Fostering the College’s tech growth

October 27, 2020 — On a gravel road off Iowa Highway 146, about a mile or so from Grinnell’s airport, sits the family farm where Dave Dale ’78 grew up.

Recently retired after a long career in information technology services at the College, Dave lives there with his wife Patty, who grew up on a farm one mile south. “We’ve known each other all of our lives,” says Dave. Patty also spent her career at Grinnell College, working in academic support.

The two are well-versed in local history. Dave is an invaluable source of institutional knowledge, starting from his time as a student in 1974 to his retirement in August 2020.

Dave Dale '78
   Dave Dale ’78

Over his 35-year information technology career, he’s seen campus technology grow from the mid-1980s era, when students had access to a handful of computer terminals located near huge main frames, to today’s wireless campus where students, faculty, and staff can go nearly anywhere in the world with a laptop to work as evidenced by all the learning, teaching, and office responsibilities being conducted remotely during the pandemic.

When Dave got to campus in the mid-1970s, he wasn’t a typical student; he and Patty were married and already parents to their first daughter (they went on to have a second daughter and adopt a son and daughter.) Though he didn’t have a lot of time for activities, he fondly recalls his Constitutional History of the U.S. class taught by the late professor of history Joseph Wall ’41, along with an education classes taught by the late professor Beryl Wellborn and Professor Emerita Roberta Atwell.

Dave wanted to be a guidance counselor, and Grinnell allowed him to major in psychology and earn a teaching certificate. But after taking the Introduction to Computing course with Professor Gene Herman his senior year, plans changed. He was hooked on computing and took a job with Grinnell Mutual Insurance’s new computing department after graduation.

A few years later, Dave started his College career as manager of operations in Information Technology Services (ITS), doing everything from managing hardware systems to installing and repairing personal computers. The job morphed into project management, running wiring and fiber optics in-between buildings. “Drilling and finding a way through those old buildings was always a challenge,” he says. More recently he was involved in new construction on campus.

“The consistent thing,” says Dave about his work, “was that I enjoyed helping people. You can provide the campus with a service that helps students learn, faculty teach, and staff do their jobs.” The ITS staff kept busy with a range of events, from setting up electronic timing at track meets to running temporary electric and computer lines when presidential candidates came to Grinnell for the caucuses. “It was never boring,” Dave says.

For a long time the ITS offices were located upstairs in the old Darby Gym. “At about 4:15 you’d hear basketball practice start, and on Monday you could tell how the weekend games went by the personality of the coach. If you worked a little late, you could sit in the bleachers and watch a game.” Dave and Patty managed to get some pieces of the court after Darby was torn down and their home office now sports random strips of wooden flooring, including part of a three-point arc.

Since retiring over the summer, Dave has focused on the farm that’s been in his family for five generations. He’s rebuilding a barn built by his grandfather in 1902, and planting trees to replace the ones swept away by the summer derecho.

When things get back to normal, he and Patty plan to travel – they love visiting national parks and canoeing – and Dave’s interested in substitute teaching at the local elementary schools he attended as a kid.

“We’ve gotten to live the life we’ve wanted and we’re very blessed for that,” says Dave. “Through the College and the town, we’ve had all types of experiences. It’s been a really neat mix.”

—by Anne Stein ’84

For your information:

Grinnell’s versatile ITS staff continues to support campus computing, network, and phone systems; and works with administrative offices to plan and implement efficient process and information systems.

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