“We want to ensure that future generations will have access to the same transformative opportunities we enjoyed”
As a sophomore at Occidental, Bill Griswold ’50 was active in the College’s Student Church and aspired to a leadership role in the organization. He heard about a new student named Jean Stiver ’51 “who was going to do great things” for the group, “and I was not at all sure that we needed that change,” he recalls with a laugh.
Hubert Noble ’28, College chaplain and assistant professor of religion, assured Bill that Jean would be a great addition to the group—and sure enough, Jean became co-chair of Student Church while Bill led its choir. This was the start of a relationship that has endured for over 72 years of marriage.
In a recent conversation at their home of more than 48 years in Fort Collins, Colo., Bill and Jean shared fond memories of their undergraduate days. Bill, a philosophy major from Bellingham, Wash., recalled how the Student Church held a “very successful” hot dog sale during a victorious Oxy football game. Jean, an education major, began her time at Oxy commuting to Eagle Rock with her brother, Jim Stiver ’50, from their home in Pasadena. In later years, she lived in Erdman Hall: “Once I moved on campus, student life was so much more fun!”
Occidental played an indelible role in shaping the course of their lives, Bill notes, providing them with an exceptional education, valuable teaching credentials, and the principles that would guide them throughout their careers as educators. After four years teaching in Turkey, Bill attended graduate school at UCLA, completing his dissertation in Middle Eastern studies. He joined the faculty of Colorado State University (CSU) as a professor of history in 1965, teaching for 30 years. Jean completed her master’s in teaching English as a foreign language at CSU and helped launch the Fort Collins International Center in 1969. She later served as director of International Student Services at CSU until her retirement in 1995. The couple’s Sunday waffle breakfasts—which they hosted at their home for more than 45 years for international visitors, staff, and students—are legendary in the CSU community.
Jean and Bill raised three children, two of whom followed in their footsteps to Oxy. Daughter Ruth Griswold Coleman ’82 H’12 is currently executive director of the California Parks Hospitality Association, and son David Griswold ’84 recently sold Sustainable Harvest, a fair trade coffee importing company he founded and ran for 25 years. More recently, a third generation of Griswolds has passed through campus: Granddaughter Jean Coleman ’14, a diplomacy and world affairs (DWA) and Spanish studies double major, is an economic development specialist for Sacramento County, and grandson Gavin Griswold ’23 graduated last May as a DWA major.
Jean and Bill’s deep gratitude for Oxy was an important reason for their decision to include the College in their will. (When he arrived at Occidental, Bill got a job at the President’s House, where he says President Arthur G. Coons 1920 and wife Edna treated him like a son, and he and Arthur Jr. ’52 became close friends.) Bill’s own experience, aided by the G.I. Bill and part-time jobs on campus, highlighted in their minds the importance of scholarships for deserving students.
“We want to ensure that future generations will have access to the same transformative opportunities we enjoyed,” Bill says. “It is our way to help Occidental continue its role in shaping the lives of future students, the same way it did for us.”