belligerent squirrel faces off with the camera
Whaddaya want?" Grinnell squirrels are assertive to say the least, and exhibit personality to spare. by Sarah DeLong
very plump squirrel lazing around in the trees
Grinnell's squirrel contingent seems to be thriving, as demonstrated by this solid citizen. Fox squirrels are Iowa's largest squirrels. Experts say they range from about 10-15 inches in length, and can weigh up to three pounds (anecdotally, Grinnell squirrels can weigh a lot more). by Sarah DeLong

 
Inquisitive looking squirrel gazed down from a tree branch
It's a tightrope act, but no sweat for this guy. by Grant Dissette ’12
Squirrel pauses to glance over its shoulder to the photographer
"Really? You don't say!" Students frequently become fond of the squirrels, who often boldly take food directly from human hands. by Grant Dissette ’12
Squirrel uses hind foot to scratch its side
"Scratch where it itches." by Grant Dissette ’12
Squirrel perches, up to its shoulders in a hole in a branch
"I know I left it in here somewhere!" Squirrels make their nests in holes in trees, or build the big round leafy balls visible among the branches. by Grant Dissette ’12
Close photo of a squirrel looking directly at the camera
Up close and personal. by Grant Dissette ’12
Squirrel on hind legs in a lawn
"I'm a handsome devil, aren't I?" February is mating season for the squirrels, which accounts for all the wild activity in mid-winter, including high-speed chases and daring leaps from branch to branch and tree to tree. Courtesy of Ben Gordon ’11
squirrel clings to the trunk of a tree with head down and tail up
"Bet you couldn't hang upside down like this!" Courtesy of Ben Gordon ’11
Squirrel with nut in mouth near the base of a shrub
Many gardeners and bird-feeding enthusiasts can attest to the cleverness of these rodents. A Grinnell faculty member of the early 20th century left us this story of the squirrels of his day: "Last year some hazelnuts brought home one day were spread out on a level area of roof to dry in sun and air. The village squirrels discovered them in surprisingly short time and made spirited and frequent predatory excursions to the store. The antics of the squirrels were worth far more than the nuts." (Selden Lincoln Whitcomb describing Grinnell, Iowa in 1902) by Stephanie Puls
Squirrel, visible behind green branches, holds a nut in it's mouth
At home in the trees. by Stephanie Puls
Squirrel with snow on it's face wanders in the snow next to a sidewalk
Squirrels don't hibernate, but they do spend more time in the nest when the weather gets cold. by Stephanie Puls
Squirrel perches on a stump, fluffed-up tail curled in a question-mark shape
"Got anything to eat?" by Stephanie Puls
Squirrel with hands at mouth, looking beseechingly at the camera
The fox squirrel's beautiful tail provides a useful counterweight for acrobatic leaps from branch to branch.
hunched squirrel creeping down limb looks up at the camera
Secret Agent Squirrel! by Jim Heemstra
squirrel against a small branch, facing the camera
Grinnell College isn't the only campus in Iowa where squirrels seem to have the upper hand. On the website Campus Squirrel Listings, Joseph Bauer reports: "The University of Iowa was the first state-supported institution of higher education to admit squirrels on an equal basis with humans. They now constitute about 8 percent of the student body ... Here in Iowa City we know that the squirrels here have a the highest graduation rate in the Big Ten and finish consistently higher in most of the squirrel polls." by Jim Heemstra
squirrel appearing to bitie the bark of a branch
"Grinnell squirrels stick religiously to the 100-mile diet." by Jim Heemstra
Squirrel on branch, facing camera, with three paws down, and one held against chest, tail bushy and upright
"Looking good!" by Jim Heemstra
Squirrel standing fully erect, with tail held upright as well
Ins & Outs, a Grinnell admission publication, once reported that Grinnell College was home to 476,704,685,230 squirrels. Several readers responded, concerned that the campus was some 20 feet deep in squirrels. by Jim Heemstra

 
Squirrel in tree crotch chewing on the core of a red apple.
"I'm ready for my close-up!" by Jim Heemstra

This article appeared as a web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Winter 2008.

Defying Darkness

Mon, 2008-09-15 16:12 | By Anonymous (not verified)
Holocaust survivors with their familiesClockwise from top: Harold Kasimow (left) as a child with his family after the war; Celina Karp Biniaz '52 as she prepares to begin school; and Sam Harris '58 (front row, left) with schoolmates.

Before the Nazis invaded in 1939, about 1 million Jewish children lived in Poland. After the war, they had virtually disappeared from that country — fewer than 5,000 survived. The odds were not good for Jewish youngsters in Eastern Europe. Too small to work, they were usually killed immediately by the Nazis. Most who survived spent the war in hiding.

The brutality of the Holocaust is considered one of the worst atrocities of human history. How could it be said that anything good came out of such malevolence?

Yet the good can be found in those who survived. In this piece, you will meet three Grinnellians who survived the Holocaust as children: Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies Harold Kasimow, Celina Karp Biniaz '52, and Sam Harris '58. Rather than being overwhelmed by the evil they met at such a young age, they have chosen to see and be a part of the light of the world, rather than the darkness.

As one survivor said, "Hatred is akin to evil. I don't want to be a person who hates."

The Grave

Harold Kasimow's earliest memories are of living in total darkness and silence, with no room to move and very little to eat.

Kasimow, his parents, and his two sisters spent 19 months and 5 days hiding from the Nazis in a hole dug in the floor of a cattle barn, covered over with boards and straw. He was 4 years old when they went into hiding in the hole. They called it the grub, which means hole. Sometimes, they even called it the keyver -- the Yiddish word for grave. "We were already buried there," Kasimow says. "If something happened, that could have been our grave."

"I never saw the sun," he remembers. "It was all strange to me when I got out. I'd never seen the light. I'd never been out of the hole. It was always pitch black."

Kasimow was born in a small village about a hundred miles north of Vilnius, which is now the capital of Lithuania. At that time, it was part of Poland. His father, Norman, was a fisherman and a prosperous businessman who owned houses in two villages, one in Turmantas, which is now in Lithuania, and the other in Drysviaty, which is now in Belarus. He was well known and liked in the area. "He treated people with dignity," Kasimow says.

"My father was quite a heroic figure, actually," Kasimow continues. "He had very good relations with the people in the surrounding area, including non-Jews, many of whom were willing to risk their lives to help him."

Kasimow's family was one of only five Jewish families left in the village after the first year of German occupation. All the others had been transported to concentration camps or killed on the spot. Thousands of Jews in that area were simply shot. Kasimow's maternal grandmother was one of those taken away. "I was very close to her," Kasimow says. "They took her, and she was killed."

In April 1942, the local priest came to warn Kasimow's father that they should hide or run; he had learned that the Nazis planned to finish off the last few Jews in the area. Eventually, 95 percent of the Jews who had lived in that area of Poland before the war were killed. Virtually no children survived. The few who did survive did so with the help of Polish Catholics, Kasimow says.

A Father's Heroism

Through sheer determination, Kasimow's father kept the family alive. "He just never gave up under any circumstance," Kasimow says. With three children under the age of 8, the family's options were limited.

"My father knew the area very well," Kasimow explains. "A lot of people would not turn him in, would even give him some food." For a time, the family moved around, hiding in the forest and in attics and barns. In early 1943, Kasimow's father persuaded a farmer, Wladislaw Piworowitz, with whom he had a working relationship, to allow the family to hide in the ground under the cattle barn. For the farmer, it was not an entirely altruistic act.

"My father promised to give him all the houses that he owned," Kasimow explains. "Nobody expected that the war would go on as long as it did. But once we were there, he was stuck with us. There was nothing he could do. He was afraid to turn us in." To do so would have been fatal for all involved.

Kasimow is grateful for the risks the farmer and his family took. "He was in that very horrible situation, but you know, he did risk his life, and the life of his family."

