Alumni News


Passing of Trustee and Alumnus Paul Risser '61

From Grinnell College President Raynard Kington, July 11, 2014:

I am writing with sad news of the loss of a beloved and dedicated member of the Grinnell community. Paul Risser ’61, Vice Chair of our Board of Trustees, passed away Thursday, July 10, 2014.

Paul was a member of the Board of Trustees since 2007 and was elected vice chair of the Board of Trustees in 2011. He also chaired the search committee that elected me as the College’s president.

He graduated from Grinnell College in 1961 with a degree in biology, and went on to earn a master’s degree in botany and a Ph.D. in botany and soils from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He was awarded an honorary degree from Grinnell College in 1994. Paul most recently served as chair of the University of Oklahoma Research Cabinet and executive director of the Oklahoma EDGE program. He was also chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education from 2003-2006. Before that, Paul served as president of Oregon State University and Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. He had also been the acting director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

He consulted or served as an advisor for many prestigious science organizations, including the National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences, and agencies conducting scientific research and public policy development, including the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Park Service. His research interests included the study of the structure and function of grassland and forest ecosystems, environmental planning and management, landscape ecology, and global change.

A service is planned for Monday, July 14, at First Presbyterian Church, 555 S. University in Norman, Oklahoma.

Paul will be missed by many people— we will miss his humor, his insights, his energy, and his brilliance.  Our condolences go to his wife, Les; twin brother, Jim (Barbara) of Austin, Texas; brother,Ted (Trudy) of Grants Pass, Ore.; sons, David (Holly) and Mark (Yola) of Dallas, Texas, Stephen (Kelly) of Fort Worth, Texas, and Scott (Hilary) of Butte, Mont.; stepdaughters, Amy (Randy) of Walla Walla, Wash. Sarah (Bob) of Denver, Colo.; fourteen grandchildren; and his many friends and colleagues.

Grinnell College to Induct 12 into Athletics Hall of Fame

The Grinnell College Athletics Hall of Fame will welcome 12 new members later this summer. The inductees will be honored with a day of celebration Sat,, Aug. 30, 2014. A ceremony in the morning will be free and open to the public. A dinner for the inductees and their families is scheduled for that evening. Read about the 2014 Grinnell College Athletics Hall of Fame inductees here (PDF in new window).

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Thomas Meglioranza '92 (music) released The Good Song, his third album with pianist Reiko Uchida. It is a period-instrument recording of French song cycles, including Gabriel Fauré's "La bonne chanson" (which Uchida and Meglioranza performed at Grinnell in 2007). The album has so far received rave reviews in The New York Times, Gramophone, The American Record Guide, and Limelight Magazine, among others.

Pete Ferrell '74 is interviewed in an episode of Years of Living Dangerously called "Against the Wind" about wind power as a source of renewable energy. Go here for more information.

Charity Porotesano '12 (photo at left) received the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa’s volunteer of the year award. Read more about her work and the award

Benjamin Barber '60 has a new book out, If Mayors Ruled the WorldHe has given a TED talk based on the book.

Max Farrell '12 is highlighted in the Des Moines Register for releasing a worldwide crowd-sourced music video.

Victoria Vertilo '12 and Janet Gibson, Grinnell College professor of psychology, cowrote the paper "Influence of character strengths on mental-health stigma" in the Journal of Positive Psychology. The paper examines traits of open-mindedness, kindness, hope, and social intelligence in the context of mental-health stigma. 

Michael Reinemer '76 works at The Wilderness Society national headquarters where he manages communications for protecting wildlands.

Kumail Nanjiani '01, who has appeared on The Colbert Report, The Late Show with David Letterman, and Franklin & Bash, now is lampooning startups on HBO’s new series Silicon Valley. Read more.

Scott Samuelson '95 wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed on the value of the humanities. He was the keynote speaker for the Grinnell student symposium Spring into the Humanities in April 2014.

Christopher Marler '81 has been the director of the Africa Digital Media Academy in Kigali, Riwanda, since 2012. More information is available at

Annie Ewaskio '04 had a piece of her artwork on display in the Whitney Houston Biennial in New York City in March 2014.

Timothy Polashek '94 has a new book out called The Word Rhythm Dictionary: A Resource for Writers, Rappers, Poets, and Lyricists.

Ben Templin '81 published "The Politics of the Payroll Tax" in Quinnipiac Law Review [32:1, pp. 1-51, Dec. 2013]

Elizabeth Laine, an 8th-grade teacher at Noble High School in southern Maine, was recognized in the fall of 2013 as a National Board Certified Teacher in science.

Erik Jarvis '12, of Omaha, has been collaborating with Kelly Musselman '11 on writing 10 songs. The two alums have launched a crowd-sourced fundraising effort to fund the recording of their songs. Mussleman lives in Brush, CO, and teaches 7th-grade writing. Jarvis teaches at the Omaha School of Rock. 


For more Grinnellian news, turn to our Alumni Profiles page.