Monday, March 9, 2015
Putnam Museum, Davenport, IA


“The University for Iowa: A Legacy of Service and Engagement”

Over 165 years ago, a new frontier state sparked a vision of public higher education accessible to all. When Iowa was only 59 days old, the pioneering First General Assembly in 1847 established the State University of Iowa as one of their very first acts. What we know today as the University of Iowa came into being as the new state’s first public university.

Our university was founded with the express purpose of providing teachers for the new state’s schools, as well as professionals for the state’s economic and cultural development. The University of Iowa began with a handful of faculty, one building, and a few dozen students.

Today, we are a world-class, multifaceted enterprise with over 30,000 students. We conduct groundbreaking research in myriad areas for the betterment of all society, we pursue creative endeavor that the whole world recognizes and is inspired by, and we are engaged with our community and state, making life better for all Iowans, in ways our university founders probably never dreamed of. Although today’s University of Iowa is worlds beyond the modest beginnings of that mid-nineteenth-century institution, the core purpose of our university has never changed. We were conceived as and will remain a public state university, a university for Iowa. We have a bedrock mission to serve our state’s needs and to fulfill our citizens’ dreams. We aspire to world excellence, but we do so in the service of the people of Iowa.  Our University of Iowa mission states that we are to meet the needs of “the people of Iowa, the nation, and the world.”  We never forget that first and foremost on that list are “the people of Iowa.”

Today I would like to touch on a few of the ways that throughout its history, the University of Iowa has always been the University for Iowa, making life better for the people of this remarkable state through its ethic of service and engagement.

The state of Iowa has a long, proud history of recognizing the equality and dignity of all people. The Supreme Court of the Iowa Territory abolished slavery as early as 1839. Iowa was one of the first states to eliminate a ban on interracial marriage in 1851, and it prohibited separate-but-equal classrooms in 1868, nearly a century before the US Supreme Court did in Brown vs. Board of Education.

In the midst of this forward-thinking social ferment, the University of Iowa played a major role in opening up opportunity to all of its state’s citizens, setting the pace nationally at the same time. For example, when we opened our doors in 1855, we became the first state university to admit men and women on an equal basis.

Some of the university’s earliest social milestones emanated from our law school. The University of Iowa was the first public university in the country to grant a law degree to a woman: to Mary B. Hickey Wilkinson in 1873. And Mary Humphrey Haddock of Tipton, Iowa, an 1875 UI law graduate, was the first woman admitted to practice before the U.S. circuit and district courts after the Iowa Code was amended in 1873 to strike out “white” and “male” as qualifications for admission to the bar. The UI law school was also the first public university to grant a law degree to an African American, Muscatine’s Alexander Clark, Jr., in 1879.

These are just among the earliest milestones that the University of Iowa has posted in the ongoing fight for serving people of our state from all backgrounds.  Here are just a few others:

In 1895, Iowa’s Frank Kinney Holbrook was the first African American to play on a varsity athletic squad (both football and track) at an American public university.

The UI is home not only to the first daily campus newspaper west of the Mississippi, the Daily Iowan being established in 1868, but it also boasted the first female college newspaper editor in 1907.

Elizabeth Halsey headed the Department of Physical Education from 1924 to 1955 and established a pioneering program for its time: physical education for women. Following that innovation, Christine Grant became the first women’s athletic director at Iowa in 1973 and became nationally known as a pioneer in gender equality in athletics.

Iowa was the first Big Ten institution to promote an African American to an administrative vice president’s position: Dr. Philip Hubbard, who in 1966 became our Vice President of Student Services.

During the administration of President Emeritus Sandy Boyd, Cecelia Foxley created the UI’s first Office of Affirmative Action in 1972 and served as its first director.  She wrote an Affirmative Action Plan that was the first of its kind among Big Ten institutions.

And Iowa gained fame as the first public university in the country to offer insurance benefits to employees’ domestic partners, whether same-sex or opposite sex, in 1993.

These are just some of the civil rights milestones that have established the University of Iowa as a pioneer in welcoming and supporting people from all across the social spectrum, a tradition that grows out of and continues to enhance the social well-being of people all across our state.

