Greidanus Profile

Student studying at Library

Dr. Ida Greidanus:
From Farm Life to
Urban Classroom


(left) Dr. Ida Greidanus with PCCC President Steven Rose at her
retirement reception May 7, 2014.

When Dr. Ida Greidanus was asked to join the faculty of PCCC in 1972, it was more of a plea than a job offer. “They told me they had an anatomy class starting in a few days and nobody to teach it,” she recalls. 

There also wasn’t much in the way of resources, unlike the state-of-the art facilities of today’s PCCC.  But they needed an instructor.  Dr. Greidanus said yes.  And so began the illustrious
four-decade career of a much respected and beloved biology professor.

“PCCC is a wonderful school,” said Dr. Greidanus who will retire at the end of this semester. “I could never imagine teaching anywhere else.”

Her willingness to accept the job at PCCC encapsulates the professor’s formula for success, one that she plans to share with the Class of 2014 as the keynote speaker at the May 22 commencement ceremonies:

Accept the opportunities that come your way, even if they’re not what you expected. Be willing to work hard. Say yes to the jobs nobody else wants, because those are the ones that lead to success by building your confidence and winning respect from others. Most of all, remain curious and learn from everything around you.

An Immigrant Who Grew Up on a Farm
That formula has served the educator well throughout her life. Growing up on a farm in Wisconsin instilled in her a strong work ethic. “You develop many skills at a very young age on
a farm,” said Dr. Greidanus.

That life also stimulated the natural curiosity that evolved into her passion for biology. 
“I observed nature and the animals and was curious about how things worked and how they were connected,” she explained.  

The Greidanus family immigrated to the United States when young Ida was only three, fleeing the devastation in The Netherlands after World War II.  Like many other immigrants, they arrived with only the clothes they were wearing and spoke no English.

“I can really relate to so many PCCC students who are immigrants and have little means, but are willing to work hard and get an education” said Dr. Greidanus.

Her early education in a one-room schoolhouse taught her the value of diversity and collaboration in learning. Knowing little English, young Ida “sat in the back of the room and listened, absorbing everything around me.” By third grade, she was reading at her grade level.

“One room schoolhouses were very effective,” said Dr. Greidanus, citing Abraham Lincoln
as one of their best-known success stories.  “Students of different ages and levels are all together, interacting and learning from one another.”

Her Philosophy of Education and Career Paths
She is also an advocate of a liberal arts education. That’s why I chose to pursue a BA instead of BS in biology,” she explains. “I wanted to learn everything and see how different areas of life relate to each other.”   She earned her master’s degree in biology and physiology and her doctoral degree in nutrition.

A biologist who loves literature, paints watercolors, and travels widely, Dr. Greidanus dislikes the current trend toward encouraging students at younger and younger ages to choose a career path then focus narrowly on studies in that field.

“Students need to explore many subjects and have diverse experiences,” she said. “There may be fields of study they will never even know about until they enter college. It’s important to be open to possibilities.”

While she agrees with the inspirational advice to “follow your dream,” the professor says to remember that “your dreams can change,” especially after you gain new experiences through college, work, or travel.

She tells the story of a Wall Street executive who came to her for advice about pursuing a nursing career. “The woman had achieved her lifelong dream to work on Wall Street and enjoyed an affluent life, but she wasn’t happy anymore,” said Dr. Greidanus. “She wanted to help people, not trample on them. Her dream had changed.”

Post-retirement Plans
Regarding post-retirement plans, Dr. Greidanus plans to travel and spend more time with her husband, Michael Ley, a former PCCC philosophy professor who is now retired from a career as a business executive.

“I will definitely remain involved with PCCC,” she said.  “I am now working on grant from the National Science Foundation and may become involved with College Foundation.

She has high praise for the administrative leadership of President Steven Rose and of Jacqueline Kineavy, the senior vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, 

“I  am ever so grateful,” said Dr. Greidanus,  “that I was able to teach and thrive at PCCC where faculty are encouraged to live up to their abilities…to explore and always look at new and better ways of teaching and being engaged.”