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Nature: A Walking Play

Grinnell College will host three outdoor performances of “Nature — A Walking Play” about Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau from Sept. 11-13 at the Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA).

TigerLion Arts will present the mythic telling of Emerson and Thoreau’s mutual love affair with the natural world. Grounded in the story of their friendship, the production offers a perspective on their lives that is strikingly relevant, richly complex, and yet utterly simple. 

Movies Under the Stars

Grab some free popcorn and enjoy old and new classics at the College’s Movies under the Stars nights. The last movie in this summer's series is last year's The Hundred Foot Journey.

As always, the series is free and open to the public. Bring your own chairs and other refreshments.

The movie begins Aug. 7, at 9 p.m. on the College’s Commencement stage or, in case of rain, in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

Summer in Grinnell is alive with a variety of events and activities when the weather offers a chance to explore the town’s parks, have a picnic, or just relax outside.

Lexy Greenwell's Virtual Commencement

Alexis "Lexy" Greenwell ’15 used her iPhone to virtually walk across the stage at Grinnell College's commencement ceremony even though she was 725 miles away at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado.

Janet Davis, associate professor of computer science and Greenwell's faculty adviser, represented Greenwell at Grinnell College's ceremony honoring 405 graduates on Monday, May 18, in Grinnell, Iowa.

As she joined the parade of graduates crossing the stage, Davis held up her iPhone, which was connected to Greenwell's iPhone via Skype. Greenwell saw the view from the stage and shared in the graduation experience as Grinnell College President Raynard S. Kington conveyed his congratulations and then the two exchanged virtual waves.

Greenwell also was able to view the entire ceremony via a live stream on a projection screen. Following Greenwell's virtual walk across the stage, Grinnell College Trustee Steve Holtze and his wife, Elizabeth, both 1968 graduates of Grinnell and residents of the Denver area, presented Greenwell with her diploma.

"It was really, really cool . . . just an exciting moment," says Greenwell, who wore a cap and gown for her commencement celebration at Craig Hospital. Family and friends joined her at the hospital where she received intensive neurological rehabilitation that helped her recover from several brain hemorrhages and two brain surgeries that threatened her life and interrupted her studies at Grinnell College.

Greenwell was able to finish her senior year via interactive classes, earning a bachelor's degree in computer science with a technology studies concentration.

"With her sparkling personality and can-do attitude, Lexy has always been a pleasure to teach and advise," professor Davis says. "She has shown remarkable determination in the face of adversity. Lexy has worked closely with faculty, staff and classmates to participate fully in all of her classes — including a team software development project — despite being far away from Grinnell."

The 22-year-old singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and beatboxer, who has performed for Reba McEntire and shared a stage with David Foster and other celebrities, says music played a key role in her recovery.

"Music definitely helped save me. It was a huge part of my healing process," Greenwell says. She aims to combine her love of music and technology to become a music executive. She also plans to write a book about her experiences in hopes of inspiring others.

"It takes some time when you go through something like this to get yourself to a place where you feel like you can move forward," she says, adding with a smile, "My future is wide open, and I'm so grateful for the amazing life I have."

Congratulations, Class of 2015!

The 169th Commencement of Grinnell College is complete.

Find highlights from the weekend in a visual review of Commencement 2015.

Relive the full ceremony on YouTube, or pick the speech of your choice:

As always, you can:

  • Follow and join the conversation on Twitter: #CongratsGC2015
  • Share your photos on Instagram: #GrinnellCollege
  • Follow us on Facebook and YouTube for highlights from the day.

Celebrate the accomplishments of our seniors as they begin their post-Grinnell journeys.

Honorary Degree Recipients

Bill McKibben in doctorate robe

Bill McKibben

Commencement speaker, renowned environmentalist and writer

Doctor of Humane Letters

Penny Bender Sebring ’64

Penny Bender Sebring ’64

senior research associate, University of Chicago and co-director, Consortium of Chicago School Research

Doctor of Laws

Charles Ashby Lewis in cap and gown

Charles Ashby Lewis

chairman, Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation and managing general partner, Coach House Capital

Doctor of Laws

Mary Seely in mortarboard and robe

Mary Seely

renowned scientist in environmental science, education, and policy in southern Africa

Doctor of Science

Kit Abel Hawkins in mortarboard and robe

Kit Abel Hawkins

founder and director of the Arbor School of Arts and Sciences

Doctor of Social Studies

Scholars' Convo: David Schmidtz and Phi Beta Kappa

David Schmidtz, one of the nation’s foremost experts on political philosophy, will be the keynote speaker at the Scholars’ Convocation at noon Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in the Joe Rosenfield ‘25 Center, Room 101. Schmidtz has been named the National Phi Beta Kappa Scholar in Philosophy for 2014-15.

His address, “On the Pretense of Consent,” is part of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars program. The event is free and open to the public with a free pizza lunch provided.