The University of Iowa has long been a central partner with the citizens of the state in defining the character of our people as well as in discovering knowledge about the state for the edification of its citizens. This has been true in scientific realms as well as the social realms I have just touched on.

Two of our most significant buildings on campus bear the names of two brilliant public scholars, Samuel Calvin and Thomas Macbride, who were pioneers in studying the natural history of Iowa.

Calvin and Macbride met each other at Lenox College in Hopkinton, Iowa, where Calvin was an instructor and Macbride was his student. Both had a fascination for studying the flora and geology of the swiftly vanishing prairies of the 1860s, and the two took regular field trips together to explore the state and collaborated on numerous botanical studies. Calvin was brought to the faculty of the University of Iowa in 1873 and was designated as curator of the University Cabinet, the school’s collection of geological specimens, fossils, and mounted animals and birds. Five years later, Calvin hired his friend, Thomas Macbride, as an assistant professor of natural science.

Samuel Calvin had a practical approach to his teaching, combining lectures with lab and fieldwork, as well as photography, controversial approaches at the time. Both Macbride and Calvin also took seriously their roles as public scholars, seeing their subjects of geology and botany as important to both academics and the general public. Calvin in particular became well known all across the state of Iowa for his public “illustrated talks” with slides, presented at all manner of clubs and schools.

Thomas Macbride took up that mission and responsibility enthusiastically as well.  Macbride became president of the university in 1914 and was largely responsible for the early development of the university’s extension program, in many ways modeled on Calvin’s many travels throughout the state. Macbride himself was an inveterate public lecturer.  In 1903 alone, he delivered sixty extension lectures in fifty weeks in communities all across the state of Iowa. Macbride was a firm believer in promoting the idea of the university as a public service to benefit the citizens of the state.  And in many ways, this very Lifelong Learning Series we are participating in is part of the legacy of Thomas Macbride.

While working with the Iowa Geological Survey, Macbride became especially enamored of the Okoboji Lakes region in northwestern Iowa. In 1909, he established the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory there, a field station for Iowa’s state universities that today still offers summer classes, research opportunities, and lifelong learning programs, as well as the beautiful grounds themselves, which are open to the public.

Calvin and Macbride are also well-known for that great public institution still located on our campus, the Museum of Natural History, the oldest university museum west of the Mississippi River. Samuel Calvin eventually convinced the university’s governing board to support an extensive excavation trip, which yielded many geological and fossil specimens for the museum and for student study. The Museum of Natural History thus grew significantly, expanding its scope to exploration of the world as well as the state of Iowa.

Perhaps the most well-known project of this era was the Laysan Island expedition on the Hawaiian archipelago. Museum director Charles Nutting first visited Laysan Island in 1902 as a scientific advisor on a U.S. government expedition to explore the Pacific waters around Hawaii. He, along with museum taxidermist Homer Dill, recreated the incredible scene for Iowa in an exhibit called a cyclorama. The 360-degree, 138-foot-long Cyclorama drew many students to the UI, and over the next decades, many of the future leaders of the nation’s museums graduated from the UI’s museum studies program.  With its emphasis on museum artistry, our program was the first of its kind.

The Laysan Island Cyclorama opened in 1914. It is unique in museum history, the first attempt to recreate an entire ecosystem in an exhibit, and it is the only exhibit of its kind still in existence. This past year, we were proud to celebrate the centennial of the renowned and restored cyclorama.

Schoolchildren from all across the state visit the museum each year, along with thousands of other visitors from Iowa’s communities and beyond, to enjoy and learn from the museum’s historic displays about our state and the larger world, as well as the new exhibit innovations we are bringing to the public.

We’re even taking the museum on the road with the new Mobile Museum, which visits schools, libraries, RAGBRAI, the Iowa State Fair, and other special events across the state. Thanks to the public spirit of Samuel Calvin and Thomas Macbride, the University of Iowa has long brought the natural sciences, the understanding of our home ecosystems as well as those around the world, to the people of our state.

Of course, the University of Iowa is proud of many other scientific milestones, university community members, and programs that have fulfilled our promise and obligation as the University for Iowa throughout our history.

Next to the Iowa River sits the C. Maxwell Hydraulics Laboratory, home of the renowned IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering program in the University of Iowa’s College of Engineering. Today, important programs such as the new Iowa Flood Center call the hydraulics lab home, helping Iowa communities and those beyond understand, monitor, prepare for, and manage flood risks.

But Iowa’s work in hydraulics, now world-renowned, has a long history of research and practical service that has benefited Iowa communities for decades. In the 1920s, as automobiles became more accessible to middle-class citizens and highways were cropping up in response, some of the first research funding at the hydraulics lab looked at how to develop culverts to mitigate flooded and washed-out roadways. We take clean water in our homes for granted today, and we have IIHR to thank for that. In the late 1930s and 1940s, the Hydraulics Laboratory became the official testing center of the National Plumbing Laboratory, studying how to keep our indoor water clean of pollutants and separate from waste water. And when water pollution became a national environmental concern in the late 1960s and 1970s, the Hydraulics Lab studied thermal pollution created by steam-electric power plants, which water pollution regulations had not considered prior to that.

Another of the University of Iowa’s strong scientific areas of national and global importance is the exploration of outer space. This past year, we celebrated the 100th birthday of longtime UI professor of physics James Van Allen, who passed away in 2006. The highlight of Van Allen’s long and distinguished career was his use of UI-built instruments carried aboard the first successful U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958 to discover bands of intense radiation, later known as the Van Allen radiation belts, surrounding the Earth.

Despite that major scientific milestone and Van Allen’s many subsequent achievements and international awards, the distinguished professor often said that among his proudest accomplishments was teaching students, especially the numerous undergraduates who enjoyed his classes. In a February 2004 interview, he said, “I taught General Astronomy for 17 years, and it was my favorite course.”

Not only did generations of Iowans benefit from the brilliant teaching of James Van Allen, but they also had a superb role model: a small-town Iowa boy from Mount Pleasant who developed his talents and made an international, even an interstellar, career right here at home. Even after retiring from teaching in 1985, Professor Van Allen remained active in his research and regularly came to his office nearly until his passing. James Van Allen remains a true Iowa icon, a representative of what people from our state can accomplish and what we can teach each other, both in the classroom and in our communities.

Scientists such as Calvin, Macbride, and Van Allen shared their knowledge about not only the larger world around us but also helped define who we are as people of the state. The University of Iowa has long been a major leader in doing much the same thing in the arts and letters as well.

No doubt the most well-known historical figure in defining Iowa culture through art is painter and sculptor Grant Wood, who was born on a farm near Anamosa, grew up and conducted an art and teaching career in Cedar Rapids, and then taught at the University of Iowa from 1935 until his death in 1942. The UI hired Wood, always a public-spirited figure, after his stint as director of Iowa’s Public Works of Art Project, which created murals for public buildings that emphasized Iowa life and values. Perhaps no figure has defined the image of Iowa more than Grant Wood, and at the same time, of course, he garnered an international reputation. Wood was also central to what came to be known as the “Iowa idea,” a revolutionary new concept that brought both studio practice and scholarly study together in Iowa’s art school, subsequently becoming the model for many arts programs around the nation.

The artistic innovations of the University of Iowa founded in this period led Peggy Guggenheim to choose the University of Iowa as the home of Jackson Pollock’s groundbreaking painting Mural, which is widely recognized as the most important American painting of the twentieth century. Guggenheim identified Iowa as having one of the most forward-thinking and advanced arts programs in the country, and Mural came to our collection in 1951. 

Thousands of Iowans have enjoyed and been inspired by this remarkable work in its home in the UI Museum of Art. Since the flood of 2008 displaced the university’s renowned art collection, we have taken the opportunity born of tragedy to share this major piece with Iowans across the entire state. The Pollock has been displayed at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, the Des Moines Art Center, and now, after some incredible restoration work at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Mural is back in Iowa at the Sioux City Art Center. It is safe to say that more Iowans have seen Pollock’s original painting than any other people in the world.

A great current example of a faculty member who helps define the Iowa character and also enjoys international renown is Writer’s Workshop faculty member Marilynne Robinson. A multiple award-winning novelist and essayist, Robinson’s recent novels, Gilead, Home, and Lila, focus on a small town in Iowa, part of a long University of Iowa tradition of defining our state through the arts and letters as well as bringing world-class artistic works to the people of our state.

Many of our most well-known MFA’s, of course, come out of the world-renowned Writer’s Workshop. Although the Workshop was created in the 1930s, the program was brought into its own by Director Paul Engle, another exemplar of an Iowan who helped establish our state’s identity through art yet also brought the world to Iowa.

Engle was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, and his literary imagination was shaped by life in a small city and on the family farm outside Marion, Iowa. An alumnus of Coe College and the University of Iowa, Engle became the director of the Writers’ Workshop in 1941. His own work, such as his autobiography A Lucky American Childhood and his poetry, like Grant Wood’s, gave voice to the life and character of Iowa. But in his 25 years directing the Workshop, Engle helped define for the world what it means to teach creative writing and invited such notable writers to be Workshop faculty as Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Kurt Vonnegut, who taught such students as Flannery O'Connor, Phillip Levine, and Donald Justice.

In 1967, Paul Engle and his future wife, the Chinese novelist Nieh Hua-ling, founded the International Writing Program. Currently under the direction of Christopher Merrill, the IWP has brought over 1,400 writers from over 140 countries to Iowa for a unique residency. The writers not only have time and space to work on their writing, but they also learn about life in our country and our state.  These global visiting writers also contribute to our state’s cultural education through presentations of their own.

Thanks to the efforts of Chris Merrill and many other talented people, Iowa City, as you may know, has been designated a UNESCO City of Literature, still the only such city in North America.

One of the City of Literature initiatives that excites me the most is the annual Paul Engle Essay Contest, which asks Iowa high school sophomores to write a three- to five-page essay about an Iowa experience. I have had the privilege of presenting these awards, which include University of Iowa scholarships, to a number of impressively talented young Iowa writers. This year’s first-place winner, for example, was Palen Stream, a student at Bedford Community High School in southwest Iowa, for her essay, “The Trail of Senses That Leads Me Home.” 

Probably the most well-known and publicly celebrated venue for the arts at the UI is Hancher Auditorium. A large, public auditorium for the arts had been in the plans for our burgeoning arts campus since the 1930s, but the realization of that dream did not take place until the 1960s and 1970s during a significant campus expansion. President Howard Bowen initiated the project, which was ultimately realized by President Sandy Boyd, leading to Hancher Auditorium (named after President Virgil Hancher) in 1972.

Hancher has brought world-renowned performances to its auditorium for five decades now, but an important part of the ongoing Hancher legacy is its many partnerships and programs all across the state. Along with our ArtsShare program, Hancher has been our major arts outreach organization since the 1970s, with world-class performances, residencies, and educational programs brought to Iowa communities and schools from border to border.

The most well-known Hancher partnership that has benefited Iowans and their enjoyment of the arts is with the Joffrey Ballet. The renowned dancers first performed in Iowa City in 1974, which led to several Joffrey residencies at the UI in the 1980s, including multiple performances in Iowa communities such as Tipton and Dubuque. Since then, Joffrey and Hancher have worked hand in hand, with Hancher commissioning new works, premiering the renowned 1987 Joffrey production of The Nutcracker, and reaching out to the people of Iowa through workshops, performances, and residencies in communities across the state.

As you no doubt know, we lost the original Hancher Auditorium building in the 2008 flood, but we are very excited about the new César Pelli-designed Hancher, now rising from the ground on our campus. Hancher, of course, continues its performance, education, and outreach programs even as the new building is being constructed, but we are eagerly anticipating a new era of arts engagement with Iowans when the new Hancher opens in 2016.

