It’s time for our third installment of Notable Women of ISU! This time we’re going to take a look at physical education expert Barbara Forker. Some of you may know her only as the namesake of the Barbara E. Forker Building, or “Forker” as it’s commonly called. The building, originally the Physical Education for Women (PEW) Building, was renamed in her honor in 1997. Let’s shed some light on why this building was named after her.
Barbara Forker speaking at the Forker Building dedication, 1997. RS 10/7/13, Box 26, Folder 2
Born in 1920 in Kendallville, Indiana, Dr. Forker earned a B.S. (1942) from Eastern Michigan University, a M.S. (1950) from Iowa State College (University), and a Ph.D. (1957) from the University Michigan. Dr. Forker worked at Iowa State in some capacity from 1948 until her retirement in 1990, beginning as a temporary instructor and eventually becoming Emeritus Professor. She served as Head of the Women’s Physical Education Department from 1958-1974, and was the first Head of the Department of Physical Education (the men’s and women’s departments combined) from 1974-1986.
Barbara Forker, 1955. University Photographs, RS 10/7/A, Box 782
Throughout her career, Dr. Forker was active in many organizations and projects. She served as advisor for NAIADS (synchronized swimming team at Iowa State) and “I” Fraternity (honorary for outstanding women athletes). She was president of the Iowa Association of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (IAHPER), the Central District Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (CDAHPER), and the American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (AAHPER). She was active in several other organizations as well, and was a member of three professional fraternities.
Barbara Forker and President Gerald Ford, signed by President Ford, circa 1977. RS 10/7/13, Box 25, Folder 2
In addition to presenting over 100 speeches and receiving several awards for her work, Dr. Forker notably worked with the United States Olympics from 1975-1984. She was a member of the President’s Commission on Olympic Sports and in 1977 served as a United States Delegate in the Second Educationists Session at the International Olympic Academy. From 1980 to 1984, she was a member of the United States Olympic Committee Executive Board and the United States Olympic Committee Education Council. In her last year with the Olympics, she was Chairman of the United States Olympic Committee Symposium at the Pre-Olympic Scientific Congress.
For more information about Dr. Forker and her impressive career, come in and have a look at the Barbara Ellen Forker Papers, RS 10/7/13. A couple other items of interest are this online feature from Iowa State University’s sesquicentennial celebration and this Women’s History Month blog post we did four years ago. Stop by sometime!