Scarlet & Brown Stories

E-Ben Grisby '99

September 12, 2022 St. Lawrence University Season 2 Episode 2
E-Ben Grisby '99
Scarlet & Brown Stories
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Scarlet & Brown Stories
E-Ben Grisby '99
Sep 12, 2022 Season 2 Episode 2
St. Lawrence University

This month our team sat down with E-Ben Grisby ’99 for a conversation about his experience teaching special education, volunteerism in his local community, and his time on campus. E-Ben demonstrated how Laurentians create change, wherever life takes them and inspired us to do the same. 

Show Notes Transcript

This month our team sat down with E-Ben Grisby ’99 for a conversation about his experience teaching special education, volunteerism in his local community, and his time on campus. E-Ben demonstrated how Laurentians create change, wherever life takes them and inspired us to do the same. 

[Theme Music Plays]

Beth:  Welcome on back, Laurentians, to the Scarlet & Brown Podcast where we talk with various different Laurentians, both on and off campus, about their Scarlet & Brown Stories. Today, I am joined by Amelia Jantzi, as my co-host, and while we do have a wonderful Laurentian that we're going be speaking with very, very shortly, I am just so excited and also a little sad, to say goodbye to Amelia Jantzi. This is her last time podcasting with us, so it will be the last time her voice will grace your ears in this format. But, I do want to welcome her on in. Amelia, how are you doing today?

Amelia:  Hey, Beth. Oh, I'm good. Thank you so much for that welcome. It's been so special to work on this project with you and with our other co-hosts, and editors, Denny, and Megan, and Amanda, it's just been so special to be able to hear these Scarlet & Brown stories, and through the lives of all these different Laurentians, really come to see what's so special about St. Lawrence. I feel like our guest today, E-Ben Grisby, class of '99, is such a great example of that, of someone who took his learned experience to create not just a career, but really, a sense of impact in whichever community he is, wherever he is, and really is committed to being a force of good in this world. It was just such a wonderful conversation that we had, so I can't wait for all of you to hear this very special Scarlet & Brown Story.

Beth:  Let's kick it off to our interview with E-Ben Grisby. 

[Music Plays]

Beth:  We are here today with E-Ben Grisby, class of 1999, and we are so excited to talk to such an engaged alum and somebody who has done so much for his local community, as well. E-Ben, how are you doing today? Welcome on to the podcast.

E-Ben:  Thank you Beth and Amelia. I'm doing a lot better. I just had wisdom teeth surgery.

Beth:  Oh, my goodness.

E-Ben:  Let me just let you know, never get your wisdom tooth taken care of after the age of 18.

Beth:  Oh, my goodness.

E-Ben:  Take care of it while you're young.

Amelia:  Yeah, not fun memories, at all.

E-Ben:  No, no, no, no. I waited 30 years too late.

Beth:  Oh, my god. That definitely makes for an interesting week, I have to say. I've had mine done a couple years after I graduated, and that is an experience to go through. So, thank you for coming onto a podcast where you have to talk a lot, especially after having your wisdom teeth removed.

E-Ben:  Story of my life, man. August is usually the month of, what can you get done before school starts?

Amelia:  Classic.

Beth:  It's such an important thing to remember too, because even one of the things that we wanted to discuss with you today, is your career in education. So, can you tell us a little bit about what you do within your school district, and what made you want to pursue, especially, special education?

E-Ben:  Certainly. In my career, I'm going into my 22nd year, as an educator.

Beth:  Oh, my goodness.

Amelia:  Wow.

E-Ben:  Yeah, but I'm only 29, but we'll leave it.

Beth:  [Laughter] Very prolific.

Amelia:  [Laughter] A prodigy!

