ISU & UFOs: Two Alumni Who Shaped 1960s UFO Study

The June 2021 intelligence report to Congress on UFO sightings (now referred to as “unidentified aerial phenomenon” or UAPs) has revived interest in a topic that, since the 1960s, had been relegated almost exclusively to the realm of science fiction and presumed delusion. And this revival has raised questions. If such sightings have indeed been so common, and so well documented by sources as reliable as the US military, and the technology they display does indeed pose a security threat, particularly given UAPs’ unknown origins (are they spyware from China or Russia? are they truly visitors from another world? who knows?), then what has prevented us, as a nation, from studying or discussing them in any serious manner for so long?

Interestingly, two ISU alumni from the 1950s might have been able to answer some of these questions. Both were involved in shaping the conversations that we have (and haven’t) been having about UFOs/UAPs for the past half-a-century.

James E. McDonald, circa 1950, University Photograph Collection, RS 13/20/A, box 1178
I was unable to locate a headshot of Craig, but this photo of a 1948 chemistry lab in Chemistry Hall (renamed Gilman Hall in 1973) gives a sense of the environment in which he would have completed some of his work as student. University Photograph Collection, RS 13/6/F, box 1052

Both Roy Craig and James Edward McDonald received their undergraduate degrees elsewhere (and McDonald served as a lieutenant in the navy during World War II) before completing their PhDs, within a year of each other, at Iowa State. They would likely not have crossed paths at ISU, however, as they studied with different departments. Craig, class of 1952, completed a PhD in Physical Chemistry (see his dissertation in the ISU Digital Repository here), while McDonald, class of 1951, completed his PhD in Physics (see his dissertation in the ISU Digital Repository here).

A mixture of typed information fields and hand-written answers cover the entirety of the form. They read as follows:
Personnel File
Information Services
Morrill Hall
Iowa State College
Date: 6/26/51
Name: McDonald, James Edward
Position on Staff (Title): Research Assistant Professor
Place of Birth: Duluth, Minn.
Date of Birth: May 7, 1920
Education (degrees, dates and places conferred):
B.A. 1944 University of Omaha
M.S. 1945 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
PhD. 1951 Iowa State College
Date of appointment to Iowa State College staff: Jan. 1946
Date of appointment to present position: Jan 1950
Previous positions on Iowa State College Staff, and approximate dates of each: Instructor 1946-1949. Asst. Proff. 1950.
Positions held prior to Iowa State appointment, and approximate dates of each: U.S. Navy 1942-1945.
Leaves granted to serve other institutions, government projects, foreign missions, or like. (approximate dates): None.
If research worker, your field of specialization: Meteorology (micro-meteorology, cloud physics)
Outstanding accomplishments or results of your research work: -
Membership in honorary or professional groups, offices held: Sigma [illegible], American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union.
Membership in other national organizations, offices held: United World Federalists, Am. Civil Liberties Union, Am. Veterans Committee
Part of McDonald’s personnel file from his time as an Assistant Professor at Iowa State, right after he graduated from his PhD program. RS 13/20/2 Box 2, Folder 48.
Handwritten text in the top left-hand corner of the document reads "Iowa SC AL ISC-309." A black inked stamp in the right-hand corner of the document reads "The John Hopkins University." Crossing over this text, a red inked stamp reads, "Withdrawn from the John Hopkins University Libraries."
The text of the tile page itself reads as follows:
United States Atomic Energy Commission
Absorption of Aliphatic Alcohols and Acids from Binary Aqueous Solution by Non-Porous Carbons.
Roy P. Craig
Rober S. Hansen
March 1953
Ames Laboratory
Technical Information Service, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
The front page of an Ames Lab report that Craig co-authored during his time at Iowa State. RS 12/1/0/5 Box 2, File 30.

Our collections do not contain extensive documentation of either scientist’s time at Iowa State, but we do have a letter/memo providing notice of McDonald’s resignation, when he moved on to a more prestigious appointment at the University of Arizona in 1954, along with a typed draft of a research paper he wrote.

