True Grinnellian: Ben Latimer

Ben Latimer was raised in Grinnell and chose to return after living in Illinois and Spain during college and his early career. Photo by Rae Kuhlman

Ben Latimer was raised in Grinnell and chose to return after living in Illinois and Spain during college and his early career. Photo by Rae Kuhlman

From creating signs that help students navigate campus to working as head coach of Grinnell’s youth baseball, soccer and football coach, Ben Latimer is a Grinnellian who truly contributes to the community.

Latimer works for ASI Signage Innovations, a company that creates signs for institutions from hospitals to banks, including all of the ones across the Grinnell College campus.

“We design and manufacture every sign,” he said. “We help you find your way around campus.”

ASI Signage Innovations is owned by Latimer’s parents and he has worked there since 2002.

“This is our 30-year anniversary, and they started that company when I was in fifth grade,” he said. “It’s a true family business.”

As head of the digital media department, Latimer creates content for digital signs, such as those in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center.

“I work with technology folks and marketing folks … and also help install them as well,” he said.

Outside of his professional life, Latimer can also be seen around town as the guitarist of the Whiplash, a band he started with his friends in sixth grade.

“[We] won the seventh grade talent show,” he said. “We practiced in the basement of my house. My family hated it,” he added with a laugh.

Whiplash currently plays every year at the summertime Friday Fest, which is held by the Chamber of Commerce.

“We played as a goof at the high school class reunion at 2008, and it turned out to be popular,” he said. “[We play] all your 1980s MTV anthems. We like to call them cheese metal.”

In addition to making music with his friends, Latimer was an active child, playing sports such as baseball, soccer and football.

“My dad used to be the women’s volleyball coach in the ’70s, so I grew up playing ball in the PEC,” he said. The PEC (Physical Education Complex) was the athletics facility before the Charles Benson Bear ’39 Recreation and Athletics Center was built.

Latimer continues to spread his love for sports by coaching youth league baseball, soccer and football, all which his 11-year-old son, Brooks, participates in.

“I was always involved in playing catch with him and his friends. And that kind of evolved [to] me taking over the local Grinnell little league baseball and softball programs,” he said. “It’s just a good way to give back to the community.”

After graduating from Grinnell High School in 1993, Latimer attended Knox College, another small, liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois.

“I wanted to go to a similar college to Grinnell College because I grew up across the street [from it],” he said. “But I didn’t want to go to college across the street. I wanted to experience college not 200 feet away from my parents.”

Latimer attended Knox on a music scholarship.

“I play jazz drums, [and] I was in the jazz program at Knox,” he said.

In addition to his extracurricular activities, Latimer also played on the varsity football and baseball teams.

Latimer moved to Chicago after graduating from Knox, and worked for the Maytag Corporation from 1998 to 2002. He was part of their international division, and lived in Spain for a year as a sales manager.

“I was a Spanish major and studied abroad in Spain for six months,” he said. “When they opened an office in Spain I said, ‘Pick me!’”

According to Latimer, having the College as an integral part of the town is one of the reasons he ultimately decided to settle down here.

“There’s so many things in the community that the College does together,” he said. “My son’s been involved in the sports camps and Spanish clubs.”

By being involved with the community in many facets of life, Latimer shows his commitment to Grinnell.

“I was born and raised here, went out and experienced the world, and wanted to come back because it’s such a great place,” he said.