The hole in the floor of the cowshed was big enough for the family, but with little room to move. A hole within the hole, covered with straw, served as a latrine. Kasimow's father dug a tunnel to the potato cellar of the farmhouse. Through it he was able to slip out at night to find food for the family. Food meant bread and water, and not much of that.

The family had to stay quiet to avoid being discovered. "We were supposed to be silent and not even talk," Kasimow says. He remembers an incident when a Nazi patrol with dogs came to the farm. "Somehow, maybe the barn was open, and maybe a dog smelled something," Kasimow says. "It was probably a German shepherd, and it started to get excited. I know the soldiers had started walking away and just called him off. No one imagined that there was a Jewish family alive in this community, that there was anybody to find any longer."

Into the Light

In the summer of 1944, the Russians liberated 6-year-old Kasimow and his family. "There was a kind of euphoria," he says. "They were not persecuting Jews yet."

Besides euphoria, Kasimow remembers being amazed by the world he saw. "I remember seeing cows eating grass. Light -- I didn't know it existed, actually," he says. "After nearly two years in the grub, everything seemed so unique and strange and amazing."

Nineteen months of near starvation and little or no movement had taken their toll on the children. "We were like skeletons," Kasimow says. "My sister, who is two years older, couldn't walk. ... My father carried the two of us in a sack for awhile."

It was still dangerous, for civilians as well as soldiers. "There was still shooting going on," Kasimow says. "I was almost killed at that point. Someone shot off not the head, but the hat of the driver of a wagon my father put us on."

Kasimow's parents decided to leave the area where they had lived before the war and travel to the American-controlled zone. "My father's brother was with us at the time," Kasimow remembers. His uncle was a guerrilla fighter who survived the war and now lives in Israel. "We were stuck on a train," Kasimow remembers. "Somehow we got disconnected from the rest of the train, and we were just left in the country, somewhere near Lodz. A group of local men came and tried to get into the car. I remember my father standing at the door with a piece of iron in his hand. His younger brother was able to crawl through a window of the train car and get the police," Kasimow says. "They came and said, 'OK, boys, break it up.' There were many such incidents after the war."

Once the Kasimow family reached Germany, they lived for about three years in Bad Reichenhall, a large displaced persons camp in a Bavarian resort area. The camp was a huge improvement over what the family had endured, Kasimow says. "Although we lived in crowded conditions, we had enough to eat," he says. "We were free. Ultimately everybody left. Most people went to Israel, some went to Latin America, some even to Australia. In order to go to America, you had to have a sponsor."

The Promised Land

It took time to find someplace to go. Immigration laws in the United States limited the number of immigrants who could come to the States. "We had my father's sister to guarantee that if we came, she would support us," Kasimow says.

When Kasimow was 11, the family traveled to the United States aboard the General Muir. The journey took 10 days, during which time many people suffered terribly with seasickness. "Everybody was sick," Kasimow remembers. "I was the only person who went to the kitchen to have breakfast! They gave us oranges, which is probably the first time I had an orange in my life."

Kasimow remembers the very day they sailed into New York Harbor -- August 23, 1949. Though he was 11 years old, he looked like a 7-year-old. "I was very tiny," he says. "I'm actually the shortest male in the family, because I guess those were key years when I didn't grow."

The family settled in the Bronx, where Kasimow attended Salanter Yeshiva, a Jewish day school, and sang in a professional choir. He played handball with the neighborhood kids. "I remember being quite happy," Kasimow says. "Except for my own experience, I didn't know about the Holocaust. My parents didn't speak about it to us children, only to other adult survivors. I think a kind of survivor's mentality grew gradually as I got to know more and more about what actually happened, not just to me, but what really happened to the Jews in Eastern Europe."

Kasimow went on to Yeshiva University High School and then to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, studying Hebrew literature and the Jewish tradition. "There wasn't anything being offered on the Holocaust. The Jews basically didn't speak about it," Kasimow says. He went on to graduate school at Temple University, and came to Grinnell in 1972 to join the faculty in religious studies. When Gates Lecturer and Holocaust writer Emil Fackenheim came to Grinnell the same year, Kasimow began to examine his own past.