Text of this memo reads as follows:
For release Tuesday, March 23, 1954.
Information Service, Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa.
ISC Accepts Resignations of Three Staff Members.
Ames, Iowa, March 23 -- Resignations of three members of the faculty of Iowa State College have been accepted by the State Board of Education.
Dr. James E. McDonald, assistant professor of physics, has resigned to accept a position as associate director of the Cloud Physics Project and associate professor at the University of Arizona. He will be engaged in a project which seeks more rainfall for the state of Arizona.
J.T. Miles, assistant professor of animal husbandry (dairy husbandry) leaves to join the staff at Mississippi State College, and Saul Altshuler, associate in physics also leaves the ISC staff.
- 1954 -
McDonald’s resignation letter from Iowa State College, 1954. RS 13/20/2 Box 2, Folder 48.
Pencil markings at the top of the page read, "April, 1959. File of J. E. McDonald."
Text, presumably typed on a typewriter, below this reads as follows:
McDonald - Physics
Research on shape of raindrops

Is a raindrop streamlined?
The answer to this rather curious question would be in the affirmative if one could accept the conventional notion of a raindrop as being nicely rounded on its lower surface and tapering to a sharp upper point. However, this common conception of the shape of raindrops is quite incorrect, as it has been proved by taking photographs of freely falling drops using very high illumination and exceedingly short exposure times. Such photographs have revealed that large raindrops have a quite nonstreamlined form, flattened on the bottom and smoothly rounded, not pointed, above. No aerodynamicist would ever design such a shape if he wanted to cut down air resistance.
To understand why drops become so oddly deformed is of considerable interest in connection with he process of rain formation, both natural and artificial, and is also closely related to some problems in thunderstorm electricity; but the exact reason why big raindrops assume their characteristic shape has been a puzzle for some time. Dr. J. E. McDonald, a member of the Department of Physics of Iowa State College, has been studying this and certain other problems in cloud physics during the past year with the support of the Office of Naval Research. He has found that each individual raindrop that falls during a shower is the seat of some surprisingly complex physical processes.
First of all, the phenomenon of surface tension, which makes a liquid surface behave rather like an elastic membrane, would tend to pull a raindrop into a perfectly spherical shape if no other forces acted on the drop. In the case of a very tiny drizzle . . . [here the text on the first page cuts off]
Draft of a research project authored by McDonald. RS 13/20/2 Box 2, Folder 48.

It is unclear exactly what career path Roy Craig took immediately following graduation. However, he was shortly thereafter recruited to the famous government Colorado Project, also known as “The Condon Committee”, by Edward Condon himself to serve as chief field investigator of UFO sightings and reports, which had already been pouring in from numerous sources for decades. The Colorado Project, founded in 1966, constituted the final stage of Project Blue Book , a study created by the United States Air Force in 1947 (perhaps not coincidentally the same year as the mysterious and much-mythologized “Roswell Incident” had occurred) and which had sought, not only to investigate the validity and/or cause of UFO sightings themselves, but to assess any potential national security threat posed by these incidents.

Craig, while reportedly fascinated by the concept of UFOs and their potential to open the public imagination, maintained a firmly skeptical position on their extraterrestrial origins throughout his time with the project. Indeed, his influence at the helm of this committee may have been among the factors that closed the project so quickly. In 1969, he and his fellow investigators released the Condon Report, concluding that there was nothing to be gained from further study on this topic, which led the Air Force to close the project on December 17th of that same year.

ISU’s SCUA unfortunately does not hold any of Craig’s professional papers from his time spent researching UFOs, but Texas A&M University does, and the finding aid for this collection can be found here. Craig also authored a book about his experience working with The Colorado Project in 1995, entitled UFOs: An Insider’s View of the Official Quest for Evidence. It is still in print, and copies can be accessed through Parks Library General Collection TL79 .C86 1995 (see the catalog entry and online version access here).

Cover of Roy Craig's book entitled "UFOs: An Insider's View of the Official Quest for Evidence." The cover is blue and yellow, overlaid with black line drawings of speeding aircrafts and an official-looking license that names Roy Craig a member of the "unidentified Flying Objects Project." Cover of Roy Craig’s book. Link redirects to University of North Texas Press, where it was published.

What Craig and several of his colleagues seemed to view as an open-and-shut case, however, was, in fact, hotly contested amongst the scientific community of his day even before the Condon Report officially dismissed the concept of UFOs’ extraterrestrial origin. And none other than fellow Iowa State alum James. E. McDonald, then a physicist at the University of Arizona, made a name for himself in the public eye by criticizing the Condon Committee’s methods and findings.

According to the July 26, 1968 issue of Science magazine (Vol. 161, No. 3839, pp. 339-342, article accessible via JSTOR at the following link), McDonald was, at that time, also a full-time UFO investigator and had, in conjunction with Air Force chief UFO consultant J. Allen Hynek, expressed concern directly to the National Academy of Sciences in April 1967 about (unspecified)evidence that the Colorado project had and had not taken into account. While the Science article quotes Edward Condon as claiming that “McDonald doesn’t know a damn thing about what we’ve done,” two of Condon’s own Colorado project team members, David R. Saunders and Norman E. Levine, seem to have sided with McDonald’s criticisms and were fired shortly after the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) caught wind of the objections McDonald and Hynek had raised.

