Grinnellians bond at winter parties across U.S.

Feb. 18, 2020 — When Mari Guttman ’09 moved to Memphis for a new job a year ago, she figured there were other Grinnell alumni living there. But outside of a chance meeting at a basketball game, she hadn’t met her fellow Grinnellians.

That changed on Jan. 11 when Guttman hosted a winter party at a Loflin Yard, a well-known watering hole near downtown Memphis. The laid-back atmosphere was the backdrop for the first ever official gathering of Memphis-area Grinnell alumni.

It won’t be the last.

“It was nice to actually meet people and bring the Grinnell community together,” Guttman says. “We are not going to wait until the 2021 winter party to get back together. We’re hoping to hold events every few months.”

Grinnellians in Dallas get together for the Dallas Winter Party.
Members of the Dallas Grinnell community come together for the Dallas winter party.

A dozen Grinnell winter parties in January brought together 291 alumni, friends of the College, current students and their families in cities across the country. Hosted by local alumni, the gatherings were an important and fun way to strengthen local Grinnell communities.

The New York winter party hosted annually by Barry Ancona ’68, Shannon Carr ’88, Polly Ancona Carr ’17 and Cally Ancona Carr ’21 has been a January staple. The success of that gathering led to additional parties in other locales this year. Parties were held at homes, pubs, and even on the water in one case. The party for the Grinnell-in-Puget Sound was a boat cruise.

Other winter party locations were Burlington, Vermont; Cleveland; Dallas/Fort Worth; Durham, North Carolina; Houston; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Tucson; and Washington, D.C.

“A number of the cities hosting winter parties hadn’t hosted a Grinnell-related event in years or ever,” says Ashley Renstrom-Schaefer, associate director for alumni and donor relations. “I’ve heard wonderful feedback from attendees who were so excited to rekindle that Grinnell connection. This will surely be an annual tradition.”

About 15 alums and a couple parents of current students came over to Emily Zabor’s house in Cleveland for the winter party on Jan. 18. A 2013 graduate, Zabor moved to Cleveland six months ago but until the party, she didn’t realize several other Grinnellians lived nearby.

Emily Zabor '13 and several Grinellians get together for a group shot at the Winter Party Emily hosted.
Emily Zabor ’13 (front) and other Cleveland Grinnellians pose for a group shot at the Cleveland winter party that Emily hosted.

“It was a good size occasion for having conversations and meeting a lot of people,” she says. “We were really excited about having a winter party and there was enthusiasm for events in the future.”

Zabor previously lived in New York City while Guttman had lived in Chicago and San Francisco. They both had attended Grinnell events in those cities and were eager to bring a version of that togetherness to their new cities.

Guttman, an in-house attorney for the Memphis Grizzles, says Grinnellians are eager to meet each other. For example, she wore a Grinnell jacket to a Grizzles game one time. Later in the season, an older Grinnell couple tracked her down.

“It was so quintessential Grinnell,” she says. “They remembered me and had been looking for me to ask about Grinnell. They attended up attending the winter party.”

Zabor, a biostatistician at Cleveland Clinic, recommends alums in other cities consider winter parties in the future.

“I think it’s a really good event for the smaller cities,” she says. “It was easy to plan, especially since the College coordinated the registration. It was so nice to be able to share our Grinnell experiences with fellow alums.”

—by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

For additional information about winter parties and regional networks, contact Ashley Renstrom-Schaefer, associate director of alumni relations, at or 641-269-9317.

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