Honoring a family’s legacy

July 10, 2020 — Paul Herman ’87 recently made a $50,000 gift to Grinnell College to name a research lab in the new Humanities and Social Studies Center (HSSC) in honor of his grandmother, Marjorie Dunton Herman 1921.

The room that will bear Marjorie’s name will be located in the Alumni Recitation Hall (ARH) portion of the HSSC, in an area where she likely would have attended classes. In fact, ARH was a whole year old when Marjorie arrived at Grinnell. The main classroom building at Grinnell at the time, ARH, opened in 1916.

In the past couple of decades the College has made significant physical investments designed to improve teaching and learning in the humanities and sciences. New portions of the HSSC opened in 2019 and renovations to ARH and Carnegie will wrap up this summer.

“Giving directly to support the humanities and social studies was important to me,” Herman says. “Grinnell has smartly made investments in learning through the HSSC and this was a way to assist those efforts as well as pay tribute to my family.”

Paul Herman and his husband, Ed Swanson are pictured with their daughters Liza (left) and Katherine (right).

Paul and his husband, Ed Swanson, are pictured with their daughters Liza (left) and Katherine (right).

Paul’s journey to Grinnell in the 1980s was indirect. He did not consider Grinnell when he first applied to colleges. He began his academic career at the University of California San Diego, but soon found it was not the right fit for him. He transferred to Grinnell at the beginning of his sophomore year and immediately felt at home in central Iowa.

Marjorie had died several years before he started college, so Paul never had the chance to speak to her about her years at Grinnell. But in subsequent years, Paul discovered photos of Marjorie and other ephemera from her time there.  

“There are several photos of Marjorie in front of dormitory buildings in the South Campus Quadrangle,” Herman says. “I also have her Honor G blanket and a Grinnell graduation pamphlet from 1921.”    

Marjorie grew up in Dundee, Illinois, then a small village northwest of Chicago, divided into east and west by the Fox River. Her father went to nearby Wheaton College as did other men in the Dunton family. But Marjorie chose Grinnell during the waning years of World War I, when Grinnell had just defined its now familiar 20th century architecture profile.

Marjorie Dunton Herman 1921, Paul’s grandmother, was photographed on Grinnell’s campus a century ago.
Marjorie Dunton Herman 1921, Paul’s grandmother, was photographed on Grinnell’s campus a century ago.

At the time, few young women left home and ventured out of state to acquire a liberal arts education. When Marjorie arrived, the women’s Quadrangle was a few years old and the men’s residence halls on North Campus were recently or nearly completed.

Paul Herman majored in religious studies. In the traditions of his family, he continued his education after Grinnell to earn both a Master of Arts in religious studies from the Pacific School of Religion and a Ph.D. in American history from Stanford University. Paul has worked in local and state politics in California, focusing on AIDS-related policies and HIV prevention. He currently serves as a board member for Legal Services for Children in the Bay Area.   

—by James Decker ’75, Alumni Council Member Emeritus

For your information:

A number of HSSC interior and exterior investment opportunities are available at various gift levels. For more information, contact Susan Kriegel, development assistant, at 866-850-1846 or kriegels@grinnell.edu.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive.