Camaraderie always on menu for Washington D.C Lunch Bunch

August 13, 2021 — What started as an infrequent and informal lunch gathering by a trio of 1964 alums has blossomed into a multi-class, every six week get-together where politics, Italian dishes, and Grinnell College are freely discussed.

The Washington D.C. Lunch Bunch typically has no agenda – something that is rare in the nation’s capital.

“From the start we wanted to mostly have no agenda items,” says David Evans ’64. “The idea was to see what we all had been doing and what we were up to at the time.”

Evans, Ralph Craft ’64, and Jim Frank ’64 occasionally had lunch together since they moved to Washington D.C. About a decade ago, the idea hit them they should turn occasional into habitual and invite others from their class. Thus, the Lunch Bunch concept was born. The venue chosen was an Italian neighborhood bistro called La Tomate in Dupont Circle

Attendees at a past Grinnell Lunch Bunch in Washington D.C. posed for a group photo.
Attendees at a past Grinnell Lunch Bunch in Washington D.C. posed for a group photo. Pictured in the back are Ed Senn ‘79, left, David Evans ‘64, and Matheos Mesfin ‘14. In front are Barbara Hunt Moore ’65, left, Ralph Craft ‘64, and Anne Brineman Anderson ‘64.

Though the group didn’t advertise the gatherings, word got out about it anyhow. Barbara Hunt Moore ’65 heard about the gatherings during a D.C. picnic and asked if she could attend. She’s now a regular as are Erik Rasmussen ’67, Barry Zigas ’73, Delabian Rice Thurston ’66, Irene Elliott ’67, Pat Nolan Nyhan ’64, and College Trustees Kathryn Mohrman ’67 and Ed Senn ’79. There are now 42 alums on the Lunch Bunch email list.

“We’ve had Grinnell students attend while they were studying or interning in Washington D.C., and College faculty and staff in town always are welcome,” Evans said. “But the core group of the Lunch Bunch has remained from the mid-1960s.”

A sizable number of Grinnell alums from the 1960s and 1970s moved to Washington D.C. after graduation and have stayed put. Evans thinks that was a product of the times. Interest in national affairs was particularly high during those decades, he says.

Not surprisingly, talk about what’s going on in government is a dominant topic during Lunch Bunch gatherings. “Because of our work backgrounds and location, current event issues are of vital interest,” Evans says. During one Lunch Bunch, Anne Brineman Anderson ’64 gave a program about the D.C. statehood movement. At another gathering, Matheos Mesfin ’14 talked about founding the Institute for East African Councils on Higher Education.

A number of Grinnellians attended a Lunch Bunch gathering in 2016.
A number of Grinnellians attended a Lunch Bunch gathering in 2016. Pictured standing are Charlyn Buss ‘66, left, Jim Frank ‘64, Barbara Hunt Moore ‘65, John Butt, David Evans ‘64, and Ed Senn ‘79. Those sitting are Barry Zigas ‘73, left, Pat Nolan Nyhan ‘64, Ralph Craft ‘64, Martha Grodzins Butt ‘64, Anne Brineman Anderson ‘64, Betty (Brandis) Rasmussen ‘68, and Erik Rasmussen ‘67.

Grinnell faculty and staff have been invited to talk with the group as well. Mae Parker, director of annual giving, presented about the importance of alumni giving to the College. Professor Vicki Bentley-Condit spoke about revising the Grinnell-in-Washington program.

Even when there’s no formal program related to Grinnell, the discussion often moves that direction anyway.

“We’re interested in knowing what’s happening on campus, both from an academic and physical plan sense,” says Evans, who also serves as a class fund director. “We followed closely the re-invention of ARH and Carnegie. We’re also interested about what students are doing and their pursuits. We are fascinated by the increase in international students. We talk about student aid and how it helps maintain a diverse student body.”

When the pandemic made in-person meetings not possible, the group shifted some meetings to Zoom while others were canceled.

“We were concerned about how people were doing,” Evans says. “The Zoom sessions eliminated some of that concern. We wished we could be together. Zoom was good but a less than satisfactory operation. We were anxious to get together.”

On July 1, the Lunch Bunch returned in person to La Tomate, though this time on the patio. It went well and another gathering is set for Aug. 12.

“If alums in other cities are considering creating lunch groups, it’s something we recommend,” Evans says. “I think all of our participants would say it’s been a meaningful experience.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Washington D.C. area students and alumni can learn more about attending Grinnell Lunch Bunch events by emailing David Evans ’64 at

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