Iowa State & the Bioeconomy
EXCERPTS FROM THE SESQUICENTENNIAL ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
The voices are wise, filled with wonder, and punctuated with laughter. The voices crack with age — or spark with youthful exuberance. The voices pause with reflection and soften with nostalgia.
These are the voices of the Parks Library Special Collections Department’s oral history project. They are the voices of Iowa State students, faculty, staff, retirees, alumni — and even former presidents.
VISIONS chose five of the subjects of the oral history project to give readers a small taste of the hours and hours of recorded thoughts and memories contained in the interviews.
Recording the university’s oral history has been an ongoing project dating back to the 1960s, according to Tanya Zanish-Belcher, head of Special Collections. But the project gained momentum in 2005 as the university prepared to celebrate its sesquicentennial.
“The project is very labor-intensive and time consuming,” Zanish-Belcher said. “It’s never ending.”
Tapes from each of the completed interviews are available for the public to listen to in the Parks Library archives. A list of individuals suggested for interviews, as well as select audio and written transcript samples, are available on a Web site entitled “History of Iowa State: In Their Own Words.”
Wayne Moore (pictured above)
1942 B.S. Electrical Engineering
Former ISU Vice President for Business and Finance (retired 1989)
After you graduated from Iowa State, you served in World War II. What then?
I had a job offer from Bell Laboratories in New Jersey waiting for me after the war. That’s what I was planning to do when I stopped here to visit my family. I was also talking with the Iowa State registrar, and he said, “Why don’t you stick around? We’re going to have a few extra students I think, and you can help classify them.” Well, they let so many millions of veterans out … this was in fall of 1945. He said, “You can help process students in and we can pay you 50 cents an hour.” Well, they came in such droves that in January 1946 the university was three days late in opening. Dr. Friley was president, and he was not happy at all. We were just inundated with veterans.
My supervisor wrote President Friley a letter requesting permission to hire me for a temporary period of three months. He thought the crowd would disperse by that time and the number of veterans would drop off. Well, that three months ended up being 40 years! I was here until I retired.
What were your other positions at Iowa State?
I was an instructor in the College of Engineering Department of General Engineering – later called Industrial Engineering. I became vice president for business and finance in 1966 … and then I became vice president for development … and retired in 1989.
What was Iowa State like
during that time?
Dr. Parks was a marvelous president.
He had a real knack for knowing how to delegate. We would have weekly meetings of the vice presidents. At that time there were four. At those weekly meetings we would sort of program what was ahead of us, what our problems were, and who was going to work on them and so on. It worked out just fine. That was a great period in my life as a vice president for
I think of the period of time he was president as sort of the golden age of Iowa State, because you never had the feeling that someone was out to get you. There were never any problems and you never had the feeling that someone would come up and stab you in the back. Everyone was working toward the same goal: the welfare of the university.
What were some of your accomplishments?
Toward the end, my getting close to retirement, I was interested in economic development and helping Iowa State and the state of Iowa economically. I got the Research Park started…
I had a visit from my counterpart at Northern Illinois University, and they had a free bus system there. We had city-owned buses and it was underfunded and losing money … so I formed a committee of students to develop a bus system based on student fees…. CyRide was a result of that.
Also during my time there was no Class A hotel at all in Ames. People said, “We don’t need hotels in Ames.” That wasn’t the answer we wanted, so we got … a hotel started in 1972. The Gateway Hotel raised the level of doing business in Ames, Iowa, in such a way that it really helped the whole community be a first-class community….
Football games used to be played at Clyde Williams Field, which was an old stadium up on the hill. It was decrepit and running down and something had to be done, so I was part of a committee that contained some alums and some staff members here to build a new stadium.
What are you doing in
I like to talk with people. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy this office in Research Park. It has the remnants of my experience with being vice president. It keeps me in contact with a group of people who are running the Park. I get to sit here and watch the world go by.
BONUS: Listen to an audio recording of the interview with Wayne Moore online
Interview conducted by Michele Christian on Oct. 19, 2007, at the ISU Research Park, Ames
Julia Faltinson Anderson
1941 B.S. Home Economics Education
Former Associate Dean and Professor,
ISU College of Home Economics
You were an Extension home demonstration agent, worked in military intelligence during World War II, and got a master’s degree at the University of Washington. Why did you return to Iowa State?
