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The Scarlet & Black

Alumni revisit campus for 30th anniversary of Super Bowl tradition

Grinnell alumni revisit Rawson Hall, the birthplace of their 30 year Super Bowl tradition.
Grinnell alumni revisit Rawson Hall, the birthplace of their 30 year Super Bowl tradition.

By Tommy O’Donnell

Every year, over 100 million football fans come together to watch the Super Bowl, and this tradition is no different for a group of Grinnell alumni.

David Shearer ’93, Haywood Wilson ’93, Howard Gardos ’92, Mike French ’93, Paul Egan ’93 and Scott Wittstruck ’93 revisited Grinnell last weekend to celebrate the anniversary of a tradition that began 30 years ago.

“It started in the dorm lounge … I would say mostly thanks to Howard,” said Wilson.

“The first time we ever did it was January 1990. That was in Rawson lounge. As HAC (Hall Activity Coordinator) I made chili for everyone,” said Gardos.

The original group consisted of nine Grinnellians, but two members, Difei Liu ’93 and Nathan Hadley ’93, have passed away, and Onur Akmehmet ’93 has moved to Turkey. Since graduation, the friends have continued to meet up every year to watch the game, even though they all live in different parts of the country.

“We live all over the country: Baltimore, Philly, Davis [California], Madison, Cedar Rapids [Iowa], Long Island. … We’ve all gone our own ways, but one weekend a year we always get together, … no matter what’s going on in our lives, … we always get to see each other and that is a real treat,” Gardos said.

Finding the right place to host the event every year has been a challenge, but the group found a clever way of making it work.

Egan said, “Since we all wanted to see each other every year, we add up all the costs and divide them by the number of people that are there.”

Gardos added, “Right out of school, you know you are only just getting started. If someone has to fly from New York to California and someone else had a two hour drive, … it’s different. So it was a good way in the beginning to keep everybody going, … but we still do it.”

Although brought together each year by the Super Bowl, the tradition is far more focused on rekindling friendships than watching a sports game.

“This get-together that we have done every year was not so much about football, but about getting the chance to hang out together.” Gardos said.

“At Grinnell, we never really did sporting events, but we somehow gathered around football. Not all of us were even real big football fans,” Wilson said.

For some, the thought of even watching the game is unthinkable without their friends with them.

“It’s a testament to the quality of the people in this room that I am here at all because I hate sports in all forms,” said Shearer. “I’d prefer that the opera would be the thing to gather us all together.”

They have met in 18 states over the 30 years, but to mark the 30th anniversary, they decided to meet up where it all began.

“I mentioned doing it here [in Grinnell], because we talked about it and figured, what better place to do the 30th than Grinnell,” Wilson said. “It’s really good to be back here.”

Thirty years on, the group were not shy to admit how much the College and town have changed.

“Grinnell over time has changed, it has modernized for the better. How they are rebuilding around the ARH … it’s pretty cool,” Gardos said.

“It’s a totally different place … campus was so much smaller back then … I saw that sports complex [the Bear] and really wished we had that. When I played football the gym was a glorified closet,” Wilson said.

Even with the drastic development of the College, the group still hold Grinnell and their college experiences very close to their hearts.

“Grinnell represents to me, since I moved around a lot as a kid … as close I have got to a home town because I met these guys here. It may seem kinda weird, but I almost see Rawson as my birth place,” said Wittstruck.

When asked who’d they like to win, an overwhelming consensus was reached: “Anyone but the Patriots … the Rams.”

For this group, the Super Bowl weekend is the one time a year they can rekindle old friendships and reminisce about their college days.

“I still believe those four years at Grinnell were probably the best four years of my life … I owe it all to these guys in this room,” Wittstruck said.

“Scott [Wittstruck] makes a good point. We really are like family, because sometimes we’ve had some really awful arguments but we always seem to come back to each other … we always seem to get past whatever it is,” Wilson said.

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