Alumni cherish time spent together during Reunion 2024

June 6, 2024 — In her volunteer roles with Grinnell College, Ellen Rostker ’74 had been back to Grinnell numerous times, so campus changes have come to her gradually. 

That was not the case for several of her fellow 1974 classmates whose return for Reunion 2024
was their first trip back since graduating a half century ago. 

“It’s been fascinating celebrating our 50th reunion,” says Rostker, who is the class fund director.  “I’m finding the interactions in some ways are coming quicker and more comfortably than they had at other reunions. For the classmates back for the first time in 50 years, I love their wow-ness. They are experiencing it for the first time, and I love seeing their reactions.”

Two young alums from the 5th reunion cluster greet each other.
Two young alums from the 5th reunion cluster greet each other Friday at the Mac Field Chill Time for the classes of 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Whether alums were first-time attendees or had been to several reunions, they reveled in being with fellow Grinnellians in a place where they have so many fond remembrances. 

“There’s a flood of nostalgia in campus places along with the comfort of knowing you are older and slightly more responsible,” said Jason Arends ’05 on Friday morning. “I have aspirations to hang out on a field and walk around campus, which is always lovely.”

Held May 30-June 2, the 144th Annual Alumni Reunion Weekend was attended by 1,169 alumni and guests. This year’s registered attendees were from 44 states, Washington D.C., and 18 foreign countries. Alumni from 45 different classes – ranging from 1953 to 2019 – took part in presentations, mingled at events, rediscovered favorite places on campus and in town, and formed bonds over shared experiences.

This year’s Reunion classes celebrating milestone reunions were the classes of 1954, 1959, 1960, 1974, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2014, 2017, 2018, and 2019 – along with alums in the GRA/EY – Grinnell Reunion Any/Every Year – contingent.

Bill Ingram ’53, left, Liz (Barnard) Brooke ’54, and Tom Carpenter ’54.
Bill Ingram ’53, left, Liz (Barnard) Brooke ’54, and Tom Carpenter ’54 share a laugh during the 65th and 70th reunion welcome event Thursday at Grinnell House.

Tom Carpenter ’54 was one of six alums back from his class for their 70th reunion. “I had nothing else to do, honestly,” Carpenter joked. “When you get to my age you just wander around.” 

The 1954 group was joined by alums celebrating their 65th reunion at a welcome event Thursday evening at Grinnell House. Attendees took turns stating their Grinnell major and whether it aligned closely with what they had went on to do for their careers. Everyone’s had in some form. 

“Grinnell was good training for being a lawyer with the research aspect and getting to know different subjects,” says Carpenter who was an attorney at Grefe & Sidney in Des Moines for 56 years.

Carpenter’s mother, Ione Rice Carpenter 1921, and brother, John Rice Carpenter ’50, were Grinnell grads as was his late wife, Dorothy “Dottie” Carpenter ’55, who served for seven terms in the Iowa Legislature.  

“But our kids didn’t go here because we talked too much about it,” he said while laughing. “When I come back, I like to see how the College has changed and to visit with students to hear about their impressions of what’s going on with the College. There’s no semblance to what it was like to be a student in the 1950s.”

Elizabeth Perrill ’99
Elizabeth Perrill ’99 awaits the bike ride around Grinnell event Friday morning.

About 30 alums started their Friday Reunion activities with a bike ride around Grinnell. A bike enthusiast who has ridden RAGBRAI 10 times, Elizabeth Perrill ’99 vividly recalls remembers going on bike rides in Grinnell at Bikes to You, where Friday’s ride started. She was having trouble believing it has been 25 years since her Commencement. 

“Everyone seems shocked that this is our 25-year reunion,” she says.

An art history professor at UNC-Greensboro, Perrill was also excited for the Grinnell College Museum of Art reception since she worked at the museum for a couple years and for visiting with professor emeritus Jan Gross and Dan Gross, retired director of alternate language. 

The chance to visit with Grinnell residents also was high on the to-do list for Sarah Ruiz ’18 and Hannah Lundberg ’18 who both attended a local church and were eager to catch up with friends they made in the community. They were both up early Saturday for the Alumni Fun Run/Walk along with classmate Stewart Bass ’18 who ran the 8th fastest time (17:33) in the 20-plus year history of the run. 

“After graduating, I transitioned to running marathons because I like traveling for destination races,” he says. “I was a Chinese major at Grinnell, so I moved there after graduation. My first marathon was in Seoul, South Korea. It was a fun initiation. I used that to qualify for Boston and ran Chicago last year. I’ve now done 5 marathons.”

Bass had a fun time reconnecting with alums from the five-year cluster. “I really enjoyed the drag show. It was phenomenal. I like that they brought back people from class years that weren’t in official milestone reunions.”

The 2024 Alumni Awards recipients pose for a group shot at Herrick Chapel.
The 2024 Alumni Awards recipients pose for a group shot at Herrick Chapel after being honored during Alumni Assembly on Saturday.

Later Saturday, Reunion attendees gathered at Herrick Chapel for Alumni Assembly. The event included an address by President Anne F. Harris, an alumni choir performance, and Alumni Awards were presented to 12 recipients who have distinguished themselves by their service to their careers, their community, and/or the College. Alumni Council members Robert Gehorsam ’76 and Tony Pham ’03 presented the awards to this year’s recipients: Kathleen DuBois ’74, Denise Iverson-Payne ’74, Tony Reid ’78, Ed Fry ’79, Trish Fitzgibbons Anderson ’80, Nora Mann ’80, Elizabeth Lee ’99, Carla Talarico ’99, Brian Vicente ’99, Charles Blake ’05, Alissa Briggs ’05, and Lisa Eshun-Wilson ’14

Each recipient received an embossed pen made of walnut from campus trees that fell down during the 2020 derecho along with a display holder that has an engraved anodized aluminum plaque with each recipient’s name and the year of the award. The items were made by Jonah Pratt ’24 at the STEW Makerspace

Grinnellians can watch a replay of Alumni Assembly and learn more about the recipients’ achievements and other fun facts about them in a series of online profiles

Charles Blake ’05 says receiving an Alumni Award at his 20th reunion was a great honor. “I always wanted to bring my kids with me to Grinnell,” he says. “To have them here as I receive this honor and to show them where I became a man, is very, very special.”

Overall, Blake says he felt like he was in a time warp during Reunion.

“I haven’t been back since 2007. Seeing the JRC, HSSC, and all the new development is inspiring,” he says. “There are a few things I take with me every day that I know was molded and crafted at Grinnell, such as being my authentic self and making sure I’m looking through a scope that I understand and always evaluate. And then being socially active all the time. Being here re-ignites that fire.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information

The 145th Annual Alumni Reunion will take place May 29-June 1, 2025. Classes celebrating milestone reunions are the following: 1955, 1965-66 (cluster), 1975, 1984-85 (cluster), 2000, 2009-11 (cluster), and 2015.

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