Even then, he rarely spoke of being a Holocaust survivor. He didn't introduce topics related to the Holocaust into his classes on Judaism until about 1980, focusing instead on traditional Judaism. "There is 4,000 years of Jewish history preceding the Holocaust," he explains. "You shouldn't make the Holocaust the central event in Judaism."

The little boy who lived in darkness and silence has become a respected religious scholar and a man of peace. Kasimow has devoted his career to encouraging dialogue among the world's religions. His mentor and teacher, Abraham Joshua Heschel, inspired him to promote interreligious dialogue. Heschel provided guidance that helped Kasimow find peace -- within himself, and with the world.

Kasimow's work as a scholar has carried him around the world, forging close friendships with colleagues of many other faiths. One of those friends, the late Brother Wayne Teasdale, asked Kasimow to contribute his personal story of survival to Teasdale's 2004 book, Awakening the Spirit, Inspiring the Soul: 30 Stories of Interspiritual Discovery in the Community of Faiths. "We became very close," Kasimow says. "He was an authentic spiritual teacher." He titled his contribution to the book "To Be a Mensch." It was the first time he wrote about his Holocaust experience. Kasimow's oldest sister, Rita Kasimow Brown, is now completing a book titled Portrait of a Holocaust Child, which will focus on the time the family spent hiding during the war.

Twice during his career at Grinnell, Kasimow taught a class on the Holocaust. Only twice, he says. "It was just too painful. I thought it was an important course, and the students were very serious, and really did their work," Kasimow says. "I put a great emphasis on the actual diaries of survivors."

It was during this course that Kasimow told the students that he was in Europe during the war. But he didn't then define himself as a Holocaust survivor. "Normally, I don't lecture on the Holocaust," he says. "I talk about topics related to interfaith dialogue, with a special emphasis on Abraham Joshua Heschel and Pope John Paul II. That is really my work. Only recently have I begun to realize that my work is related to my experience as a Holocaust survivor.

"Things are beginning to change for me. Last year, for the very first time in my life, I spoke at a synagogue on Holocaust Memorial Day. I'm opening myself up to the impact of my early experiences.

"I guess I'm actually ready now to tell my story," Kasimow says. "I'm moved by the compassionate people I've met -- a lot of compassionate people. During World War II, there were many Polish people who were involved in saving my family." Kasimow says. "I've been back to Poland three times, and I've experienced nothing but real affection from the Polish people I've encountered. I am deeply grateful for that."

When Kasimow was a boy, he didn't understand everything that was happening to his family. He didn't know why the Nazis wanted to kill them. He admits that even now, some 60 years later, he still doesn't understand that sort of hatred. "I just don't," he says. "I don't understand such hatred. And I guess I'd have to say I personally have never experienced it. I've been very lucky."

'Let Me Go'

Celina Karp Biniaz '52 has looked evil in the eye.

She was only 13 when she and her mother ended up in Auschwitz. Their train, which they had thought was bound for relative safety in Czechoslovakia, took a nighttime detour, and the rail car full of Jewish women somehow arrived instead in Auschwitz -- the most notorious of all the Nazi death camps.

At Auschwitz, Biniaz was separated from her mother and with some others was paraded in the nude in front of Dr. Josef Mengele, who was often referred to as the Angel of Death.

He pointed his finger, Biniaz remembers. One way meant life, the other, death. The first time, Biniaz was directed to the death line. Then he went through the line again.

"I just said three words in German," Biniaz remembers. "Let me go." She ran out of the room and escaped.

A Life Shattered

"I was 8 years old when war broke out," Biniaz remembers. Before the war, she lived a happy, relatively privileged life in Kraków, Poland. Her parents were both professional accountants, and the family enjoyed a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. Biniaz attended a private kindergarten in Kraków, and then went to public school for first and second grade.

In 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, and Biniaz's beautiful cultured life was shattered. Jewish families were forced out of their homes and herded into the ghetto. All the nice things her family had worked for were sold, and their sense of security was crushed. Former neighbors now wore swastikas. Education was forbidden for Jewish children.

As professionals with essential jobs, Biniaz's parents left the ghetto every day to go to their jobs. They worked in the office at a factory where uniforms for the Wehrmacht were manufactured, under the management of Julius Madritsch -- a close friend of Oskar Schindler, the rescuer of Jews made famous by Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List.

Biniaz's parents feared leaving their daughter alone in the ghetto all day while they worked, so they arranged for their taller-than-average child to get a "blue card" to allow her to work outside, too, although she was officially too young. She did various jobs, but more important, she was out of the ghetto and away from the Nazi roundups and killings, at least during the day.

In 1942, Madritsch's factory was transferred into Plaszow, a Nazi labor camp. Jews who testified at the war crimes trials after the war remembered Camp Commandant Amon Goeth as a cruel and sadistic man. With his sniper's rifle, he picked off children at play in the camp -- for amusement. Torture and vicious killings were everyday occurrences. Poldek Pfefferberg, one of Schindler's Jews, recalled Goeth this way: "When you saw Goeth, you saw death."

Schindler's List

Into this hell stepped Oskar Schindler.

There was perhaps no more unlikely hero. Schindler's List author Thomas Keneally describes him as an opportunistic bon vivant and businessman at the war's outset, a man who set out to exploit cheap Jewish labor and make his fortune. A master of bribery and a greaser of palms, Schindler used his connections to secure contracts with the Nazi government for his own profits.

And then, for reasons no one really understands, Schindler changed. He began to use his money for the good of his Jewish workers, buying them food and bribing guards to protect them. He established a separate sub-camp for his factory within Plaszow, and insisted his employees sleep inside to save time in transport. The truth is, within this sub-camp, "Schindler's Jews" were kept safe from Goeth's atrocities. Madritsch's employees, though they were not in the sub-camp, enjoyed some protection as well.

"At first ... [Schindler] wanted to enjoy the war and make money," Biniaz says. "Why he changed and why he did what he did, I don't know.

"He kept us safe ... That's what's important."

Into the Monster's Face

In 1944, Plaszow was dissolved. "They knew the Russians were coming," Biniaz says. Schindler devised a plan to move his factory to safety in Czechoslovakia, along with all his Jews.

"He wanted Madritsch to join him," Biniaz recalls. But Madritsch had had enough and refused. Schindler had room for a few more in the transport to Czechoslovakia, so he instructed Madritsch to add some names to the list. Biniaz and her parents were placed on the list. It was a stroke of luck that meant life for the three of them.

Men and women were separated for the journey, and the men reached their destination without incident. For Biniaz and the other women, however, it was a horror that still haunts her dreams.

"Somehow, we were sidelined to Auschwitz," Biniaz says. She remembers the stench of the place -- the smell of burned bodies. When they arrived, she and the other women were told to undress and shoved into the shower room. They all knew what it would likely mean: death from the ceiling. When water, not gas, came out of the showerheads, they gasped their relief.

"That was so frightening," Biniaz says. "But, oh my goodness, we were saved!"

They spent about four very cold weeks in October and November at Auschwitz before Schindler was able to bring them to the factory in Czechoslovakia. The factory there made components for V2 rockets. Schindler told his employees not to sabotage the munitions, for fear his plan to save them would be uncovered.

Mrs. Emilie Schindler holds a special place in Biniaz's memory. She came to the infirmary at the camp in Czechoslovakia each day at 10 a.m. with extra rations. The extra food helped keep them alive. Even under Schindler's protection, everyone suffered malnutrition. At the end of the war, Biniaz weighed only 35 kilos -- 77 pounds.

At one point, the S.S. commandant from Plaszow, Amon Goeth, visited the factory in Czechoslovakia. "We were lined up to greet him, and Schindler walked through with Goeth," Biniaz remembers. Always, always, in the death camps, the prisoners kept their heads down -- to meet the eyes of a Nazi could mean being singled out for whatever horror was next.