E-Ben:  Right? Good jeans and cocoa butter. I've been a special education teacher for about 21 out of the 22 years, and I would say what got me into it was, I have a brother who's on the autism spectrum, and I wanted to be able to give back to the community that I came from, which is New York City. But, I also felt like with these skills, you're trying to empower students who've, regardless of their disability, you get to realize that they still have to live a life of purpose. Still have to live a life as good citizens, and realize that, yes, you may have paperwork that may state that your disability is this, that doesn't mean that we should have any kind of preclusion from you, to embark on a life worth having.

Beth:  Absolutely.

E-Ben:  And, as a special education teacher, I always tell people that it's not about a disability or an inability, it's, what can we teach students beyond those limitations? It's trying to give kids opportunities that maybe they didn't think they even had, and to make them feel empowered when they're in the classroom. Although, realizing that yes, I'm the teacher, I'm their guide, I'm whomever that they need, at that point. I've had some kids call me their school parent and I'm like freaking out. But, I think that's respect, because for many of my students, they're just regular everyday kids who, they want people to believe in them a little bit more.

Over the years, I've been invited to weddings, I've been invited to family events with former students, and you don't know, it touches your heart sometimes when you realize that some of these kids may have had chances that could have landed them in jail, that could have put them six feet under, and I've had those too, but I'm not going to talk about those too much. But, to let people know that, you become a part of that student's life in so many ways, beyond the classroom, within that 45 minutes to 50 minute schedule.

Beth:  I think that's one of the most powerful things about being an educator. I come from a family where both my parents were educators and my dad was my high school principal, so there's been plenty of weddings and things that he was able to see... That was his own experience. We won't go into that too much. But it's been really powerful to hear him for my entire life, talk about the impact, not only that he's been able to see that he's had on the students, but the same impact that those students have made on him. What has been the impact that your students have made on you?

E-Ben:  Wow. Great question. This tells me you definitely do come from family of Educators.

Beth:  I have to turn everything into a Socratic method, essentially.

E-Ben:  Of course, of course.

Beth:  It's just asking you a question.

E-Ben:  This is what you learn in first year program, y'all. What I love is, I think what I gain from my students is a sense of daring. I think it's that sense of thinking outside the box, because many of my students did not grow up in the world I grew up in. Many of them grew up in... I teach in Green Bay, Wisconsin, which everyone knows is home of the Packers, which the Packer fans don't have to worry about that. Go Steelers.

Amelia:  Nice.

E-Ben:  But, as a teacher in a smaller city, I have students who frequently go out into the North Woods, or they frequently will get in touch with nature, or small town stuff, and it lets me realize that there is life beyond a small town environment or a smaller city environment and that I learn from them, sometimes the simple things, can sometimes be more impactful than the big, the grandiose theatrical stuff. I also have learned too, common sense don't always have to wear a three piece suit and carry a briefcase.

Amelia:  So true.

Beth:  Accurate.

E-Ben:  The fact that I can talk to students and colleagues, and be pretty honest and pretty level with them for the most part, and realize, that I'm a big believer in critical thinking. But, sometimes I like when students can sometimes turn on the adults and make them think outside of their comfort zone, I guess.

Beth:  Sure. That's one of the best things about working with any kind of marginalized group, especially if you're somebody, in this case, you have an ability that maybe somebody else doesn't. Being able to reflect upon, not only the privilege of that ability, but also it forces you to think about where other people are coming from, and I know that from your background, diversity, equity, and inclusion is so important to you. Can you speak a little bit about what got you interested in diversity, equity, inclusion clubs at St. Lawrence, and the kind of initiatives that you're involved in, in your community?

E-Ben:  Oh, god, you've done your homework.

Amelia:  Lifelong learner right there.

E-Ben:  No doubt, no doubt. The St. Lawrence difference. I love it. I think what made me very interested in these areas was, having gone to schools in New York City, which was very much having the world at your fingertips, albeit the segregated world, mind you, and going to St. Lawrence, it was like the polar opposite of what I experienced. To go from a big city where it was 50 shades of brown, and everything around, to a predominantly very white, very rural, very privileged environment, it threw me for a loop. I think when you go to a place like St. Lawrence, you have to know who you are before you step foot there. There's no way in that. Classmates who were generations deep in St. Lawrence, right alongside of us who were, we were the first in our families to go to college. We were first gen college students, which I wish y'all had t-shirts for that when I was in school, but that's okay.

I think with getting involved with a lot of the different DEI organizations, and I really struggled with some of those terms, because to me, it was more like you had to have a niche within campus life at St. Lawrence, and I think for me, diversity piece is super important because it's about survival. In my case, coming from the Bronx, everything was hinging on day to day survival. Then, go to St. Lawrence and you have to worry about somebody complaining about their food card to go today didn't work. I'm just like, okay, big privilege issues there. But also, I think I probably was for some of my classmates, one of the first black people that they came across, and I would sometimes mention the classmate that I never went to school with white people, or I had very few interactions with white people my age, and I would have people's jaws literally dropped.

They would completely be dumbfounded by that, and I said, "No, we do live a very segregated world, and I hate that." That's unfortunately, our reality, and part of the reason I figure being part of the DEI work since St. Lawrence, while as a student, but also throughout my career, is because I don't like the idea of people feeling isolated. I don't like the feeling of exclusion. I think people need to realize that wherever you go in this world, you're going to bring who you are to the table. In spite of the histories, in spite of our cultures, in spite of all the things that are thrown as a barrier or whatever, or impediment, we still have the ability to move with ourselves at that place, to move to Wisconsin. In order for me to live in Wisconsin, I have to understand life in the north country. Okay? Because no one can tell you more about the cold, than someone who's lived in the Arctic Circle, better known as Canton, NY .

Amelia:  And among cows and dairy.

E-Ben:  Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. The thing to consider is, I love the fact that working in DEI work, it's not about anything that's tokenism, it's not about noblesse oblige. It's about, this is where I'm a stakeholder in my community. I want to make, wherever I work, wherever I live, whomever I'm with, better. I want to be able to say that where I am, has been a better place because I hopefully, played a role in that, and I'm not one of those people that have to be loud and proud about it. You won't see me run around on billboards with that, but I think it's important to make your mark wherever you go, and I think at St. Lawrence doing those DEI, being a part of those organizations, let people know that, yes, I'm just as much part of this campus, as someone who has been here, who's people been here for generations, who really were part and parcel of the St. Lawrence experience.

I think the St. Lawrence experience for me, may have been a little different, than someone who had grown up knowing this. I didn't know jack about St. Lawrence, and I can talk more about that later, but I didn't know what the culture was like, till I actually was immersed in it. I learned that part of the DEI work is, I had to learn that you can't just be a student all day, you have to be a bit more of a well-rounded individual all day. And sometimes, it's a bit more concentrated, a little bit more focused, because when you're a student of color, you almost are dealing with breaking a lot of mold, a lot of stereotypes, a lot of odds, that many of my peers never had to encounter.

Beth:  It's like you almost have to be the representation for an entire race or an entire culture.

E-Ben:  An ambassador.

Beth:  Yeah. You're like, "Hello. I'm E-Ben, the black ambassador from the Bronx. Here you are." Yeah. We had an interview last year, with somebody who I took some classes with Dzifa Yador '11, and she and I talked a lot about how you would talk about race and class, and everybody's head would turn and look at her as if like to get approval.

Amelia:  You are the authority on these things.

E-Ben:  I was in class at St. Lawrence and I cussed a student out for it. We're still friends, but I kind of was like, I don't give off the attitude of I can speak for any one whole population. I can give you my take and my take only, and it's almost like the views that E-Ben Grisby has, is not going to have a bearing on the whole crux of black life, or Native American life, or fill in a blank life. Just like I would never assume Beth, "Hey, you could tell me all there is about white women and what white women go through." You could tell me what it is from your world, that's going to be different from someone who grew up in Mississippi, or someone who grew up on a reservation, or someone who grew up even in the Bronx, like I did. That's going to be vastly different.