It sort of didn’t occur to me not to come back to Iowa. So I wrote and asked if there were any openings, and sure enough, and so I came back and … worked on the State 4-H Club staff for seven years, in Morrill Hall.
So then, at the end of seven years…
That’s when Helen LeBaron came as dean of the College of Home Economics.
I think she hired me as assistant dean
because I was an Iowan. She was from
Vermont and New York and Pennsylvania.
She wanted to be able to learn the state, and I had come through home ec education, knew something about that, and
had been here on the campus, and so it was just a bevy of things. Stayed there
What was the university like at that time, and home economics?
It was very interesting. It changed a great deal. Home economics has always been a field that has had to adjust as society and families have changed. And that directly affects home economics, ‘cause that’s our business. So it was a strong program to inherit, and one reason it was strong was because of the curricula it had. And they had terrific staff…. It was during a period of growth for the university as well as certainly that college. That’s a more comfortable time. And we had lots of students. We had, oh, part of the time I think sometimes 2,800 students.
What was it like working with
Helen LeBaron Hilton?
It was tremendous. Spoiled to death,
I guess one would say. Because she was very open. I remember Ron Powers, assistant director of Cooperative Extension Service, saying once, “If you had an idea and went to her, you better be ready to do it.” She was very open and very supportive. When we would discuss something, and I was to do some follow-up, and I would be about to leave, there’s the phone. “Just get it done and be done with it.” And it wasn’t pushy, it was just, you know, “Get on with it.” It was a tremendous privilege.
So when you look back on your career, what are the things that give you the most satisfaction?
Oh, I think I’ve always been satisfied with the fact of what the basic mission is of the profession, in terms of the enhancement of living for individuals and families. You know, that’s a noble mission.
Interview conducted by Mary Ann Evans on April 30, 2003, in Parks Library
Martin C. Jischke
President, Iowa State University, 1991-2000
Retired in 2007 as president of Purdue University
West Lafayette, Ind.
Talk about what you first remember from coming to Iowa State as the
First, we were very excited. Patty, my wife, and our two children, we were really excited about coming to Iowa State. We were moving from a much smaller community and a smaller university to a Big 8 university with this absolutely gorgeous campus. I think there was a sense of excitement for all of us. We were really eager and anxious to come.
Another thing I remember was, when I came, a strategic plan had already been developed and was approved by the Board, and one of my major responsibilities was to try to implement it. Literally within the first few weeks of being president I had to confront a budget problem. And trying to maintain the enthusiasm of a new president and trying to keep people inspired and motivated, and yet facing the reality of a very difficult budget circumstance was another thing I had to contend with.
Was that a nasty surprise?
The budget reality?
Nasty is not the right word. It was unpleasant. I’m not sure it was a surprise, because there were lots of places in the country that were dealing with similar issues. It wasn’t something I was pleased with. A bit unwelcome, but it was the hand I was dealt. I remember speaking to the Faculty Senate very early in my administration, and I gave a set of remarks that I thought to be pretty positive and optimistic and enthusiastic. One of the members of the Senate raised his hand to ask a question, “How can you be so enthusiastic and positive, given the circumstances we’re in?” My response was, “You can’t whine your way to excellence.” And I always thought that was a pretty good crack.
If you had to pick just one experience that you had with Iowa State in terms of the research that was done there and then the academic experience, what comes to your mind?
On the research side, I think the Plant Sciences initiative was probably the biggest thing we tried to do. On the academic side, it’s a little harder for me to just pick one out. I can think of two or three things that are pretty important. We spent a lot of time trying very hard to be more aggressive in recruiting students – talented students – so we focused on National Merit Scholars, minority students, the Carver Scholar Program.
Another academic initiative: I think the change in the College of Business has been absolutely spectacular. At the first meeting I had with the faculty in the College of Business … I made a presentation and then took questions. And the first question was, “Is there any future at Iowa State for the College of Business?” I thought it was an awful question, but a revealing question. And I said yes, and I went on to answer it. But when the Gerdin Business Building was completed, I think that college came of age.
And then the third one that comes to mind for me is reinvigorating engineering. I mean, one of the signature programs at Iowa State is engineering. It had been a long time since engineering had – had been reasserted, if you will, or reinvigorated. We brought in a wonderful new dean, Jim Melsa, and we committed to build the new engineering buildings, now Howe Hall and Hoover Hall. It was more than space – it was about taking it up a notch.
What were some of the most difficult issues you faced as president?
I struggled with the reaction to change. There were just a surprising number of people who didn’t want change at all, and resented anyone who tried to create the change. And in that sense I think that was maybe the most difficult issue in the time I was at Iowa State.
The toughest day of my life was the day I had to call the father of the young man who was murdered during VEISHEA 1997, Uri Sellers, and express my heartfelt sympathies. I mean, it was an awful, awful thing. And it wasn’t hard to say VEISHEA had to change. That was an easy decision. The question of whether we should just eliminate it completely was out there. Because I don’t think the students, at least when I was there, understood how awful it was to the people of Iowa, to the alumni of Iowa State. It was utterly irresponsible behavior, and it was part of the culture of VEISHEA to behave outrageously. And it ultimately led to the murder of a person.
As a university president how has your role has changed or evolved? What do you do differently now, as opposed to 20 years ago?
I’ve changed. I’m older, smarter, more mature, more experienced, so I have changed just by virtue of experience,
and I think I’m better at it than I was. More self confident. I’m hardly ever surprised. One thing that I surely have learned is that on important questions, what’s really important is getting the right answer, not a quick answer.
Is there anything else you want to share about your time at Iowa State?
I enjoyed it. It was a great run. I feel very good about what we were able to get done and what I was able to contribute. I have very, very fond memories of the people.
BONUS: Listen to an audio recording of the interview with Dr. Jischke online
Interview conducted by Tanya Zanish-Belcher on Sept. 20, 2006, in West Lafayette, Ind.
1986 M.A. History, 1990 Ph.D.
Director, ISU African American Studies program, 1996-1998
Current chair, Department of African American Studies, Indiana University
How did you come to Iowa State to work on your graduate degree?
Well, I came to Iowa State in the fall of 1984 … with the intention of doing law and not entering into the professional academic arena. My interests were shaped largely by my undergraduate experiences and my lived experiences up to that point. I grew up rural and agrarian in the Mississippi Delta area… That made for a very interesting kind of diverse culture, a culture that was shaped largely by cotton production and agriculture needs, but definitely by the various populations that resided in the Delta, including blacks, white, Asian, Jews, and others.
So when I went to Tougaloo College in 1980, I really had not engaged in an intellectual dialogue of what it means to black and rural in the United States. Having taken high school American history, I think we experienced and learned what everybody else was learning…. And so when I began to take my first introduction to African American history in college, it largely contained discussions about slavery, about civil rights movements, and things of that sort, and I began to think, “Boy, there’s a world that I live and people I know who do not fit this model, who do not fit into this limited box about what it means to be black.”
And so I became very interested in studying agrarian rural black people. That interest remained keen and it evolved considerably as an undergraduate. So when I thought about graduate school, I started to look at places where
I could probably expand my interests and get into something that would help me make a difference in the understanding of black people, not as homogenous, but as a diverse population of people and folk who in some ways carved out niches and identities for themselves that were tied
to the land.
I think Iowa State was recognized as a leading program in rural and agricultural history and … I thought, “I can come into an area with some degree of expertise,” because there was nobody there doing anything on black people.
So I arrived in the fall of ’84 to the
most unimaginable culture shock I’ve ever lived through. By this time in 1984, I’m a 22-year-old whose education
had been black, you know. Segregated.
I chose to go to a historically black
college. My K through 12 experiences were segregated. So this was my first
time really living among white people.
And it was extremely cold. The weather
was awful and I just wasn’t prepared for that. And no black churches. No black barbers. No black businesses, and so it was a different experience … that I had to confront. But yet it was interesting because part of me … felt like so much was on trial with me. I was one of only two African Americans in the program. … You could go days at Iowa State not seeing a black folk.
