Skip to main content

Losing Great Grinnellians (#1215)

Topics/tags: Grinnellians

Doug Caulkins passed away the other day. He’s one in a long line of great Grinnellians that we’ve lost of late. I learned a lot from Doug. Not enough. Doug taught me about generosity; he was generous with his time, his money, his knowledge, his ideas. After retiring, Doug continued to teach courses at Grinnell, mostly in the Wilson program, for the same rate we pay part-time faculty still in grad school. He not only donated large amounts to Carleton, his alma mater, he and Lorna also coordinated class gifts and more. He may even have contributed those pittances Grinnell paid him. Doug taught me about the history of Technology Studies, the Wilson Program, and more at Grinnell. Doug taught me new approaches to teaching and curriculum; I wouldn’t be teaching our Learning from CS Alumni course if it weren’t for him. Of course, I also recall some heated arguments, even though I don’t recall what they were about. I wish I’d spent more time talking to him about EC comics [1], the evolution of the individually advised curriculum and Tutorial, and more.

As I said, Doug is one in a long line of great Grinnellians we’ve lost over the past year. Joan Mohan. I remember the care Joan brought to her work with students in the reading lab; I also remember some conversations about her husband John, who I never had the privilege to meet. Darrel Keenan. Darrell had retired from Grinnell before I started. Still, I know him through his impact on the College and his offspring. Jean Ketter. Unsurprisingly, I learned a lot about teaching from Jean. I always appreciated how she brought a K-12 teacher’s understanding of teaching to our discussions. Of course, she brought more than that. And I enjoyed watching her sing with the Oratorio Society. George Drake. What can I say about George Drake? I always felt George’s warmth when we talked. He was generous with his knowledge of the history of Grinnell, And he always let me chide him about his comments about Phi Beta Kappa. Paul Nelson, who I didn’t know well, but who had an impact on one of my offspring, and who contributed so importantly to Grinnell’s musical community. Katherine McClelland, who mentored my teaching and impacted the learning of so many students of mathematics and statistics. As with George, I always felt Katherine’s warmth. Mathilda Lieberman. Bruce Voyles. Ed Gilday. The list goes on. It goes on too long. I never thought I’d experience a world without these wonderful folks.

Are we losing great Grinnellians more often than we have in the past? I don’t know. That’s not a statistic that I want to track or analyze. Perhaps it’s that I’ve now been here long enough that I know how much we lose with each passing.

I send thoughts and prayers and good vibes [1] to their families, to their close friends and colleagues. All Grinnellians share in your loss.

[1] No, not Executive Council.

[2] Lionel Hampton!

Version 1.0 of 2023-02-25.