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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Sept. 22, 2006

Iowa State plans year-long birthday bash

by Samantha Beres

In March 22, 2008, Iowa State will be 150 years old. Why hear about it now, a year and a half prior? A big birthday calls for a big celebration. This sesquicentennial celebration is not just a cake and ice cream affair. It's a year's worth of activities, events and projects that will involve the entire university community. It begins with a big kickoff at Veishea, April 20-21, 2007.

Planners decided to capitalize on a long student tradition. Veishea, as most know, brings alumni and visitors from all over the state, and from other states, too. Along with the usual Veishea events that weekend, central campus will be peppered with tents set up by different units of Iowa State celebrating the Sesquicentennial. Many will offer interactive displays that showcase a department or a college. They might take a look back at the history, or a look forward.

"This celebration is not just about the past," said Tahira Hira, executive assistant to the president. "People will feel proud of the good fortune we've had in being one of the nation's leading land-grant institutions -- one that could offer education to everyone and help shape the country. But people will feel excited about the future of Iowa State, too."

Everyone involved

Part of the reason for a year-long celebration, Hira said, is to be sure everyone is included. Many of the 150th celebrations are incorporated into already existing activities throughout the year, such as Homecoming 2007 and Reiman Gardens displays. Some projects require a certain season.

To ensure everyone is involved, there is a 40-person implementation committee made up of faculty and staff who represent every department, unit, center (you name it) around campus.

"We want to involve all units, departments and colleges, all faculty, staff and students, as well as the citizens of the state who have contributed to ISU's many successes," said Paul Lasley, professor and chair of sociology. Lasley and Roger Baer, professor and chair of art and design, co-chair the implementation committee. Their efforts are being supported by Hira; University Marketing director Carole Custer and alumni association assistant director for outreach and events Breck Breitsprecher.

Reaching a statewide community

"The celebration is to acknowledge the contributions of the academy, to recognize the many achievements, to instill a sense of pride among all Iowans in recognizing the importance of ISU to the welfare of the state," Lasley said.

Iowa serves the state through extension offices in all 99 counties. Each county office will coordinate an ISU day in which extension personnel and others associated with the university will complete a service project during the summer of 2007.

The College of Design is developing a traveling exhibit that will promote the history of arts at Iowa State. The exhibit will visit several arts festivals across the state in the summer and fall of 2007.

Lasting impact

Many of the Sesquicentennial projects will have longevity. One that will have a long shelf life is a special edition history book, A Sesquicentennial History of Iowa State University: Tradition and Transformation, which currently is being published.

The last history book published about the university came out in 1942. This book will cover the early years, but emphasize 1940 to the present, covering topics such as student life and the changing landscape of Iowa State. Biographical sketches of former students, staff and faculty, placed between chapters, will add a personal side of Iowa State history.

The book is being written by 10 chapter authors. Volume editor is Dorothy Schwieder, professor emeritus of history, and executive editor is Gretchen Van Houten, former editorial director of Iowa State University Press.

Original artwork also will be part of the celebration. Sticks is a Des Moines company that takes words and art to create original pieces that are funky, artsy and tasteful. They will create a six-by-eight-foot work of art that will become part of the university's art collection. From that art, Sticks will develop commemorative posters, T-shirts and one-of-a-kind pieces such as plaques, mirrors and holiday ornaments.

"Their style is internationally recognized and we are very fortunate that Sticks will be our partner in this project," Custer said.

Reaching perhaps farther into the future will be a time capsule. The alumni association's Senior Class Council 2008 and the Class of 1958 will collect memorabilia and bury the capsule at the new alumni center in 2008.

The best way to keep up with new developments is to visit the Sesquicentennial Web site at: If you want to become involved, contact the implementation committee member who represents your area. The list is on the Web site.

Sesquicentenial Logo

A little history

You might wonder, just how did we pick our birthdate? We chose the date of Iowa State's founding -- March 22, 1858, when the State Agricultural College and Model Farm was chartered by the legislature. A 648-acre site in Story County was purchased for $5,379. The Farm House, the first building, went up in 1861. The first class of 28 men and two women entered Iowa State in 1869. The first graduation class was in 1872.