Amelia:  It's sort of interesting to hear you talk about that, because I feel like from how you've been sharing that mindset has also influenced your work and special education too, of each person is an individual. Each person brings their own uniqueness to the table and their own purpose, and you seem to have this drive for people to be empowered in that purpose, that they all have. And so, that's really exciting to hear about and to hear that that's your motivator, regardless of whether it's for St. Lawrence or for your community, in Wisconsin.

E-Ben: Oh, absolutely. Thank you. I think what people don't realize is, whatever you bring, whatever your background is, it's going to go with you wherever you go. It's like when I tell my students, whenever I do an IEP meeting, which is basically to see how to best help them with their disability. I tell them the IEP is a compass, not a crutch. It is a walking stick. It is not a crutch. And, parents, when I mention that admin like that, and I said, "The reason is your compass or your North Star, it's giving you the ability to see, there's life beyond these four walls." It's like, for me, there's more to life than St. Lawrence, but thank God for St. Lawrence, because without my experience at university, I wouldn't be able to impart some of those things to the next level. I could, but it would be taken with a different lens, I guess.

And also, I think to come in to a place like St. Lawrence, you have to learn that you have to have those compasses. So, people who play a big role, as being my North Star, in a way, of realizing, hey, if I want better for myself, outside of your family, saying, hey, I can believe in you and I can believe in myself, but there are other people in there who value and appreciated my presence and my knowledge, and those things. That was huge. It's like that with my students, it's like that in my community. It's just one of those things that, I may not make a big loud case for, but I do think that had I not had a place like St. Lawrence, there's no telling what could have happened.

Beth:  I think that's really powerful to hear, and I think that's one of the biggest things that we try to impart upon students, about a liberal arts education in general, but specifically the St. Lawrence Liberal Arts experience, is that the whole point is that you try to learn about a diverse viewpoint. It doesn't matter if you're studying geology or sociology, or whatever the case might be, we're trying to get you to understand different perspectives, how they can relate and how they don't, and how does that fold into our understanding of the greater world around us?

Ultimately, something that I have, through the diversity, equity, and inclusion work that I do, both at St. Lawrence and outside of it, it's all about belonging, at the end of the day. Right?

E-Ben:  Absolutely.

Beth:  I really think that the work that you're describing that you do, not only as a profession, but what you're speaking to, is ultimately with the goal of belonging. You want people to belong regardless of their differences or their viewpoints, and I know that you said you wouldn't put this on a billboard about the work that you do and such, but you were honored with an award, what was it? This past year, you were celebrated as a man of excellence, for all of your fantastic work that you've done within your school district and within the community, as well. So, am I correct in saying that you are the Co-Chair for Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities, as well?

E-Ben:  That's correct. That is so correct. I have been for a number of years, and having worked with Celebrate Diversity over the last number of years, it was the merging of two organizations, that became the current iteration of Celebrate Diversity. When I moved out here in 2004, I didn't know what was available, in terms of diversity. I didn't know what was out here, in terms of it being pretty welcoming. I would tell you, I could go for weeks without seeing another brown person. I could walk down the street, I'm like, "There are no black people here. This is going to be very interesting." And, in my line of work, I was usually one of a handful of professionals of color, be it a teacher, even before I was a teacher and I worked in public relations, I was usually one of the few blacks that were not in the mail room or working in the custodial staff, or what have you.

I think it's super important for people to realize that you're coming into this work, because you want to feel like this is your place. Your place as someone who's been here forever. With Celebrate Diversity, the fact that we get to talk about issues, that many times often overlooked in society... Now, I've become quite, I hate to use the term trendy, a lot of people want to say, "Well, I want to talk about DEI work," and it's like, I've lived this. I can't just slough it off dead skin on my body. Or, oh, it's like having a tan, and then once two weeks expires, oh, I'm back to normal. No, no, no, no, no. This is actual work. It's some people, in my case a life mission, to ensure that people realize that we bring ourselves to the table, and what we bring to the table, are going to be different from other people. But, at the same time, what are some of those commonalities that we have, at the end of the day?