At that moment, however, Schindler's Jews had begun to feel almost safe. The war would soon end, and they had faith that Schindler would keep them safe. Biniaz raised her head and looked Goeth straight in the eye.

"It was a good feeling to be able to look the monster in his face," she says.

A Rebel with a Cause

Even after liberation (which brought with it "an eerie feeling," Biniaz remembers), Poland was not safe. She and her parents returned to Kraków, hoping to find family members, but there were none to be found. In September 1945, the Karp family left Poland and made the trek to Germany, where the family spent two years waiting for visas to the United States. Biniaz's uncle in Des Moines, Iowa, sponsored the family.

Feeling as if she had no education whatsoever, Biniaz was anxious to catch up on her studies. "It was incredibly important for me," she explains. Biniaz's family sent her to study with a 90-year-old German nun, Mater Leontina. It was a great blessing for the wounded young woman. Mater Leontina's kindness and wisdom helped heal Biniaz's spirit, as well as nurture her mind.

"She accepted me for what I was," Biniaz remembers. "She showed me things ... changed my feelings about the whole situation.

"You have to move on," she explains. "Some dwelt upon it. ... You've got to end hatred and prejudice somewhere, you know."

While the family awaited their visas in Germany, they happened to meet Oskar Schindler on the street. He recognized them and greeted them with visible joy. "He stopped us and chatted," Biniaz remembers. "He was a wonderful, wonderful human being."

After the war, Schindler was left penniless, all his money having been spent to save his Jews. He tried his hand at other businesses but without success. Finally, he emigrated to Israel, where he lived out his life.

"He is a very interesting person, a rebel with a cause," Biniaz observes.

Moving On

Biniaz was 16 when her family finally boarded the ship that would carry them to the United States. She remembers how she was struck by the beautiful neon lights of New York City when they arrived in June 1947, and later, the peaceful settings of Iowa.

Biniaz, anxious to go to school, attended North High in Des Moines. She found she was not so far behind. "I loved it!" she says. "I just loved it, and I was truly accepted by the children."

A teacher there was a graduate of Grinnell, and encouraged Biniaz to apply. She won a scholarship and soon found herself studying on Grinnell's peaceful green campus.

"I loved the atmosphere of Grinnell," she says. "It renewed my life. ... Grinnell was just wonderful to me."

But as so many Grinnell students discover, the life of a Grinnell student involves a lot of study. "I had to work very hard because my English was not great at all," Biniaz says. "That first year was intense, let's put it that way!" She also worked at a variety of on-campus jobs. "I had all kinds of jobs -- you name it, I did it!"

A class with Professor of Philosophy Neal Klausner ("a delightful human being") was life-changing for Biniaz. Though he knew little of her personal story, Klausner helped her begin to think through the terrible experiences that had obliterated her childhood and could easily have destroyed her adulthood.

She chose to major in philosophy, and the study helped her deal with her personal demons. Still, she did not talk about her experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Biniaz chose not to dwell on the nightmare. She was moving on.

Finding Her Voice

Biniaz continued her study of philosophy on scholarship to Columbia after graduating from Grinnell. There she met the man who would be her husband, Amir Biniaz, a dentist. They married and had two children, Robert and Susan, and later, four grandchildren.

Biniaz taught for many years on Long Island, where the family lived. She focused on children who needed special help. "I felt I had to give something back." She taught for 27 years, and loved it. She and her husband now live in California, near family. "It's been very good," Biniaz says.

For 40 years, Biniaz did not speak of her Holocaust experiences. She had lost her childhood and her faith. After seeing little children brutally hurled against a wall and killed in the camps, her faith was gone. "There was no way that I could accept a benevolent deity," she explains. She is today very much of a humanist, Biniaz says.

In 1993, a film opened the doors of her memory. Steven Spielberg's acclaimed film, Schindler's List, told the story of Oskar Schindler and his transformation from disreputable businessman to heroic rescuer of 1,200 Jews. Biniaz credits Spielberg with her new ability to talk about the past. "He gave me a second life -- he gave me a voice," she says. She was interviewed about her experiences for a documentary released with the DVD version of the film.

Still, she chooses not to dwell on what happened to her as a child. "I try not to think about it," she says. She has worked hard to avoid burdening her children with guilt for what happened. With her family, she took a trip to Poland in 2006. She visited the factory where she used to work, which is now a museum, but she didn't want to visit Auschwitz. The rest of the family went without her, and her 10-year-old grandson came to her after the visit. "Grandma, it was horrible," he told her. "But everyone should see it."

Does Biniaz understand hatred of such virulence as what she saw as a child living through the Holocaust? Perhaps. "It comes from having less than others," she says. "Prejudice comes from not knowing, and from fear."

Fear is something Biniaz understands, too. "The one emotion that has stayed with me in life is fear -- fear of authority."

Biniaz's own philosophy is simple and beautiful: "Don't hate. Try to live with your neighbor. Accept people for what they are. Nobody's better than anybody else."

It's clear, when you see Biniaz smile: Hitler tried, but failed, to destroy her spirit.

The Darkness is Not Sufficient

Sam Harris '58 is a man of hope. He sparkles with it, like the sun emerging from the clouds.

A child survivor of the Nazi death camps, Harris is now leading the efforts to build a museum dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust. The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center will open early next year in Skokie, Ill. Harris has committed years of his life to building the museum, which he hopes will counter the "Holocaust deniers," who claim that the Nazis' plan to exterminate the Jews never took place.

"The best way to solve a problem like this is through education," Harris says.

Today he is an active spokesman who talks frequently about his experiences as a child. It wasn't always so, however. As a Grinnell student and for a good deal of his adult life, Harris did not speak about the camps. "I wanted to put a cement wall around my head," he explains. He had built a happy, prosperous life for himself and his family, and he put the past behind him.

With the help of his wife Dede, Harris was able to reclaim the memories of the child he had been. He even wrote a book for children about his experiences in the camps (Demblin and Czestochowa), titled Sammy: Child Survivor of the Holocaust (Blue Bird Publishing, 1999). He speaks frequently at schools, and his message is straightforward: life is good if you let it be.

Harris saw that the old Holocaust museum in Skokie was simply too small for the crowds of schoolchildren who wanted to visit. He remembers thinking, "We need a new museum, and I am the perfect person to do something about it." With the support of his family, he has made the museum his priority.

"I wanted to pay back the good things that had been done for me," he explains.

The new museum will be "spectacular," Harris says. The board has hired award-winning architect Stanley Tigerman; Michael Berenbaum, project director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; and Yitzchak Mais, chief curator of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. The design takes a two-sided approach. Visitors enter on the left and move through the story of the Holocaust, beginning with Kristallnacht, "the night of broken glass," and moving through the ghettos, the cattle cars, and the camps. There, says Harris, they learn of "all of those terrible things."

But the journey doesn't end there. "On the right side, we will emphasize positive things," Harris explains. "In my opinion, a lot of goodness has come out of people due to the Holocaust." The right side of the museum will tell those stories of hope.

An example, Harris says, is the story of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. "He stuck his neck out and saved hundreds of Jews," Harris says.

"That's what we want to leave them with," he explains. "Hope. ... The darkness is not sufficient for me," he says. He's also proud of the special children's museum for kids 12 and under.

Many survivors have donated their artifacts, and Harris, too, has a special object he will give to the museum, when he can part with it. It's a little belt -- the only thing he has from his childhood. He takes it with him when he speaks at schools, and when he tells the story of the little belt, there's rarely a dry eye in the house.

"I am very, very attached to it," Harris says. "You can understand why."

He uses the cracked and broken belt to show that he himself is not broken -- the human spirit is strong, stronger than those who would crush it.

"I want to make sure that what I went through doesn't happen to any other child," Harris says.

Originally published as a web extra for The Grinnell Magazine Summer 2008.


Read the full story of Sam Harris' survival, Survival: Outwitting Evil, previously featured in The Grinnell Magazine.

You can also read One Man's Odyssey: A Grinnellian's Flight from Hitler, about John Stoessinger '50.