Of course, one of the University of Iowa’s major contributions to Iowa, as well as the nation and the world is in medicine and health care. Today, UI Health Care provides services through nearly one million patient visits, including those at 200-plus outpatient clinics all across the state. In addition, nearly 150,000 patients visit our College of Dentistry clinics, which also conduct incredible outreach programs for low-income Iowans, children, and geriatric populations in Blackhawk County, Allamakee County, and many other locations throughout Iowa. It’s highly likely that some of your own health care providers have been trained at the University of Iowa: 50% of all Iowa physicians, 80% of all Iowa dentists, and 47% of all pharmacists in the state are University of Iowa-trained.

One of the great figures in the history of Iowa medicine and health care, and who helped define our medical campus’s public mission, was Arthur Steindler. The Vienna-born Steindler brought to Iowa City his vast experience in pediatric orthopedics and began his historic rebuilding of the university’s medical school and hospital in 1913. Steindler was an early advocate of state-supported health care for needy children and adults.  In fact, one of the reasons he left his home country was his perception that, as he said, “There was nothing but privilege and preference. The working man had no chance.”

In 1925, the College of Medicine created the Department of Orthopedics, for which Iowa remains highly regarded, and named Steindler its first chair. He held the chair for more than two decades, treating nearly 70,000 patients, many of them children, at a rate of more than 2,000 patients per year during his midcareer.

Steindler also lobbied the Iowa legislature for funds to create the Children's Hospital at the University of Iowa in 1919, the first such specialty hospital in the state. And, of course, today, we are eager to see his legacy, the new free-standing, nationally ranked University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, completed on our campus in 2016.

Another major figure in Iowa medical history is Elmer DeGowin, who founded the blood donor center at the university’s hospital in 1938, one of the first in the country. As a member of the College of Medicine faculty, Dr. DeGowin conducted extensive research on blood and plasma inventory management in both clinical and field settings. During World War II, his research turned to the practicality of applying blood storage and transfusion techniques on the battle front. It marked the first time modern blood transfusion practices were put into place in time of war. Thanks to Dr. DeGowin’s pioneering work, we saw the emergence of national standards for blood transfusions following World War II and the creation of a National Blood Donor Program in cooperation with the American Red Cross.

I of course could speak all day about the amazing accomplishments of the talented, dedicated people in our five health sciences colleges and what they have done for our state.  But I have time to only briefly mention a couple more.

Myrtle Kitchell Aydelotte, born in Van Meter, Iowa, was the dean of our College of Nursing from 1949 to 1957 and the UI Hospital and Clinics’ Director of Nursing from 1968 to 1976. Prior to her academic career, Dean Aydelotte served as captain, assistant chief nurse, and chief nurse during World War II in military hospitals in North Africa and Italy. At Iowa, she received one of the first US Public Health Service research grants ever.  She was a national authority on societal change and its effect on health care delivery. Dean Aydelotte significantly raised the research profile of our College of Nursing at the same time she maintained its focus on service to Iowans, developing major continuing education programs for nurses across the state of Iowa. Aydelotte’s legacy led to the creation of the UI’s RN-to-BSN program, through which nurses across the state can now earn their UI nursing bachelor’s degrees through partnerships with community colleges all across the state.

At the University of Iowa, we have the fourth-oldest public pharmacy school in the United States, and one that is among the top 20 pharmacy programs in the country today. Public-spiritedness is a long-standing tradition in the school. Pharmacy Dean Wilbur Teeters, who led the college from 1904 to 1937, was especially noted for being a deeply involved community member, even serving as mayor of Iowa City from 1943 to 1946.

Shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, the College took an innovative step no other college in the United States had taken before: dispensing all the drugs and medicines used by the University Hospital. This is now common practice nationwide, improving the experience of hospital patients everywhere.

On top of that, the College was also the first in the country to establish a pharmaceutical laboratory for the manufacture of products used by hospital patients. Today, University of Iowa Pharmaceuticals is the largest and most experienced university-affiliated, FDA-registered pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in the United States. In fact, it is the only facility of its kind offering such a range and scope of services to its clients, whether they be in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries or government agencies.

