Alumni couple Oliver Graaskamp '27 and Alison (Caldwell) Graaskamp '27

The Graaskamp Family love story

by Susan Graaskamp Martin '60

This is not a “How We Met” love story.  Instead, it is how a ‘family was born at Carroll’ love story.

My mother, Alison Caldwell, born and raised in a very small town in Wisconsin, graduated from high school at the age of 17.  Her parents were delighted that she had  been awarded a scholarship to the Milwaukee Downer Seminary for Ladies.  However, during that last year of high school, she visited her dear friend, Ann Jamieson (1926), who was a student at Carroll College.

Mother, an opinionated, independent red head, returned from that visit announcing  that she would attend Carroll, eschewing the ladies’ seminary scholarship:  “There are tall men there,” the nearly six foot basketball aficionado  declared.  And so it was!

Mom enrolled at Carroll and soon was a Kappa Gamma Phi sorority pledge; her pledge mother was Jeannette Elizabeth Graaskamp (1925).  Jeannette had followed her older brothers Lester, Clifford and Arnold to Carroll. Jeannette quickly acclimated Mom to campus life, and one of her first orders of business was to introduce her pledge daughter to her older brothers.  Since each of the brothers had a given name and at least one nickname, it was easy to get them mixed up, and mother soon tired of being introduced to what seemed like Jeannette’s horde of brothers!   However, she gave in when her sorority sister’s youngest brother arrived on campus the next year.  Oliver had planned to follow his brothers to Carroll, but his father had selected an Ohio college for him.  Defiant, he went to work to finance his education at the school of his choice, so two years later he finally enrolled at Carroll.  Jeannette prevailed, the two became an item, and the rest is history.

However, some had misgivings about the pairing of the rather shy, small town ‘basketball whiz’ (as she was captioned in the Hinakaga), and the charming, out-going city boy with the melodic voice.  Alida Degeler, the Dean of Women cautioned:  “A-leey-sone,  Ohlie will amount to noothing!”   At Homecoming many years later, as that Dean of Women (by then retired) sat on Ohlie’s lap, she admitted that she had been very wrong!

The marriage produced two Carroll graduate daughters: Jean (1954) and Susan (1960).  Jean met Arnold Rein (1952) her husband of over 50 years on campus….I was not as fortunate.  (Carroll marriages seem to have longevity!)  However, I did fall in love there – with Carroll, its values, its campus and its vitality.

An interesting side-note to this love story is that the patriarch of the Graaskamp family, George W. Graaskamp, the very man who had tried to deny his youngest son the Carroll experience, himself enrolled at Carroll in 1939 at the age of 65!  A retired accountant, banker and corporation treasurer, he pursued a purely independent liberal arts menu of classes, especially enjoying his Bible and religion classes, and becoming a TKE, following in his sons’ footsteps.  Unfortunately, he was able to attend Carroll for only two years before ill-health curtailed his education.

(Susan's parents, Oliver and Alison, are pictured above.)

Panoramic View of campus