The love story behind the waffle breakfasts that have been bringing CSU together for decades

Bill and Jean Griswold

Bill and Jean Griswold have been an integral part of the CSU community for six decades.

Bill Griswold, a professor emeritus of history at Colorado State University, has kept one guiding principle in making life decisions, and it’s served him well: Always go with Jean.

Jean Griswold, Bill’s wife of more than 70 years and a retired director of International Student Services for the University, has been not only his partner but the inspiration for the couple’s life of engaging with people and ideas from around the world. Together, the Griswolds helped lay the foundation for CSU’s reputation today as a welcoming place for international students and scholars.

The Griswolds are perhaps most widely known for their longstanding tradition of Sunday morning waffle breakfasts for the university and community’s international visitors, staff and students. The breakfasts, which were open to anyone, began in 1974 and continued every weekend — even when Bill and Jean were away, in which case close friends and colleagues opened the Griswold house and hosted until the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Every breakfast started at 8 a.m., with Bill and Jean working the room and coordinating while others cooked waffles. On any given Sunday, guests might see students and professors mingling with an array of visitors, from heads of state to esteemed intellectuals. For example, Bill recalled hosting the commander in chief of the Jordanian army for one breakfast, and on another Sunday morning, they welcomed Malcolm Kerr, father of NBA coach Steve Kerr and the president of American University in Beirut.

‘I’ll go anywhere in the world with you’

Neither Bill nor Jean had much of a global community around them growing up in California, but their professional lives prepared each of them for welcoming the world through their door.

They met and began dating as students at Occidental College in Los Angeles, but Jean was eager to travel abroad after World War II. In 1950, she accepted an offer to join a government program sending teams of workers to help with postwar rebuilding in Europe. After traveling in third class on a student ship to cross the Atlantic, Jean spent a month in Martigny, Switzerland, as one of a team of approximately 20 people working to rebuild local roads and farmers’ barns.

The following summer, Jean spoke with her minister at church camp about meeting with a recruiter looking for young people willing to teach internationally.

“He asked me, since I had a credential, (if) I could go and teach in Turkey,” Jean said. “I said, ‘I don’t know. I might marry this guy.’ And he said, ‘Well, if he’s got a teaching credential, he can go, too.’ So I went to (Bill) and said, ‘Do you want to go to Turkey with me?’”

Bill’s response: “I’ll go anywhere in the world with you!”

Bill knew by then that he wanted to marry Jean, too, so for him the decision was easy: Go with Jean. They married in 1951 and taught in California for two years to gain experience before moving, and in 1953 the Griswolds landed in Kayseri, Turkey. Together they built a life there, teaching in nearby Talas and welcoming their first child.

They returned later to Turkey so that Bill could finish research for his Ph.D. from UCLA specializing in Middle Eastern history. While applying for faculty positions back in the U.S., Bill heard from Harry Rosenberg about an opening in CSU’s history department.

This ultimately brought the Griswolds to Fort Collins in 1965.

60 years as part of the Fort Collins international community

Multiple generations of the Griswold family
Multiple generations of the Griswold family outside of their Fort Collins home.

It wasn’t long before the Griswolds immersed themselves in the city and campus’ global communities. In addition to raising three kids at home, Jean helped launch the Fort Collins International Center in 1969, which she said she still considers one of her most significant accomplishments. Jean also completed her master’s in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) at CSU while volunteering for Jim Graham, who was one of the university’s first international student advisers before becoming the director of International Student Services (later International Student and Scholar Services, ISSS).

She then joined the Office of International Programs full-time, working in ISSS for more than 20 years and eventually succeeding Graham as director. The Griswolds even sailed five times with the Semester at Sea program, with Bill teaching courses and Jean volunteering to run operations for Field Programs.

Bill and Jean Griswold’s legacy of decades of international outreach, of morning breakfasts and nights spent dancing with guests from every point on the globe, carried on in the next generation of the family, too. Bill and Jean’s three children — David, Jim and Ruth — have all enjoyed careers that included either traveling or living abroad. Even Maia, the granddaughter of Jean and Bill, worked for a time in CSU’s Office of International Programs as a peer adviser for education abroad. The couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on Aug. 21, 2021, and are now approaching 60 years together in Fort Collins as part of the international community.

It all began with an important decision made easy thanks to Bill’s guiding principle, which was distilled by CSU Associate Director of Development Laura Thornes during a recent visit.

“Follow the girl,” Thornes said to Bill.

“You bet,” he replied, without a moment’s hesitation.

Consider giving to further the spirit of the Griswolds and the importance they placed on international exchange: