By Keli Vitaioli
When asked to name the three most important things in her life, Stacey Cannon of the CRSSJ fired off “God, family and health. That sounds about right.”
An Iowa native, Cannon grew up in Keokuk — the southernmost town in the state, and about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Grinnell on a good day. Shortly after moving north four years ago, Cannon began her work as the Assistant to the Chaplain in the CRSSJ. Her job keeps her on her toes, constantly moving to the next assignment.
“[I do] everything from making accommodations for student travel, to travel for the Chaplain, to church bulletins — pretty much A to Z. Our lives here are very one thing to the other, so no two days are alike.”
A resident of Victor, Iowa, Cannon connects to the warmth of Grinnell, through her job and beyond. “I feel like since I don’t have a lot of family here that Grinnell is family for me.”
For Cannon, the best part of Grinnell is the students. The College’s global reach allows Cannon to experience all parts of the world from her office on Park Street.
“I love the students and the diversity. I’ve been to more countries and not left Iowa just by students coming in and bringing me things, like from Turkey or India. It’s just wonderful,” Cannon said.
These relationships extend beyond travel trinkets, though. The warmth Cannon feels towards students, and them towards her, is clear in the way her office is constantly full of people flitting in an out, for a moment of conversation or a cup of cocoa. No matter what they came into the CRSSJ needing, they are sure to leave with a bit of Cannon’s heartfelt laugh echoing after them. Her favorite event the CRSSJ hosts is the end of year gathering at the CRSSJ where students, and even Cannon, can enjoy each other’s company without the day-to-day campus stress.
“I have the opportunity to be able to share and have others share with me their experiences, so I really like that. I haven’t wanted to move on or do anything different since I’ve been here. I had like three other jobs before I got to Grinnell College, but this is like, ‘Hmm I like this, I like it a lot,’ Cannon added with another burst of laughter.
Cannon’s work in the CRSSJ connects with her personal religious philosophy. She was raised Baptist, but currently just identifies as Christian. Stemming from her grandmother making sure she went to church and prayed before every meal, religion has always been important to Cannon. Her home congregation is in her hometown in Keokuk, but Cannon attends Black Church in Grinnell regularly.
When she’s not working with the CRSSJ, Cannon continues to give to the community with her assistance in the weekly community meal.
“I get to see several community members weekly, and it’s very rewarding to do that,” Cannon said. “I see Doris weekly, and I take her a meal when she’s unable to come to the community meal. She kind of keeps me up to date on how or who or what is going on around town — I don’t know how she knows, but she does.”
She has also recently started attending Postels Community Health Park in town, through which she has met and gotten to know other community members over dinner in between trips on the exercise bike. Though Cannon claims with a smile her favorite workout is “none.”
Cannon is just as busy at home with four dogs, two cats and “a lot of goldfish.” All her animals, except the goldfish, are rescues, the oldest of which being her dog she took in almost 12 years ago when he was just a puppy.
“They keep me company, so they rescued me actually,” Cannon said.
Though she definitely does not look it, Cannon is the proud mother of a 34-year-old daughter. Pictures of her child and grandchildren are strung lovingly in her office, providing a touch of home.
“I always wanted to be a mother, and I am.”
Through the windows of her office that face Park Street, Cannon has watched the campus transition. One of the biggest changes in her four years was the loss of the trees that once smattered the ARH quad area to the construction. When the trees disappeared, so did some of Cannon’s favorite squirrels. She and a former student named two frequent visitors, one of which they fed sunflower seeds and called Freddy.
“The squirrels here are chunky sized and bold,” Cannon said. “I think they’ve been displaced. I used to be able to feed them … and Freddy would come across [the street] and eat, but was street savvy and able to wait for the cars and go across the street to his home tree. … So, that is a story — where have all the squirrels gone since their trees are gone.”
Cannon particularly enjoys late spring, early summer in Grinnell. With the crabapple trees blossoming, and flowers being tended to pre-graduation, she enjoys this much more than the never-ending Iowa winters. This time of year also brings the bittersweet feeling of watching students she has watched transform at Grinnell finally walk the stage.
“Students they have the ability to do and be whatever they wanna be,” Cannon remarked. “ I see the growth. Some students here are just so timid, and after three or four years are so full of life and so bright.”