by Don Schneider ’63
Whatever happened to John?
John Grandin, that is.
Members of the Kalamazoo College Class of 1963 - particularly those freshmen in the fall of 1959 whom John (a sophomore) helped in his role as Hoben Hall monitor - may wonder how it was that he became a classmate. And members of the Class of 1962 may wonder: “How’d we lose him?”
Here’s the story. Having sampled Latin without great enthusiasm in high school, John decided to take German in college. Thanks in part to a gifted teacher, John liked it. Around this same time K received a grant to implement foreign study into the curriculum. John was one of 48 students sent for summer study on a Richard Light Scholarship in 1960. After that summer in Bonn, Germany, he was a different person, with international awareness and a deepened appreciation and passion for the German language, culture, and technology. He was so moved by the experience that he took off a year between his junior and senior years to return to the University of Bonn for a longer immersion. When he returned to K he finished his philosophy major and graduated a year later than anticipated, a proud member of the Class of ’63.
After K, John earned a masters in German from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, married Carol Wilson (who shared an interest in all things German and whose family had a summer cottage near the Grandin summer cottage in Maine), and then spent two years teaching German at Union College in upstate New York. He followed that with another year in Germany at the University of Wurzburg. Committed to becoming a Professor of German, John attended the University of Michigan and focused his studies on the German writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) and the influence of Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811). He completed his Ph.D. in a brisk three years, aided by Carol’s support.
John then joined the German Department at the University of Rhode Island, near his roots in New England. As a junior faculty member he had a difficult time convincing his chair and the tenure committee of the value of foreign language and an international education.
Fortunately for John (and for many future URI students), he met up with a neighbor, the new dean of engineering at URI, Hermann Viets, who happened to be fluent in German. Despite obstacles, the two collaborators built a learning experience ahead of its time: the dual degree (BA/BS) program in engineering and language. Today the program boasts some 300 students, 60 of whom go abroad every year for study and professional internships. A quarter of the URI engineering students co-major in German, French, Spanish, or Chinese. And the job placement for these students is 100 percent!
After 23 years in the development and leadership of the dual degree program, John is currently retired (as a professor emeritus) and writing about his experiences. He is the author of two books on the URI dual degree program: Merging Languages and Engineering: Partnering Across the Disciplines, and Going the Extra Mile: University of Rhode Island Engineers in the Global Workplace.
He also wrote book
Join your 1963 classmates this fall!about his dad, titled Hartley T. Grandin: A Pastor for the 20th Century. His father was a Kalamazoo College graduate of the Class of 1923.
Bravo John! Maybe some alumni accomplish so much they deserve to be members of more than one class. In that case, the Class of 1963 is proud to share John with all of his friends in the Class of 1962. We hope to see him at this year’s reunion (October 18-20). Check out the upcoming biographical sketches, and plan on joining your classmates this fall. Homecoming will be a great time to share your adventures in life and to find out how other classmates have used their K experiences to make their way in the world.
Recently (but only partially) retired, Don Schneider ’63 works three to five days a week at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Center for Scientific Review where he’s served since 1990. Prior to his work at NIH, he was a faculty member in biochemistry at Dartmouth Medical School for 14 years, during which time he discovered a vacuolar membrane protein pump in lysosomes. His training occured at Cornell University, Rockefeller University, Michigan State University, and, most important, at Kalamazoo College, where he is pleased to serve as class agent for the Class of 1963.
Photo - John Grandin and his wife, Carol, at an International Engineering Program meeting in Paris. The Cathedral of Notre Dame is in the background.