Celebrate Diversity, what I like is when we do our community conversations, and we talk about issues being on politics, being on poverty, being on race, being on gender, it's important to talk about those issues, because we don't have civil discourse, as much as we used to. I feel like we're more informed, we have more information at our fingertips, and yet people go away more polarized, than they were even 25 years ago, when I was a student. That's scary. I grew up with three channels, cable was there if you had money, cable wasn't there if you didn't have money, but I felt like we still had things to tie ourselves to, to connect ourselves with, and now, it's almost like we've gone into factionalism.

The fact that Celebrate Diversity is trying to find ways to bridge things together, to build that sense of community, to feel like, no, we know this area, Northeast Wisconsin, where I live, it's a lot better than many places. Still has a lot of work to do. I think to live in areas where you've never had to encounter those conversations and have those real discussions, it's eye-opening on either side. I think for people of color, as well as for white people, to realize that if you're going to talk about diversity and inclusion, you got to be willing to open up.

You have to be willing to have a certain degree of trust, you have to have a certain degree of civility, you have to have a certain degree of willingness to listen and to hear what is being said to you, or with you, and to do it in a way where you're not cutting someone down. Because I think it's easy for a lot of people to just say, "Eh, what you're going through, that's not my reality, therefore I don't care." I've had that happen so many times, I don't even want to go there with people. But, I had that happen at an early age, which can affect your self-esteem, but also can make you a lot more... I think for me, a lot more of a fighter and push the message that, I want people to feel like they've got some skin in this game.

Beth:  I think that that's one of the most important aspects of any of this kind of work, is to realize that even if something doesn't maybe directly affect you, you still play a role in whether it is upholding a system or helping to break down barriers. And so, you can make it a part of your reality, if that's something that you're inspired to do. You may not be the same exact lived experience or reality, but you can be a part of that, and I think that hearing about Celebrate Diversity, it sounds like that's really great work to get people inspired to do that.

E-Ben:  Yeah, it's been one of those things that I really enjoy being a part of and being able to have the privilege of co-chairing with a retired teacher, who we worked years ago together, in another district. It's great because we bounce ideas off of each other. She's an older white woman, and I'm me, and we were fighting, in terms of equity in those things at my previous school district, because the bottom line is, the population was diversifying. But, our teaching pool doesn't reflect that, and it's not about doing this stuff for the short term, or doing it because you watched something on the news that made you upset. It's just because this is stuff that's happening and it's affecting people personally. It's affecting their neighbors, it's affecting family members, and I think in today's world, having access to internet, having access to cell phones, you can't avoid these realities anymore.

You can't just say, "Oh, that's just hearsay. Oh no, that can't really happen. Oh, no. Oh, I know people who don't do that," and it's like, we know you don't. However, these are some of the things that we've been discussing for a very long time. It kind of goes back to why for St. Lawrence, for me, it was great to have that educational experience, but it made it possible for me to say, let's think critically about why these things have happened. Why have these things systematically been in place? Does that mean that everyone is racist? No. But, does that mean that there isn't racism, in the mix?

Amelia:  Sure.

E-Ben:  I kind of leave that answer open to people's interpretation. I think that's something that having that liberal arts college education plays a huge role in the discussions of adding depth and adding that certain flavor, that you might not get elsewhere.

Amelia:  I feel like too, with the liberal arts education, you get comfortable with hard questions, and you get comfortable with no easy answers, and that discomfort is really important to being able to recognize that your lived experience is different from someone else's lived experience.

E-Ben:  Right, and that you can't get at a... I mean, if I went to any of the large public schools, and I'm not going to knock any of the large public universities, but you're just a name in a crowd. I always suggest to people, this is just mine, my suggestion, if you want to do DEI work, it's great to do it at a big university, but the impact isn't the same. At a small university, a liberal arts college, a mid-size liberal arts school, you have a lot more ability to have legacy. You have a lot more of a way for people to remember, "Hey, I remember this alum, he did this, she did that, they did this, and it really impacted me on that level," because now you get to have a classmate or a handful, you may have be in a room of 12 or 15 people, and you can have that discussion, and you can break it down after that class is done.

You can talk about that, when you're an alum, and that may play a role in why you give back. I've always been a believer in, whether it's Celebrate Diversity, whether it's as an educator, whether it's as student slash alum, giving back has always been a big part of my life. I'm a big believer in stewardship. You want to make the environment a better place, you got to do your part. If you want to make a community better, you got to do your part. Can't just say, "Oh, I'll wait for somebody else to do it and pick up the slack." No one in history will ever just say, "Hey, I'm going to let that other person do it."

Beth:  No one who's memorable, at least, said, "Oh, I'll just let somebody else do it."

E-Ben:  Yeah, right. Exactly. Like Dr. King, I don't think he would be like, "You know, Rustin, you do this for me. I know you got me."

Beth:  My friend had a dream. I don't think... That wasn't his speech.

Amelia:  That wouldn't be nearly as catchy.

E-Ben:  He had a dream and no, that's not going to work. It wasn't like, hey, JFK just said to relatives, hey Ted, you want to tell him about my story for moving space race? No, it wasn't going to happen that way. We had to put our own stake on it, and it may not necessarily come out perfect, but I tell people in my life, DEI work is never perfect. Education is not perfect. There are going to be a lot of questions that sometimes still going unanswered. There are going to be times where you're going to leave people a little baffled, because you're asking those questions with intensity and that depth. But, you also want to make people realize, that if you don't ask those deep questions, and basically, you just see everything as easy, and that's not right either.

Beth:  Something that you said that I really appreciate is, understanding and inspiring people to see that they have a place at the table. You have a chair at the St. Lawrence table, if you've gone to St. Lawrence, and sometimes I know that if you don't see people who are actively engaged, who have had a similar experience to you, whether that be because of your identity, or because of the kinds of clubs and activities you were involved in, or your major, it could be harder to say, "Oh yeah, I've got a seat at that table." But, you're somebody who is still very involved with St. Lawrence, and has been a link mentor, and has done work with admissions, and all these different people. Can you talk a little bit about, was a part of your inspiration to give back, just because you have that sense of, oh, I need to give back? Or, was there something deeper? Was it about, I want to make sure that other people who may be from the Bronx, can see that they have a seat at the table, even after St. Lawrence?

E-Ben:  I think a little bit of both, that you just mentioned, Beth. But, you got to remember for me, I didn't have a ton of role models, in general, and I mean I did, but not a whole lot. I would say that St. Lawrence made it a place where going in, it's like my family. But, when you go to college and you have professors, and advisors, and coaches, who sit there and they're like, "Let me level with you. You're a smart person who's not using your full potential, and let's see how we can make that shine. Or, we can put that out there." I think that's super important, because I think many of us think that when we graduate from college, all is well, we don't have to talk much more.

But, I think especially, as educators of color or alums of color, I think it's sometimes more magnified because you may be one of the few people that you come across with a college education. You may be one of the few people around, who've had similar backgrounds, or what have you, and wherever you go, you're going to put that part of yourself out there. I think it's super important to say the deeper meaning for me is, I like to be able to pay it forward and pass that baton. I always would say I'm more of that reluctant leader sometimes, where it's like, I can lead, but man, if I don't have to...

Beth:  I feel you.

E-Ben:  Well, I also have learned that if not now, then when, and if not me, then who? I think the truth of it is we have to look at, as an alumnus, it's important to realize, I want current students and alumni to realize, we do have a way to help others out. It doesn't have to always be financial, it sometimes it's as much of purpose and a sense of duty, and I think it's a sense of responsibility. Ensure that the next generation doesn't keep repeating what previous generations have done, about making the next generation more astute, in terms of working with themselves, looking at what they want to do while as student, what they want to do maybe in the future as a career, because there's some things that your professors can't solve for. Your parents can't solve for you. Your drinking buddies can't solve.

They certainly can't solve it for you. But, if you're part of any crew, any sports team, sorority, fraternity, you got to remember, they're going to be some of those people who will pull you to the side and kind of school you on things, but they're going to be people who are going to just say, "Hey, you just here to have a good time four years, and that's that." And it's like, no. Yes, have some fun, but get some serious critical thinking that's going on in the process. I always tell people, more learning comes from outside the classroom, than within. The last one kind of gives you the model, but you have taken the approach and the application of said learning.

Amelia:  In that vein of taking responsibility and participating, and also paving the way for the next generation, I'm curious, what are your hopes for the St. Lawrence community, 20 years down the road?

E-Ben:  Umm, except I would hope that there would be more direct flights to St. Lawrence.

Amelia:  Isn't that the truth?

E-Ben:  Okay.

Beth:  From your lips to the air traffic controls ears.

E-Ben:  I tell you, the fact that there's actually Southwest going to Syracuse, I was like, "Yes!" But, I think in terms of giving back to the next generations, letting them know that we understand, is a sense of, I understand what you've been through. I may not have come from the same exact background, but there's a certain empathy, there's a certain realization, that this can be a very tough place for you if you isolate. If you're willing to give this place a chance, you're willing to give St. Lawrence a chance, just like any place you've been, you will have the most broadest horizons if you give it just a glimmer of chance. There's so many possibilities at a place like St. Lawrence, where now for me, thank God I was on student government. I have to say, because often people would assume you had to learn about government just in a government class.

Even though I didn't major in government, I majored in history, which is his cousin and majored in history and sociology, I like to see how the mechanisms of government work. I like to see how our role in the society plays a role with the governmental structures. I think it's important to understand that that helped me understand how to work with local officials in my area. It lets me realize that if we say, we, the people, that means all of us have a claim here, that if we really want things to get better for the next generation, we have to start thinking wisely. But, also connecting, having students and younger alums connect with some of us who are the OGs in the room, some of us who graduated 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years and beyond, because the stories that they have currently, might be the same thing that we dealt with 25 years ago, that someone who dealt with 50 years ago.

But, maybe the approach is a little different. Maybe how we connect could be a little different. Maybe how we are able to break those barriers are better. The fact that I can see students coming in from, I'm like, I'm frustrated as St. Lawrence for not having more native students on campus, because St. Lawrence was a huge bastion of Native American... Not huge, sizable, Native American population. The fact that once we had those alums like Norman Tarbell Sunday, who I love, when she left the HEOP program, it was like, oh, neighboring schools took it upon themselves to work on it. To me, I would say that's a major hurdle I think St. Lawrence has to work on is, if you're going to deal with DEI, you can't just do it as long as you have people who look like those people, who make this just as much an important case, whether you have said representation or not.

We want you here, and even if we don't have staff on campus, maybe there are alums who can work alongside, as a consultancy basis. That's why I think it's important to do link mentoring, to let folks know, hey, why are we doing what we're doing? This is why I do this stuff with Celebrate Diversity, to let people know, that you're not the only person in the community who feels this way, but also their safety and numbers and knowing that empowerment comes sometimes, with having other people being willing to listen and understand what those challenges are coming from, and understand that if you want to make your claim in history, it's not always by being a big name, it's not about being a celebrity. A lot of times, it's not about giving away lots of money.

It's a lot of times just giving time, because I would love to see a Grisby center for this, that, and the other. Maybe that might happen, I don't know. But if I'm willing to say, "Hey Beth, are there young alums in here, in the community, who need some support?" Or, "Hey Amelia, are there people in the neighborhood, whether in Wisconsin or whether in New York, or Illinois, wherever," and you want them to have lunch with you, just to touch base on some things, or connect with students who are otherwise, not feeling so connected on campus. Who I think we forget about, because we have all the kids who are your top 10 or your top 10% who are the movers and shakers. A lot of times you forget about those students who have just been sliding through.

There's a lot of leaders within those, that realm, many of them probably didn't feel that they had a place or felt like they belonged, because maybe it wasn't of interest or importance for them at university, but maybe afterwards, they were like, "Maybe I need to connect with that person, and maybe we weren't the best of friends at university, but maybe now as adults, we're now older, our hands get a little grayer, time is fleeting, so we might also connect with each other now," and it's kind of making amends for realizing that, "Hey, maybe I didn't understand some of these things once upon a time." There's no time like the present. Let's see how we can build upon that.

Beth:  I think that's such a wonderful place to end our conversation. I want to thank you so much, for the time that you've given us today. I think that... I don't know about you, Amelia, I feel inspired and now I'm sitting back, and be like, "Okay, what are the ways that I can give my time?" Because I do think that time is the most valuable currency that we have. So, I want to thank you even for donating your time to chat with us.

Amelia:  Yes, thank you.

Beth:  But, also thank you for all the work that you do, not only within your community and in your school district, but with St. Lawrence, and beyond. There's probably hundreds of students and community members, alums, current students at St. Lawrence who are better off because of the way you have treated them or informed them of various different topics, that are important for all of us to hear.

E-Ben:  Glad to hear that. I hope I didn't scare some of them off.

Beth:  I don't think so. I have a hard time believing that.

E-Ben:  I hope it wasn't because they were afraid. But, I thank you and I appreciate you for you all, and Megan reaching out with me after meeting with me during reunion. It took me a long time to come back to St. Lawrence, and I realized I was a little wistful at points because it was like, "Wow, things have changed." Things are still similar, but it's after the school year is done, so you don't see all of the students, but it would be great to make sure that these aren't one and dones. That when we do have these conversations, we could always rebuild, or follow-up, or reconnect too, just to let people know, "Hey, I'm still wanting to let you know that I still love this place and I'm active, and I wanted to do whatever I can to help.

Beth:  Absolutely.

Amelia:  Definitely.

Beth:  Well, thank you so much, E-Ben. We so appreciate you.

Amelia:  Thank you.

E-Ben:  I appreciate y'all too.

[Music Plays]

Amelia:  And, there we have it. Beth, I think that'll be the last time I get to say a, "There we have it."

Beth:  Oh, that's so sad to think about, Amelia.

Amelia:  Anyway, E-Ben was just a delight to chat with and you could really feel his warmth just exude through the computer screen and his voice, and just the way that he looks at the world and sees value in everyone that he encounters, and wants to just celebrate the impact of community, and make sure that everyone feels the value that they have. What about you, Beth?

Beth:  Yeah, I think, again, we hear a lot about community and impact consistently, when we're on campus and after we graduate, and I really like that he's example of somebody who truly thought about, what's the impact I want to make on my community, whether it's based off of identities, or based off of past experiences, or loved ones. I really appreciated hearing all of his perspectives, and the various ways that he gives back and gives through, the organizations he's a part of. But, I'm excited because I really think this tees us up well for a conversation we are going to have in October, with an incredibly special guest.

Amelia:  Yes. I can't wait for all of you to hear that, so be sure to tune in next month, for a very special interview with Scarlet and Brown Stories.

Beth:  Absolutely. Well, Amelia, for all of us on the podcast, we want to thank you for everything that you've done to get this podcast off the ground, and for being such a wonderful co-host. Until next time, thank you so much, Laurentians, for listening.

[Music plays]

Beth:  Scarlet and Brown Stories is edited and produced by Amanda Brewer, Megan Fry Dozier, Dennis Morreale, Beth Dixon and Amelia Jantzi.

Amelia:  Our music was written by Christopher Watts, inspired by Eugene Wright, class of '49.

Beth:  Subscribe to Scarlet and Brown Stories on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

Amelia:  If you have a story you'd like to submit to us, you can email us at

[Music Ends]