Theo Prineas

Zach Spindler-Krage, Staff Writer

Liv Hage

If you were tasked with finding Theo Prineas `23 in a campus-wide game of hide-and-seek, there are a few key spots you could start with. Perhaps begin in Kistle Science Library, where he works the 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift for 10 hours per week. If you cannot find him there, check to see if he is reading in Burling Library. If he is not in either library, chances are he is taking a nap on the lush, green grass of the soccer fields. 

If all else fails, organize a book club for “Fairy Tale” by Stephen King — he will certainly come out of hiding to discuss his favorite book. You will know you have the right guy if he’s wearing a t-shirt that reads, “What’s More Punk Than The Public Library?” If you ask about the shirt, be prepared for an enthusiastic monologue about the importance of public libraries. He may want to tell you that the only thing more “punk” than libraries is politics, but he is worried that would make him a nihilist. 

Prineas grew up in Solon, a town of 3,000 people located 10 miles north of Iowa City. As a teenager, Prineas had eight goats, four chickens, bees and an aviary. He enjoyed the solitude of the small town, but he was excitedly awaiting an opportunity to move to a Democratic city with a popular public library. 

After he graduated from Iowa City High School in 2018, Prineas took a gap year and moved into an apartment in Iowa City to work at the Iowa City Public Library. Prineas was not new to the library as he had volunteered there since he was 13 years old and was employed part-time since age 16. The full year of focused work, however, gave Prineas an even greater appreciation and passion for public libraries. 

“Libraries are one of the few places that you can gather in without paying,” said Prineas. “One of our biggest clientele at Iowa City Public Library was homeless people, but we’d also get people like University of Iowa professors. You get to interact with a wide variety of people, which is a good civic value that is not present in a lot of other American institutions.”

Prineas then attended the University of Iowa for the 2019-2020 school year before transferring to Grinnell to intensely focus on political science and English for his remaining three years. This year, Prineas served as president of Grinnell College Campus Democrats, a role that allowed him to share an abundance of political experience and advice with fellow students.

Prineas has worked on four prominent city council and state legislature campaigns in Iowa, but he is most proud of his time spent as campaign manager for Christina Bohannan. In 2020, Bohannan defeated her Iowa House opponent by 30 percentage points in the primary, going on to win the uncontested general election.

“I think that’s where my life peaked because I was in charge of the whole campaign,” Prineas said. “It was probably the biggest emotional high I’ve ever had. It was such an honor to be able to do it.”

Prineas said he thinks that local and state government is often undervalued by students, and as a result, he wants to leave a legacy as an advocate for students’ participation in local elections.

“We are a part of the Grinnell community, and that means we need to have a voice in it,” Prineas said. “The attempted book bannings are a frightening example of the marriage of politics and libraries. If Grinnell students made sure to vote, we may not have a school board that tries to ban books.”

In the summer of 2022, Prineas took a brief break from domestic politics when he interned at the Julien J. Studley School of International Affairs in New York City. Prineas completed baseline research about the food crisis induced by the war in Ukraine. His research contributed to a memo that was circulated in the General Assembly of the United Nations. 

We are a part of the Grinnell community, and that means we need to have a voice in it.

— Theo Prineas

As he considers his next steps, Prineas is pained to say that many Democratic candidates may no longer have consistent success in Iowa’s increasingly Republican-controlled offices. However, Prineas said he is intrigued by the idea of assisting with state and federal elections in potential swing states like Michigan or Minnesota. Yet, he is hesitant about a long-term career in politics. 

“I think I will go to grad school eventually, but I would consider going for English instead of political science,” Prineas said regarding his future plans. “All the signals in my life are telling me to do English, but the market is telling me not to.”

Prineas said that his sibling, Maud Prineas, who is five years older, has played a significant role in shaping his thought process. “They are always somebody I look up to, and I put their advice before anybody else’s,” said Prineas. “They have really helped me figure out my direction.”

However, Prineas does not need help figuring out that he will get a cat as soon as finances allow. He also feels confident about his desire to eventually live in a secluded part of Colorado where he can spend time outside hiking and skateboarding.

When he reflected on his time at Grinnell, Prineas said he is grateful that he was able to focus almost exclusively on his passions for politics, English and libraries. He also said he appreciates the support of his advisors, Danielle Lussier, political science, and Paula Smith, English, and his particularly memorable time with professors Sherif Abdelkarim, English, and Sheahan Virgin `08, political science.

Whatever comes next, Prineas is prepared to make plenty of time for reading and frequent trips to the local public library. Equally as important, he will always make sure to find a sunny field to nap in.