The world beckons for J.J. Grinde ’17 as he graduates Sunday

J.J. Grinde ’17 of Ripon, Wisconsin, will walk with graduates at Commencement Sunday and deliver the senior class address. After recently completing a tour of Southeast Asia, which included a stint teaching English at a school in Cambodia, he is looking for a future in the far reaches of the world. Starting at the end of August, he will serve as a secondary chemistry teacher in Mozambique through the Peace Corps.

At Ripon College, Grinde majored in chemistry-biology and philosophy. This spring, he received the Breunig Award for outstanding work in philosophy.

He spent all seven semesters at Ripon volunteering as a mentor at Crossroads Academy. He served as an emergency medical technician with the Guardian Ambulance Service, played on the men’s tennis team and served as the head coach for the boy’s high school team, was a member of the ethics bowl team, and was secretary and vice president of health and safety for Theta Chi fraternity.

He also worked as a research assistant in Assistant Professor of Chemistry Patrick Willoughby’s organic synthesis lab.

“Through that work, I came away with a newfound newfound appreciation for the intricacies of the research, while also learning how to better teach others,” Grinde says. “The mark of true understanding is the ability to teach others the same. Through the work done in Dr. Willoughby’s lab, I was able to gain the ability to approach chemistry much more conceptually and understand the various concepts at play, which will certainly be useful when I begin teaching.”

At Ripon, he says, “I was afforded wonderful opportunities to travel across the United States for competitions, matches, conferences, and just for fun. In essence, this initial introduction got me hooked on seeing new places.

“I have learned that I really enjoy seeing the world and the different type of people who inhabit it, so being able to live and teach in Africa will certainly be an experience I would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Given my long-term goal of becoming a physician, being able to experience different cultures, languages, customs, and social norms will also be a tremendous experience that will allow me to be more open and understanding of my patients, regardless of where they hail from.”

He greatly values the diverse group of friends he has made at Ripon, and at first was sad thinking that Commencement would be the last time he would see them all in one place.

“However, I then realized that Ripon’s job was not to bring in this incredible group of students and then proceed to hoard them,” he says. “Rather, its role was to bring these people together, allow them to grow into the people that they will become, provide guidance along the way, and then to get out of our way. Let us use those talents and gifts that we have developed at Ripon to make some sort of difference in this world, whether that difference is big or small. That, to me, is powerful. I will always be grateful.”


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