One of the more recent major historical public engagement milestones at the University of Iowa was the founding of the College of Public Health over fifteen years ago in 1999. But public health, of course, has had a long, storied tradition at Iowa. The college has been built on a rich tradition of public health teaching, research, and service that dates back to 1885 at the UI. Over the years, University of Iowa entities such as the State Bacteriological Laboratory (now the University Hygienic Laboratory) and the Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health have helped to address many of the most pressing public health needs in Iowa, including the control of communicable diseases, the safety of water and milk supplies, the health and safety of farmers and others living in rural areas, surveillance of cancer and birth defects, and emergency sanitation needs.

Medicine, creative writing, the arts…these are just some of the areas of excellence at the University of Iowa for which we are world-renowned and for which we provide direct benefit to the people of Iowa. And one of the other major areas of expertise for which we are known and that affects all Iowans is the field of educational testing and measurement. I’m sure everyone here has heard of and many of you have taken the ACT test in your college preparation process.

When ACT spun out of the work of University of Iowa Professor E. F. Lindquist and Registrar Ted McCarrel, the UI made one of its most dramatic impacts on the world outside of its own walls. In 1959, ACT got its start in a meeting in the Old Capitol on the UI campus. From a few employees, the organization has grown to a 1200-plus-member workforce located across the globe, with a significant number right here in Iowa. In 1959, ACT began its work by introducing only the second college entrance exam in the country. Today, it offers an amazing array of assessments for not just entering college students, but for students at multiple levels, for advising professionals, for workplaces, and for many others.

As both the UI and ACT have grown into very different institutions, we have never lost our strong bonds of partnership. Today, the University of Iowa remains one of the world’s leading academic centers for educational testing and measurement, and the Iowa City area has grown as one of the world’s leading centers for the profession. The educational measurement organizations that are clustered in our community and have a presence in other Iowa communities as well are world-class multinational organizations that provide needed services and very good jobs.

As my ACT example has shown, the University of Iowa also has an excellent record of creating jobs and making economic impacts throughout the state. Many of you here are probably graduates of what is now our Tippie College of Business and Tippie School of Management.  Perhaps some of you are graduates of our MBA for Professionals and Managers program, which we offer right here in the Quad Cities. Bringing a University of Iowa education directly to people in their communities, especially those who already have work, family, and community obligations, is a significant priority for us today. But we have a longstanding history of doing so. In fact, our current in-community MBA programs got their start nearly a half-century ago when what was then called the College of Business Administration offered its first off-campus MBA program right here in the Quad Cities.

Today, we not only offer our offsite MBA programs in locations across the state, but our entrepreneurial programs through the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center are also growing by leaps and bounds, helping people younger and older with ideas and imagination to create new businesses right here at home, from recycling apps to genetics research software.

As I said at the beginning, the University of Iowa started with an ambitious mission, one building, and a handful of teachers and students. Today, in addition to the thousands of University of Iowa alumni who live and work productively in communities across the state, our institution generates a $6 billion annual economic impact for the state and has created 52,000 jobs. Those are significant numbers that affect each and every Iowan.  But as I’ve also shared with you today, there’s a good chance that the University of Iowa has engaged with you and your community in many other ways: through a continuing education class you’ve taken, through excellent health care that has improved your well-being, through an inspiring artistic performance that you’ve enjoyed or thought-provoking book that you’ve read, or through the uplifting story of an Iowa boy who brought the solar system to the prairie.

From the day we opened our doors down to every day that we turn our lights on in the morning now, the faculty, staff, and students of the University of Iowa put the idea that we are the University for Iowa at the forefront of our minds and our work. Names like Macbride, Wood, Steindler, Engle, Aydelotte, and Van Allen have made Iowa’s public engagement star shine since the nineteenth century, and of course, there have been many, many more people, programs, and projects in the University of Iowa’s rich history who have made equally important contributions to the well-being of our state. I really have barely scratched the surface here. Today, tens of thousands of University for Iowa community members are following in that tradition as we speak, both in Iowa City as well as right in your hometown. We will never forget this legacy, and I know without question and with great pride that we will continue to foster and nurture engagement leaders far into the twenty-first century and beyond.

Thank you very much for the time you have shared with me and for your attention as I have shared the University for Iowa’s proud legacy of service and engagement with you today.