Zac Ellington: keepin’ Cleveland bumpin’

Zac Ellington '09 poses for a quick picture outside his room in Cleveland Hall. - Marfa Prokhorova

Zac Ellington '09 poses for a quick picture outside his room in Cleveland Hall. - Marfa Prokhorova

You’ve seen him around campus. You’ve danced to his beats in Cleveland lounge some Friday night. And perhaps you’ve even cured afternoon munchies with a sandwich from him at Lonnski’s.

Zac Ellington ’10, a POSSE scholar from L.A., was thrust into Grinnell culture when he prospied during Mary B. James weekend. The opportunity to participate in transvestite debauchery offered what Ellington called a “very quick course in everything that is great about Grinnell.”

That weekend marks the beginning of Ellington’s love affair with Grinnell, recently consummated with his return from studying abroad in Aix en Provence, France.

While abroad, Ellington’s apparent similarity to Bob Marley was a source of constant entertainment. “I would meet people, and be like, ‘I’m Zac,’ and they would smile and say ‘I’m going to call you Bob,’” Ellington recalled.

Once, when walking on a boardwalk with some friends in Nice, a police car drove by with the windows rolled down, singing “No Woman No Cry,” and smiling as they passed Ellington.

But miles and ocean were not enough to separate Ellington from the school that he loves. After visiting Grinnellians in Rome, Ellington flew to Amsterdam. Alone and exhausted on the concentric streets of Amsterdam, Ellington realized his phone was dead and he was hopelessly lost. “I couldn’t remember the difference between Lindenstraat and Linden staat,” he laughed.

Somehow, after two hours, he made it back to his hostel, where to his surprise his friend, Juli Garcia ’10, was in the lobby. “Running into someone like that would have been the craziest thing anyway, but the fact that it was in Amsterdam made it that much crazier,” Ellington said.

“Being abroad for a semester really helped me remember how great this place is,” Ellington said. “I was literally in paradise—southern France—yet I wanted to return to the middle of Iowa.”

Back in his beloved Grinnell, Ellington, a Psychology major with a concentration in Linguistics, has returned to his passions: dancing, reading, and socializing.

In particular, Ellington said he hopes to ensure that there is “a place available to dance every weekend.” His pet project, the Dance Collective, aims to achieve just this by putting on dance parties “as often as I can” in South Campus. Ellington personally finances many of the parties, and is currently working on improving his DJ skills with the aid of his friend Robin Dugas ’10. “A few nights a week we just get together and spin for two to three hours,” Ellington said.

When he’s not in class, hanging out, or moonlighting as a DJ, Ellington works in town at Lonnski’s Pub and Deli, where he serves sandwiches to the greater Grinnell community. “It’s nice to see a real cross-section of the town rather than just being around college students,” he said.

Beyond working in the deli, Ellington’s vocational plans for beyond Grinnell include children’s speech therapy. “My academic passion is language, and I love working with children, so it would be great to go into a field that combines both of those things,” Ellington said.

For now, though, Ellington is content to eat caramels as he relaxes with his cat in the school he loves. “Self-governance is, in my mind, what sets this school apart. I really do think it’s proof that people can subjugate themselves to nothing but reason and get along well together,” Ellington said. “Seeing it work is a really rewarding experience.”