Music, history, and volunteerism keep Grinnell front and center for family

September 12, 2023Liv Larsen ’26 and her dad, Leif Larsen ’88, share a love of music. 

“I heard about KDIC from him often,” Liv says about the College radio station. “We even dug out tapes he made of his shows. A big pull for me for Grinnell were the concerts my dad told me about. We even have the infamous guitar that was broken during the Replacements show on campus. Ever since I was a kid, I can remember it hanging in our entryway.”

As a senior at Grinnell, Leif Larsen was the concerts chair and worked closely with Georgia Dentel, the decades-long performing arts program director, responsible for bringing a dazzling array of bands to campus from Louis Armstrong to Bruce Springsteen. “The musical history of Grinnell is amazing, in large part because of Georgia,” he explains. 

Leif Larsen ’88, Liv Larsen ’26, and Sasha Aslanian ’90
Leif Larsen ’88, Liv Larsen ’26, and Sasha Aslanian ’90 took a family photo in fall 2022 after Liv moved in as a first-year student.

Liv is following in her father’s footsteps as she was recently named concerts co-chair. Leif smiles when he describes how Liv likes to wear his concert T-shirts from Grinnell days. Meanwhile, Grinnell College shirts are often the wardrobe selection for Liv’s mom, Sasha Aslanian ’90. “My extrovert wife loves going around wearing Grinnell shirts in hopes of running into other Grinnellians.” Leif says.

“It works,” responds Aslanian. “I’m always making random connections this way. Now, I don’t want to go anywhere without wearing Grinnell gear.”

Liv’s arrival at the College a year ago provided yet another connection to Grinnell for Leif and Sasha. While Liv had heard about the school most of her life, her tour guide is the one who hooked her through their shared interests. “We still keep in touch; I turn to him for recommendations for professors and other things,” Liv says. 

A longtime class fund director, Aslanian also serves on the Grinnell College Alumni Council. “I enjoy returning to campus and staying engaged,” she says. “I get a charge out of meeting and hearing the stories of current students.” 

Aslanian finds both volunteer roles equally important. “I don’t shy away from asking people to give to Grinnell,” she says. “Leif and I are not deep-pocketed people, but we’ve always made it a priority to give. I benefited from financial aid and always want to pay it forward. For Grinnell to be need blind in admission and allow students to graduate debt-free, this can only happen through strong alumni support.”
Aslanian and Larsen both grew up in the Twin Cities but didn’t know one another until they met at Grinnell. Aslanian thought Larsen “had the best show on KDIC.” 

Leif Larsen ’88 and Sasha Aslanian ’90
  Sasha Aslanian ’90 and
  Leif Larsen ’88

“One Friday night, I was listening from my room in Norris, and he mentioned he was hungry, so I saw my opportunity,” she says. She brought him chocolate strawberries and champagne left over from a special dinner at Cowles Dining Hall. A dozen years later they were married. 

The couple ended up back in Minnesota where they cultivated their careers and children, until last year when Aslanian’s job took them to New York City. She is a supervising producer for ABC News in podcast programming after having spent 30 years producing and reporting stories for American Public Media. 

“As a student at Grinnell, I did the news for KDIC,” she says. “I would just read the front page of the news. I was terrible. I never guessed that this would become a career.” 

Although they are recent transplants to New York City, Aslanian and Larsen have easily adapted, in no small part because of Grinnell connections. “Grinnellians solve all my problems from needing a new cat sitter to finding renters for our place in St. Paul,” Aslanian explains. “This is an example of moving across the country and having your Grinnell community anywhere you go.”

When Leif finds time on his hands, he has been known to go down a Grinnell rabbit hole. A history major, he enjoys researching individuals over the years who have shaped Grinnell into what it is today. 

“I’m fascinated by Grinnell’s congregationalist background at its founding – they were the socialists out on the prairie,” he says. 

He recently spent an afternoon researching George D. Herron, a congregational minister and Grinnell professor of applied Christianity in the 1890s who went on to be a founding member of 
the Socialist Party of America. 

Larsen’s interest in Grinnell history has manifested in a marvelous yearbook collection. “After seeing the gorgeous 1966 yearbook that Henry Wilhelm ’68 played such a key role in finally getting released, I was curious to see if there were other such supreme college yearbooks,” he says. Now he is the proud owner of a shelf of yearbooks, with the earliest from 1893.

Aslanian is not surprised at this collection nor his propensity for researching random Grinnell historical figures. “You won’t find anyone more sentimental about Grinnell than Leif,” she muses. 

— by Melanie Drake ’92

Grinnell College does not consider legacy status in admissions decisions.

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