From swimming to the sciences, the Dixon-Anderson family shares a love of Grinnell

Oct. 10, 2019 — When it came time to apply for college, there were only a few requirements for Gene ’83 and Lynn ’84 Dixon-Anderson’s three sons. One was apply wherever you’d like as long as one of those applications was sent to Grinnell College.

“We told them they didn’t have to go to Grinnell, but they had to apply,” Lynn explains.

The result: An entire family of Grinnellians that includes alumni Erik Dixon-Anderson ’14 and Ian Dixon-Anderson ’17, as well as current student Kyle Dixon-Anderson ’21. All three are swimmers and chemistry majors, and all three have done summer Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs) focusing on battery compounds with Chemistry Professor Leslie Lyons.

The Dixon-Anderson family  –  Erik '14, left, Lynn '84, Ian '17, Gene '83, and Kyle '21 – stand for a group shot during Ian’s graduation in 2017.
The Dixon-Anderson family – Erik '14, left, Lynn '84, Ian '17, Gene '83, and Kyle '21 – stand for a group shot during Ian’s graduation in 2017.

With the instant appeal of the swim team, plus financial aid packages that were helpful, it ended up being a pretty easy decision for each of the sons to attend Grinnell.

“Kyle only applied to Grinnell,” explains Gene. “After the trip to visit campus – we took trips with all three of them – his brothers figured he was going to get into Grinnell, so he should just go with it and skip writing all those other applications.”

The athletic and science genes were clearly passed on by mom and dad. During their time on campus in the mid-1980s, Gene was a physics major who played football and rugby, while Lynn, a general science major, swam and played water polo. They both participated in the 3-2 engineering program, attending Grinnell for three years before heading off to graduate school – Gene went to Washington University in St. Louis while Lynn went to Michigan State – for advanced degrees.

The couple met Lynn’s first year, when she and three roommates in all-female Gates Hall needed help stacking their bunk beds. They were told to ask a few of the guys in all-male Rawson Tower for help. Gene was one of those guys. In addition, says Gene, “She was taking freshman physics, and I was the lab tech for her physics lab. She and her partner kept breaking things and blowing stuff up.”

The couple eventually settled in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, where they’ve made their home for 30 years. They’ve returned to Grinnell and spoke to the Creative Careers Class (part of the Wilson Program) twice, on “How to do a Two-Career Family.”

“We both worked full time while juggling family and staying in the same location, which is fairly rare,” he says. Today he’s a project manager for a large construction management company in New York City and for much of his career, traveled a lot. Lynn continues in the package engineering field and heads a group for a pharmaceutical company.

The cheerful couple remains connected to Grinnell through swim team activities. Lynn set up a remote sign-up for parents to donate food for swimmers to snack on during multiday meets.

Gene keeps in touch regularly with Grinnell Athletic Director Andy Hamilton ’85 who they persuaded to livestream swim meets for parents who live too far away to attend. For the past nine years, the couple has traveled to Grinnell for the annual conference meet, giving them a chance to reconnect with old friends, professors, and other swim parents.

They also continue to support the College, which has had such a dramatic impact on the entire family.

“Grinnell has a very diverse point of view, which is especially important in this day and age. And the size of the school is key,” says Lynn.

“Grinnell is very socially aware on a number of things, and we think it’s important to maintain that,” Gene added. “We are definitely proponents of the small school approach and the liberal arts education. And while we mainly did sports, it’s nice that Grinnell brings so much music, dance, art, and culture to campus for students to experience and participate in. In such a small place, it’s neat that they can provide that level of activity to students.”

—by Anne Stein ’84

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