Grinnell College alumni reminisce and reconnect during 139th Reunion

June 5, 2018 — Like many alumni, Matt Horstman ’99 has fond memories of Grinnell College, though he also recalls the pressure involved in studying at such a rigorous academic institution.

“I love being back on campus even though this was a stressful experience for four years,” he says. “I don’t feel that at all now. Reunion is relaxing because I’m with all my favorite people in a beautiful place without the stress.”

Horstman was not alone in the sentiment. During the 139th Alumni Reunion Weekend May 31 to June 3, Grinnell graduates from classes ranging back to 1948 enjoyed the company of classmates while reflecting on what the College has meant to them over the years.

“I have warm feelings about the four years I grew up here,” said Janet Deyo Pugh ’68, a Madison, Wisconsin, resident who returned for her 50th reunion. “I’d be hard pressed to tell you what it was about those four years, but I walked out with the confidence to do what I needed to in the world. What students receive here is phenomenal.”

Reunion attendees chat at the All Reunion Social on Saturday
Reunion attendees chat at the All Reunion Social on Saturday.

Reunion is the largest Grinnell alumni event held each year. About 1,100 alumni returned to campus to take part in Reunion 2018. Throughout the weekend, alumni attended lectures, participated in activities, toured the campus and community, and formed bonds over shared experiences at social events and meals.

This year’s featured Reunion classes were the classes of 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1963, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978, 1993, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2008 though alumni from several other years also attended. Attendees were from 45 states, Washington D.C., and five countries.

Kathy Bateman ’97, Leif Brown ’97, and their 8-year-old daughter, Athena Bateman-Brown, drove to Grinnell from their home in Austin, Texas. It was Bateman’s first time visiting the College since she graduated 21 years ago.

“My initial reaction was where am I?” Bateman says while laughing. “I’m on familiar territory on Central Campus, but when I was on North Campus there was a lot of buildings that I didn’t recognize.”

Bateman met her future husband on the first day of college. She and Brown lived on the same floor in Smith Hall. She said she’s dreamed of returning, but it hadn’t been possible until this year.

“I have warm memories of being here, so I thought it would be fun to go back,” she says. “I want to check out the bookstore and all the buildings I haven’t been in before, as well as walk through the ones I had classes in.”

Beverley Stubbee ’49, left, Hester Newton ’49, Don Yungclas ’50 and Pat Yungclas ’51
Beverley Stubbee ’48, left, Hester Newton ’49, Don Yungclas ’50 and Pat Yungclas ’51 attendee as the 70th Reunion Cluster.

Few people could speak to the College’s growth over the last 70 years better than Don Yungclas ’50, who was attending Reunion with his wife, Pat Yungclas ’51. The couple still reside in Grinnell.

“We come to as many reunion as we can,” Yungclas says. “We enjoy meeting people and seeing our old classmates. It’s amazing how the campus has evolved over the years. Up until recently, I swam five days a week at the natatorium. I appreciate the College making so many facilities available to alumni and the community.”

Along with Don, Beverley Stubbee ’49 of Durham, North Carolina, and Hester Newton ’49 of Muskegon, Michigan, were 70th reunion attendees. Newton co-presented an Alumni Award to her son, P. Carter Newton ’77, during Alumni Assembly in one of the most uplifting moments of the weekend.

This year’s other Alumni Award recipients were Peter Kranz ’63, Deborah Feir ’68, Catherine Gage ’73, Barry Huff ’73, Douglas Spitz ’78, Rachel Bly ’93, Margaret Tandoh ’93, Kirpal Singh ’97, and Adrienne Enriquez ’98.

Alumni Award winner Peter Kranz with presenter Cameo Carlson ’93
    Alumni  Award winner Peter
   Kranz '63 with presenter
   Cameo Carlson '93.

Kranz, who ran track at Grinnell, marveled at the College’s athletic facilities and came away impressed with how academic excellence has stayed constant during the past 55 years.

“It’s interesting to see how Grinnell has grown while being able to hold on to the quality, which to me is the most important aspect,” Kranz said.

Kranz’s classmate, Julia Johnson Rothenberg ’63 made the trip from New York for her fourth Reunion weekend.

“Grinnell is an inspiring place,” she says. “My favorite part is talking to the students because they are so forthcoming about how important the College is to them.”

Preceding Reunion on May 30 and 31, Alumni College held courses based on the theme of “The Truth.” A record total of 132 alumni went back to the classroom for lectures and seminars that examined the problem that is truth.

“Even if I only get to take part every four or five years, Alumni College helps me believe that learning is a skill I can still take on,” Deyo Pugh says. “This year’s topic and presentations were really good.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

The 140th Annual Alumni Reunion will take place May 30 through June 2, 2019. Featured classes are the following: Classes of 1959–60 (cluster), 1969, 1979–80 (cluster), 1983–85 (cluster), 1994, 2003–05 (cluster), and 2009.