Newly elected members of Grinnell’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter, Beta of Iowa, will be recognized at the Convocation, as well as the winners of the annual Joseph F. Wall ’41 Phi Beta Kappa Scholar’s Award and the Neal Klausner Sophomore Book Awards.

In his address Schmidtz will explore how many political theories that represent justified political authority are grounded in the consent of the people. But if we start from there, according to Schmidtz, we end up spending our time defining consent in abstract ways in service of a lame pretense that we live under justified consent-based authority.

In contrast, Schmidtz will contend that, “If we start with actual politics, that is, from the idea that disagreement is an inevitably central feature of our lives together, then the objective becomes to make it safe to disagree, and at very least not ensure that politics is war by other means.

“The point of politics,” he will conclude, “is to create realms where the operative virtue is nonthreatening diplomacy — realms in which people are not a threat to each other. In practice, seeking consent is our most important way of keeping the peace and of treating each other with respect, but it is not the moral foundation of keeping the peace or of mutual respect. Its importance is derivative, not foundational. When we do not acknowledge the actual role of consent, we fail to take it seriously.”

Currently the Kendrick Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona, Schmidtz is founding director of Arizona’s Center for the Philosophy of Freedom. He has published extensively on ethics, environmental philosophy, and rational choice. He is author of Person, Polis, Planet and editor-in-chief of the journal Social Philosophy and Policy, which has the largest circulation among philosophy journals in the English-speaking world.

Phi Beta Kappa is an academic honor society with more than a half million members in chapters at nearly 300 American colleges and universities.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. The Joe Rosenfield ‘25 Center has accessible parking in the lot on the east side of the building. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations.

2015 Summer Exploration Series

A free program of courses for adults will be available this summer through the Adult Community Exploration Series (ACES), an initiative of the Community Education Council and Grinnell College.

Four courses, each two session long and taught by a faculty member, will be held on Wednesday mornings from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in the Caulkins Room of the Drake Community Library, 930 Park St., Grinnell. Refreshments will be served at each session.

The Caulkins Room is wheel-chair accessible and is equipped with an induction hearing (telecoil) loop. For more information about the courses or to request an accommodation, please contact Grinnell College's Office of Conference Operations and Events.

The Road Trip: Are We Running from Something or Searching for Something?

June 10, 17

Will Freeman

We have all felt the romance of the road trip. What attracts us to this idea? This course will explore themes of escapism and freedom, the "hero's journey" and the difference between tourist and traveler. Will Freeman, associate professor of physical education and head cross country and track coach, will teach the course.

Genetically Engineered, Organically Grown

June 24, July 1

Ben DeRidder

The town of Grinnell, situated in an agricultural area, finds itself in the middle of a breadbasket and of a growing debate over the future of food. This course will explore some of the themes of that debate, discussing the central issues concerning the power of genetic engineering and the promises of organic agriculture. Ben DeRidder, associate professor of biology, will teach the course.

What is Community Sustainability, Should We Care About It, and Can We Achieve It?

July 8, 15

Jonathan Andelson

Sustainability is currently a buzzword in business, development and academia, but what does it really mean? This course will examine the short-term and long-term problems with a lack of sustainability, and will look at communities where sustainability goals have received significant attention. Jonathan Andelson, professor of anthropology and founder of Grinnell's Center for Prairie Studies, will teach the course.

Gender and War

July 22, 29

Carolyn Lewis

Last year marked the 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, the 75-year anniversary of the start of World War II and the 25-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This course will explore this "century of war" with attention to the role of gender in World War II. How have notions of gender shaped our experience of war? Carolyn Lewis, assistant professor of history, will teach the course.

Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci Live in HD

Grinnell College will stream The Metropolitan Opera’s productions of Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” live in high-definition on Saturday, April 25, in Harris Center Cinema. The pre-opera talk will begin at 11 a.m. with the broadcast beginning at 11:30 a.m.

This tragic double bill stars Marcelo Álvarez, who tackles the tenor roles in both operas. Directed by Sir David McVicar, the productions will be set in two different time periods within the same Sicilian village. Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi will conduct both productions.

Randye Jones, soprano and Burling Library media room supervisor will explore the operas’ historical background and salient aspects of the music and drama in an introductory talk before the broadcast.

Refreshments will be available for sale in the lobby of the cinema before the opera.

Tickets are available at the Pioneer Bookshop, the Grinnell College Bookstore and at the door on the day of the show. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students, children, and Met Opera members.

Tickets for Grinnell College faculty, staff, and students have been generously funded by the Office of the President and are available at no cost at all ticket locations. Family members not employed by the College are required to purchase tickets.

Commencement 2015

Grinnell College will celebrate its Class of 2015 at this year’s exercises of commencement on Monday, May 18. The ceremony, in which approximately 400 students will receive the Bachelor of Arts degree, will feature an address by noted environmentalist and author Bill McKibben and the awarding of honorary degrees.

About Grinnell’s Commencement

Grinnell College’s Commencement exercises will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, May 18, at the amphitheater on central campus. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in the Charles Benson Bear ’39 Recreation and Athletic Center, 1201 10th Ave., Grinnell. No tickets are required to attend the 10 a.m. commencement exercises. The ceremony also will be live streamed on Grinnell’s website.

About Bill McKibben

A renowned environmentalist and writer, McKibben is one of the nation’s most outspoken activists on global warming. He has written extensively about climate change, alternative energy, and genetic engineering. His book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book about climate change written for a general audience. His more recent works address social movements, consumerism, and shortcomings of the growth economy.

A native of Lexington, Massachusetts, McKibben completed his undergraduate degree at Harvard, where he served as president of The Harvard Crimson newspaper. After graduating, McKibben was a staff writer at The New Yorker. He has been awarded Guggenheim and Lyndhurst fellowships, and won the Lannan Prize for nonfiction writing in 2000. McKibben is currently a scholar in residence at Middlebury College.

About honorary degree recipients

Bill McKibben will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree at Grinnell’s commencement exercises. Grinnell also will confer honorary degrees upon Mary Seely, Kit Abel Hawkins, Penny Bender Sebring ’64, and Charles Lewis.

Mary Seely is a renowned scientist with a history of work in environmental science, education, and policy in southern Africa. A visionary scientist and teacher, Seely served as director of the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia for 16 years and has received numerous awards for her work on desert research and conservation. In 2003 she taught a short course at Grinnell on nongovernmental organizations and the environment, and her passion for fostering international cooperation has been critical to the establishment and continued success of the Grinnell Corps program in Namibia.

Kit Abel Hawkins is founder and director of the Arbor School of Arts and Sciences, a private K-8 school in Tualatin, Oregon. Established in 1989, Arbor is the manifestation of Hawkins' dream that education should be "decisive and enduring." Hawkins also established the Arbor Center for Teaching, a 2-year apprenticeship program in partnership with Marylhurst University for six individuals to receive their Master of Arts in Teaching. In nominating Hawkins, Rebecca Garner ’15 praised Hawkins for her "passion for a model of active engagement with learning."

Penny Bender Sebring ’64 is a senior research associate at the University of Chicago and co-director of the Consortium of Chicago School Research. After earning a degree in sociology from Grinnell, Sebring went on to study education and policy studies at Pennsylvania State University and Northwestern University. Sebring is widely published on a variety of topics including urban education, course-taking patterns, and school leadership, and is a Life Trustee of Grinnell College.

Charles Ashby Lewis is chairman of the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation and managing general partner of Coach House Capital. A retired vice chairman of the investment banking division of Merrill Lynch and Co., Lewis is a graduate of Amherst College and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Together with his wife, Penny Bender Sebring, Lewis helped make possible the Grinnell Careers in Education Professions program, which is designed to help students think about the long-term possibilities of teaching.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Information on commencement ceremonies is available at Grinnell’s Commencement webpage. For any further information on commencement, please call (641) 269-3178.

All Recipes Are Home

Working Group Theatre, based in Iowa City, will present All Recipes Are Home, an original play with music and dance. Tickets are required for this free public event, which will start at 6 p.m. Monday, April 13, on the outdoor stage on Grinnell College’s central campus.

Incorporating dance and live folk music by the Awful Purdies quintet, this play tells the story of Josef, a young man who sets off across Iowa after receiving a postcard recruiting workers for a booming farm. Josef arrives after an arduous journey and finds that the farm has been foreclosed. He then takes a job at a local meatpacking plant. Meanwhile, his sister, Marie, and his fiancée, Erin, trek across the state to bring Josef a beloved family recipe that they believe will make him long for home. Through food, this  play aims to remind all of us of the comfort of home and the life we seek together.

The play encompasses interviews with Iowa farmers conducted by Sean Christopher Lewis, writer and director of "All Recipes Are Home." He spent seven days in northeast Iowa talking and working with farmers, food workers and those connected to the land, the history and the recipes of the state. The result is a play that is representative of the collective food story of Iowa.

Lewis and two other Master of Fine Arts graduates of the University of Iowa — Martin Andrews and Jennifer Fawcett — founded Working Group Theatre in 2009. Since then, the group has created more than 30 new plays and events, fostering community dialogue around important issues and gaining a national reputation for challenging and insightful work.

All Recipes Are Home is an original full-length play commissioned from Working Group Theatre by Hancher Auditorium/The University of Iowa, Grinnell College, and the Center Stage Series at Luther College.

Tickets and Attendance

Although the outdoor performance at Grinnell College is free, tickets are required. Ticket distribution will begin at noon Wednesday, April 8, in the box office of the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

Attendees are invited to bring nonperishable food items and donations to the show, where they will be collected by Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA), which is working with United Way to support the local food pantry.

In case of inclement weather, the play will be performed in Sebring-Lewis Hall in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

For questions concerning access or to request accommodation for a disability, please contact conference operations.