Student Life at Iowa State and After: Alumni Papers at the University Archives

Commencement 1936

Commencement 1936

With Commencement taking place a few weeks ago, and orientation beginning this week, Iowa State has been experiencing both the beginning and ending stages of a student’s life here on campus.  As an archivist, we might wonder how many of these Iowa Staters are carefully saving records documenting their experiences here at Iowa State?  How many of those pictured above in the 1936 Commencement carefully saved those dance cards, VEISHEA programs, photographs of fellow students, and other memorabilia from their life here at Iowa State?

The University Archives receives the papers of former Iowa State students on an annual basis, and each documents their experiences here at Iowa State, and sometimes their life after, in different ways.  Below are brief summaries of just a few alumni collections which we have either received recently, or which we have recently put the finding aids for their collections online. The collections cover a variety of topics including student life at Iowa State, 4-H, the temperance movement, and service during World War I.

Austin Robert (Bob) Koch (1915-2008) was born near Ida Grove, Iowa. A. Robert Koch received his B.S. (1940) in agronomy from Iowa State College (University). He later worked for the United States Department of Agriculture for 33 years in various supervisory positions within the Farm Security Administration, later known as the Farmers Home Administration. This collection contains biographical information, college coursework, photographs, and class reunion materials for the Iowa State class of 1940. Koch’s college coursework includes reports, notes, and exams in botany, geology, crop breeding, animal husbandry, soil science, and bacteriology.  The finding aid for his papers can be found online:


A Golden Diploma given to Austin Robert Koch in 1990 by the ISU Alumni Association “in recognition of many years as a loyal alumnus of Iowa State University”.

Susan Carberry Drtina was born in 1957 and raised in Newhall, Iowa. She joined 4-H as a member of the Eldorado-Ettes and, later, the Eldorado Early Birds in Benton County. This collection includes Drtina’s 4-H record book and other memorabilia documenting her time as a member of the Eldorado Early Birds 4-H Club. The finding aid for her papers can be found online:


Drtina’s Benton County 4-H Home Economics blue ribbon (first place) (RS 21/7/243).

Della Neal was born on November 22, 1862 in Hamilton, Pennsylvania. She earned her B.S. (1882) from Iowa Agricultural College (Iowa State University). Neal eventually completed training in nursing and became active in the state and national temperance movement. This collection includes some of Neal’s writings, including college course work and writings on the temperance movement.  The finding aid for her papers can be found online:

21-7-28 neal

A letter noting the influence of young girls on young men.

R. E. McCurdy was born in Cass County, Iowa on Octber 15, 1887. He received his undergraduate education from Iowa State College (University), graduating with a B.S. (1916) in civil engineering. These reminiscences were written by McCurdy and describe events as they unfolded in his life, including his service in World War I. McCurdy also writes about his many engineering jobs that took him around the world.  The finding aid for his papers can be found online:


The first page of McCurdy’s reminiscences in which he describes his first memory, the morning of his third birthday.

Virgil D. Kirby of Sioux City, Iowa, was born in 1895. He received his B.S. (1917) in mechanical engineering from Iowa State College (University). As a student, he was a member of the Colonials (Theta Delta Chi), the Delphian Literary Society, and the Mechanical Engineering Society. This college scrapbook (1913-1917) was compiled by Kirby while at Iowa State. The scrapbook contains 222 black and white photographs, campus postcards, dance cards, and other college memorabilia. There are a significant number of images of classmates, fraternity brothers, and the interior and exterior of the Colonials’ fraternity house at 217 Ash Avenue. Other materials include picture postcards of campus buildings and scenery, football team photographs, homecoming souvenirs, literary society programs, picture postcards of St. Patrick’s Day parades, and several photographs of the band on the field at the University of Nebraska football stadium.  The finding aid for her collection can be found online:


Two 1926 postcards from Ames and London. Catt Hall (in 1926 known as Botany Hall) can be seen in the top postcard.

Mary E. (Graf) Speer was born and educated in Elkader, Iowa. She received her B.S. (1946) in food and nutrition from Iowa State College (University) and became a consulting dietitian with small hospitals and nursing facilities throughout Central Iowa. This collection consists of loose scrapbook pages of memorabilia compiled by Speer during her college years at Iowa State. These materials include newspaper clippings, dance cards, athletic programs, concert programs, VEISHEA programs, Frisbie Fellowship Club materials, travel brochures, and her membership certificate for joining Sigma Eta Chi. The newspaper clippings cover various topics including student life, women’s fashion trends, the integration of blacks into Big 6 athletic competitions, and World War II. The finding aid for her collection can be found online:


Mary E. Speer’s 1946 senior prom dance card (RS 21/7/250)

Interested in seeing more of the alumni papers above, or perhaps other papers of Iowa State alumni we might hold?  Please feel free to visit our department on the fourth floor of Parks Library (M-F, 10-4).  Additional alumni papers held by the University Archives can be found listed here:

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