The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Faculty fam


By Michael Sundby

For many of us here at Grinnell, going home is a trek. It may involve travelling several hours in a packed car with a dresser in your lap. It may involve long delays at the Des Moines airport, courtesy of our Iowan climate. For some students, though, home is just a few blocks away. Chris Sharpe ’18 and Steven Sharpe ’21, sons of Professor Leslie Lyons and Professor Lee Sharpe, both chemistry, and Patrick Armstrong ’18, son of Professor Todd Armstrong, Russian, are among a few Grinnellians attending the college where their parents teach and work.

Both Patrick and the Sharpe brothers have lived in Grinnell since they were born. But none of them knew while growing up that they would attend their parents’ place of employment.

“I desperately wanted to get out,” Patrick said. But ultimately, Grinnell was the best option. “I’d taken classes here and I liked it. I’m glad I came, but it sort of changed the way I experienced it.”
For Steven, the college search was a little different.

“I was using Grinnell as a reference point for what I wanted from a college,” he said. “And then I realized, nothing is going to be as Grinnell as Grinnell.”

For both the Sharpe brothers, our state-of-the-art swimming pool also played a significant role in their decisions.

Some students attending a college just minutes from their parents might worry about their independence. That was not an issue, however, for any of these students.

“That first semester, we sort of pretended not to see each other,” Professor Armstrong said.

“You just make separation,” Chris agreed.

Many college students might think that taking a class from their parent would be an odd, if not horrifying, experience. It is one that Chris, Steven and Patrick have all witnessed. Professor Sharpe likes to tell stories about his kids in class, according to Chris, who said it was a bit funny when he was the subject of one.

“The way that they present themselves in class is different than the way they present themselves out of the class,” Steven said. It was “familiar, yet strange,” he added.

“I think we can keep our professional hats on,” Patrick said.

“I was a little apprehensive at first, because I’d never done it,” Professor Armstrong said. “But overall it’s turned out to be pretty normal.”

Professor Lyons and Professor Sharpe agreed. Both submit their sons’ tests to colleagues for grading, just to be safe. Professor Lyons also recalled a time when she sent Chris out of the house so she could draft the test for a chemistry class in which he was enrolled.

While going to college within a mile of their parents has had its quirks, each student acknowledges how nice it is to grab a home-cooked meal every now and then. And through this new lens, each has grown to respect their parents in new ways.

“He’s my ultimate tutorial prof, you know,” Patrick said of his father. “He taught me how to live.”


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