To this remarkable assembly of new students—welcome to the University of Iowa!
One hundred sixty-seven years ago, in 1846, a group of Iowa legislators created the state of Iowa on this very ground. Fifty-nine days later, that same legislature created the University of Iowa. Both have grown enormously and prospered wonderfully over this past century-and-a-half-plus.
When Iowa was formed as a state, the population was less than 200,000. Today, it is 3 million. Then, the population of Iowa City was just over 1,000. Today, you—our gathering of new Iowa Hawkeyes right here on the Pentacrest lawn—number over four times our entire city’s early population.
The first classes at the university were taught to only 124 students by a handful of professors. Today, you are joining a student body that numbers over 30,000 who hail from many states across the country and from many countries around the world.
From the state’s humble beginnings over a century and a half ago, Iowa now produces $10 billion in crops and livestock from some of the richest topsoil in the world. And keeping its eye on the future, the state of Iowa boasts the third-highest wind energy capacity in the nation and is first in the nation in percentage of energy generated from wind. The state has given to the nation a president; innovative scientists; prominent actors, musicians, artists, and writers; world-class athletes; and Nobel Prize winners.
From the university’s humble beginnings, we have become a world-class center of discovery, innovation, and learning. We have produced twenty-five Pulitzer Prize winners, pioneered the field of educational testing and measurement, created a world-class academic medical center, originated the idea of academic credit for creative work, and much more. We were the first public university in the country to admit men and women on an equal basis, and we were the first state university in the country to recognize a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered student organization.
This, then, is the ground on which you are starting your college career, the institutional legacy you are joining as a University of Iowa student. Like the state, community, and university you now are a part of, you will grow remarkably in the years you are here. You are now part of a proud tradition of innovation and creation. No matter what your own humble beginnings may be, as an Iowa Hawkeye, you are among a community of learners and thinkers who have achieved greatness from often simple means and origins. The possibilities before you today are wide and limitless, just as they were for the few dozen state legislators, the 124 students, and the handful of professors who embarked on creating a new state and a new university in the middle of the nineteenth century.
A great state and a great university emerged from this very ground, and I have every confidence that a great life, a great career, and great contributions to society will emerge from you starting on this very day in this very place. You may not become President of the United States and you may not win a Pulitzer Prize—but you might! And no matter what you do during your time with us and beyond, you most definitely will grow, transform, and contribute wonderful things to our world as an Iowa Hawkeye, as part of a long, proud tradition of extraordinary learning, discovery, and engagement.
We welcome you into the Hawkeye family—past, present, and future—with open arms, open hearts, and open minds. We are honored that you chose to have that experience here with us, and we can’t wait to see you excel and succeed.