Harvey Wilhelm

Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Meilynn Smith
ET Ourn

For Harvey Wilhelm `24, community is at the center of everything he has done in his time at Grinnell. From the Natatorium, to the anthropology commons to East Street, Wilhelm has found his place wherever he has gone. 

Wilhelm grew up in Minneapolis, Minn. Before he came to Grinnell, he said he knew he wanted to go to a small liberal arts college and somewhere he could swim. He had two overnight visits, one for a tour and one for admitted students’ day. He said he was drawn to the people in Grinnell, and after meeting the swim team, he knew he would find his place on campus.  

Wilhelm originally thought he was going to be a biology major, but after he took ANT 104: Anthropological Inquiries, he was hooked. That spring, he took one of his most memorable classes to date, ANT 252: Culture and Agriculture. 

After his first year on campus in 2019-2020, Wilhelm took a gap year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he returned to Minneapolis. He and a few of his friends from high school lived together in an apartment downtown while he worked as a mechanic and service manager at a local bike shop. “A lot of it was spent just biking around, hanging out and cooking a lot. It was awesome, honestly,” he said.  

Wilhelm came back to campus rejuvenated in the fall of 2021. “I never had the COVID scurries. I feel like that’s the biggest thing some of my class has that I don’t have. I’ve heard very mixed reviews about online Grinnell, so I’m not very envious of that, honestly,” he said.  

During his second year, Wilhelm was “on the grind.” He was the community advisor of Langan Hall’s second floor. “There was so much energy coming back to campus. Everyone was so hyped to be back. It reminded me of what Grinnell’s all about,” he said.  

2022 was also Wilhelm’s big year in swimming. He was the Midwest Conference champion in the 100-yard breaststroke and broke the school record in the 200-medley relay. “After that season ended, though, I was deflated like a balloon,” said Wilhelm. In the off-season, he spent his time discovering new passions. “That spring, I picked up guitar lessons and had a lot of fun just jamming out in my friend’s dorm postseason.” 

“Swimming is my comfort zone, but it also can bring so much discomfort at the same time. There are a lot of times when you just want to quit. You always have so many obligations. At the end of the day, it’s what I love, it’s fun,” he said.  

Meilynn Smith

Starting in his second year, Wilhelm also got involved with the Block Party committee after one of his friends encouraged him to join. “It’s events like Block Party that remind us of our residential culture, and why we came here in the first place. I’m proud to be a part of these efforts as co-chair,” he said. 

Wilhelm has ventured beyond Grinnell in hands-on experiences. Wilhelm’s family has a sheep farm in eastern Iowa, and they are currently in the middle of “lambing” season in which female sheep give birth to lambs. The summer before his third year, Wilhelm interned through AmeriCorps at Matthew 25, a non-profit dedicated to serving the food, housing and educational needs of Cedar Rapids communities in a cohort with six other people around his age. He split his time between leading a project on exterior work on the urban farm and working at his family’s farm.  

During the fall semester of his third year, Wilhelm traveled to Cambodia with nine other students from colleges across the United States. “We did a project on urban gentrification and these evictions that happened in Siem Reap due to the tourism market. It’s important to be mindful of the limited impact our research had, but it was incredible to communicate with some of the local people,” he said.  

Upon his return in the spring, he joined the concert events crew, a step outside of his typical realm. “It’s always those little random things you end up getting involved with where you get to meet people that are outside of your operating circles most of the time. I love that kind of stuff,” he said.  

This year, Wilhelm and his fellow senior swimmer friends live at 1018 East St., also known as Fairgrounds, an important relic of the Grinnell swim team through the years. He said, “We’re very close. We play D&D, throw parties and we just hang out. We have a good vibe, no house drama.”  

Wilhelm’s D&D character is named Toffin –– “like coffin with a T” –– a deep gnome rogue. As he puts it, “He’s a stealthy little thief with cool daggers and a cool sword.” He said that he’s going to miss their weekly campaigns. “That’s one of my favorite parts about Grinnell, how we have to make our own fun,” Wilhelm said.  

For his senior thesis in anthropology, Wilhelm’s project focused on substance-use care providers in Iowa and the stigma surrounding healthcare. Wilhelm was determined to study a locally-relevant issue that he could make an impact on.  

Wilhelm plans on visiting his mom, who lives in Vietnam, this summer. Wherever Wilhelm goes, he said he wants to make a positive social change. “I’m just trying to live life, enjoy it and make things better for the world,” he said. “We’re all just ants on a rock. I don’t know what the future holds, but good things, I hope.”  

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