It must have been very difficult.
It was difficult. But when I arrived there, they had assigned George McJimsey to be my adviser, who was a man I respect tremendously as a human being…. And it happened that at Thanksgiving of that year, fall of 1984, I think we had one of the worst snowstorms. We were going to be stuck in Iowa and I think he probably heard the longing for family and home in my voice and he invited me to come to his house for dinner and to celebrate Thanksgiving with him and his wife and their family. Well…I’d never been invited to the home of a white person to eat. I grew up in segregated Mississippi. And so when somebody white is inviting you to their house, you’re thinking, “What are we going to talk about? … What are we going to eat?” And then I realized that George was not only gracious, he was very human to me. Something very real about getting an invitation. And so finally I said, “Okay, I’m going to come.”
So you got your master’s at Iowa State. Then what?
I graduated in ’90. And then I came back in ’96 as the director of the African American Studies program… and had a fantastic experience coming back as a colleague, as opposed to a student. You know, there is that saying, they say you can never go home? That wasn’t true. Because when I went back, the folk in the History Department with whom I had good relationships were so glad I was back to help with the African American Studies program….
We had some exciting students to work with. You know, building that undergraduate course in African American history was fun and just trying to get the program going…. During my two years, I found great support for that program…. And so my experiences as an administrator, I would say were largely positive, but any time you are heading a program, as opposed to a … department, there are lots of drawbacks…. You don’t control the faculty tenure and promotion process... You don’t really even control the search. And so those are the things I thought made it somewhat difficult to attract the kinds of people of color who would want to come to Iowa State. There needed to have been a clear definition of what the program was.
When you look back over your career at Iowa State, how would you describe the impact you’ve had?
Oh, I would say my impact has been probably minimum. I think the fact that I got through the program as a black person, period, and as a person who comes from a historical black place, as a person who comes from a segregated south rural area,
I think that in some ways it could be en-couraging for others to believe that Iowa State is known as technical, but one can thrive and achieve one’s objective there.
BONUS: Listen to an audio recording of the interview with Valerie Grim online
Interview conducted by Tanya Zanish-Belcher on Sept. 28, 2006, in Bloomington, Ind.
2004 B.S. Transportation and Logistics
Logistics analyst for Jacobson Logistics, Des Moines
Did you live in the dorms your first year?
Freshman year I lived in Wilson out at
Towers. They say that if you live at
Towers you either really, really love it or you really, really hate it. Unfortunately, my roommate and I were some of the people who really, really hated it. Most of the time we just shut our door and hung out in our room.
After the first semester of my freshman year, my roommate and I moved over … to Linden [Hall]. He had a friend who lived in Linden and I had a friend who lived in Linden [and] both of those friends had spots open … so we ended up moving in with [them]. That atmosphere at Linden, it was a lot more like dormitory life, and I had a lot of fun. And so it really made up for it….
[In Linden, I lived in] Fulmer, which is on the first floor. It’s an all-male floor, and in Towers I lived in Weber, which was a coed floor. But in Linden, you maybe had around 40 guys living on the floor. [Linden was] a lot friendlier. Probably helps that people actually got out and moved around through the hall. They were a lot more open; there weren’t as many small groups set already. Most people were pretty open… It was a lot
better socially in Linden.
Your parents are [University of] Iowa alumni. Can you tell a little about how they felt about you coming here?
My dad was really set on me going to Iowa … actually both of them were. As a little kid being dressed up in Hawkeye clothing and going to Iowa football games as I did with my dad and my grandpa, I think they figured that I’d just be a Hawkeye. My parents both … went to Iowa in the late sixties … and that’s how they met. We visited both campuses when I was looking at colleges…. It basically [came] down to one night [when] my dad asked at dinner what I’d decided, and I kind of sat up in my seat and realized that I had totally forgotten about it, and decided to say Iowa State. Maybe if it was the day before I might have decided to say Iowa, but it all turned out well…. I’m glad I made the decision.
Interview conducted by Michele Christian on Oct. 4, 2001, in Parks Library.