A follow up article in Science’s January 17, 1969 issue (Vol. 163, No. 3864, pp. 260-262, JSTOR access available here), which was written after the release of the Condon Report, suggests that Saunders, at least, continued actively publishing criticism of the project even after he was fired from it. His 1968 book UFOs? Yes! Where the Condon Committee Went Wrong is also still available, and its entry in WorldCat indicates that UI, UNI, and Drake all hold copies in their general collections that ISU students could request through interlibrary loan, if interested.

Even more curiously, though, James E. McDonald was found dead in the middle of the desert, north of Tucson, Arizona, in June of 1971, less than two years after the Condon Report had been released and the Colorado project had been closed. The local press coverage of his death (of which we have a photocopy in McDonald’s alumni files, see image below) states that authorities named the cause as “apparent suicide,” which conclusion, at least in my mind, raises more questions than it answers. If nothing else, possibilities for cinematic plotlines abound.

Photocopy of an article from a newspaper called the Tuscan Daily Citizen, Tucson, Arizona, Monday, June 14, 1971. The headline is "UA Physicist Found Dead in Desert." The text of the article reads as follows.
James E. Mcdonald, 51, a scientific voice in the wilderness on controversial issues ranging from UFO to SST, was found dead in a desert area north of Tucson yesterday.
[handwritten in red pen, someone has added the date June 13, 1971].
McDonald, of 3461 E. 3rd St., was a senior physicist specializing in clouds at the University of Arizona's Institute of Atmosphereic Physics.
His death was apparently a suicide, according to sheriff's deputies. An autopsy was performed, but no report was immediately availab.e
Sheriff Waldon V. Burr said a note and a .38 revolver were found beside the body. There was a bullet wound in the head.
Frank Flores, of 127 E. Lee St., told investigators that he and his children were hiking about noon yesterday when they found the body at Caonyon del Oro near Ina Road on Interstate 10.
McDonald reportedly left the Veterans Administration Hospital on South 6th Avenue, where he was being treated for visual problems, yesterday morning by taxi.
McDonald was blinded when he shot himself in the head on April 9, according to police reports, but only last week he began going to his office several hours a day.
Mcdonald came to the UA in 1954 after serving as a research physicist at the University of Chicago. His doctorate was from Iowa State.
UA President Richard A. Harvill said that McDonald was an "exceptionally able teacher" and "well-known throughout the United States as a brilliant scholar."
[there is inserted a headshot of Mcdonald captioned with his name].
Louis J. Battan, associate director of Institute of Atmospheric Physics, said that during the past 10 years McDonald made many important contributions to the advancement of cloud physics and weather modification research.
A member of the National Academy of Sciences, McDonald jumped into the national spotlight with his stand on unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
McDonald was bluntly outspoken in his opposition to the Air Forces' so-called "Condon Report," in which most UFO sightings were linked to satellites, balloons, clouds, birds and other explainable objects. The report was named for Dr. Edward U. Condon, who conducted the study for the Air Force.
After the Condon Report was issued in 1969, McDonald embarked on a speaking crusade against it.
He said the Condon Report was not a high-caliber scientific study.
McDonald's criticism of the report and the Air Force explanations of the UFOs was based on several years' study in which he concluded that UFOs were real -- and probably extraterrestrial -- surveillance craft.
Nor di McDonald confine his dissent to UFOs.
He was active most recently against the SST, branding the project "socially insane." He suggested that chemical reactions to exhausts from a fleet of SSTs could cause 10,000 new cases of skin cancer a year.
In the early 1960s, McDonald accused the Air Force of making mistakes in the location of Titan intercontinental missile sites around Tuscon.
McDonald and the committee he formed among Tusconians reasoned that the missile sites would become prime targets, and prevailing winds from west to west could expose thousands to nuclear fallout.
The group suggested that the titan sites all be placed to the east of Tucson.
Like so many of McDonald's battles, he lost. The Air Force stuck to its original plan and Tucson was ringed with 18 Titan missile sites.
Happily, in the decade since, McDonald's theory on nuclear fallout has never been tested.
Alumni Files, RS 21/7/1

Roy Craig, on the other hand, did not pass away until 2004, when he lost a battle with cancer. You can read the online version of the Iowa State Daily article here, or see the first page of a print-out version imaged below.

Photocopy of a print-friendly format of an Iowa State Daily article (linked above) from March 24, 2004, entitled "UFO investigator, ISU alumnus dead" by Scott Rank.
Alumni Files, RS 21/7/1

As is frequently the case with fascinating historical mysteries, we may never know the full truth of what the Condon Committee did or did not discover, or did or did not obscure. But we do know that the voices and perspectives of these two Iowa State alumni played a critical role in shaping, not only the current mythology of UFOs, alien contact, and secret government conspiracies in the public’s imagination, but also two sides of an ongoing conversation about what is and is not worth the application of scientific study, military resources, and the attention of everyday citizens so barraged with information (and so frequently lacking information literacy) that we already scarcely know who or what to believe, or why.

#WomensHistoryMonth: Female STEM Heroes of World War II

World War II proved an age of female empowerment on the homefront, as women kept the world running by stepping up to fill both jobs and societal roles traditionally held by men while the men were off at war. The same principle held true for education, and ISU (Iowa State College at the time) was not the only co-ed college in the country where female students temporarily outnumbered their male counterparts. The majority of these women still veered towards liberal arts and home economics majors, but a large number also waded into the hard sciences. Many of them discovered that they possessed an untapped talent for STEM research. Below are a handful of examples.


Senior Portrait.1941.pg48
Senior Portrait of Beatrice Bruner. Bomb Yearbook 1941, pg. 48

Beatrice Bruner Dowd (1924-1998), a native of Rolfe, Iowa, graduated from Iowa State College with her B.S. in Mathematics in 1941. She was very active in clubs and societies, and she also saved a great deal of correspondence from her time in school, where it appears she was well-loved and had many friends.

Box 5 Folder 7.a
Letter from a college friend. RS 21/7/117 Box 5, Folder 7

Letter from a college friend. RS 21/7/117 Box 5, Folder 7.

Such letters are always interesting to peruse, because they reveal glimpses of life on campus at the time, above and beyond the education and career of the individual. Price changes in particular catch my attention. For example, did you know that Beatrice paid only a $5.00 deposit on her dorm room in 1940? With inflation taken into account, that’s about $90 in today’s currency. And one of her friends wrote that she was worried about having already spent $0.20 (equivalent to about $3.60 today) at the Union for her meals that morning – that it was so difficult to keep one’s daily expenses under $0.60 (about $10.80 today).

Box 5 Folder 7. deposit slip
Room Deposit Slip. RS 21/7/117 Box 5, Folder 7.

It is unclear who, if anyone, might have encouraged Beatrice to pursue mathematics, but her college friends’ letters reference her aptitude in STEM subjects, particularly physics, several times.

In 1943, after graduation, Beatrice joined the Navy, whereupon she was assigned to study meteorology at the University of California at Los Angeles so she could work as a Naval Weather Forecaster. Her papers contain her notes (and some doodles) from various courses she took at UCLA.

KIC Image 0003.box3
Beatrice’s notes from a course on tropical meteorology. RS 21/7/117 Box 3, Folder 15.

KIC Image 0004.box3
It is unclear why Dowd saved this amusing doodle on her weather maps from school, or whether she or a friend drew it. But it is certainly unique. RS 21/7/117 Box 3, Folder 15.

Her papers also include procedural documents and training materials from the Navy. Some of these employ humor as a memory aid, as is the case with the cartoons below. Researchers who would like to peruse the full collection of training cartoons, however, should be aware that some of these contain racist depictions of Japanese military personnel. 

KIC Image 0008.box3
United States Naval Training Division’s Humorous Training Cards and Famous Last Lines. RS 21/7/117 Box 3, Folder 16.

KIC Image 0009.box3
United States Naval Training Division’s Humorous Training Cards and Famous Last Lines. RS 21/7/117 Box 3, Folder 16.

After the war, Beatrice worked for a company called Sylvania Electronic Products (later known as GTE Government Systems), where she eventually became the Engineering Department Manager before retiring in 1986. Curiously, she also belonged to a group known as the Association of Old Crows (AOC), begun in the 1960s by veterans who had worked as Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) officers in World War II, disrupting enemy communications and radars. The group exists to this day, creating symposiums and journals to educate the public about electronic warfare.

AOC Certificate
Association of Old Crows Certificate. RS 21/7/117 Box 8.


Hilda S. White (1953-1997) received her Ph.D. from Iowa State after earning her bachelors in Chemistry from Bethany College, West Virginia, in 1942.

KIC Image 0005
Excerpt from an autobiographical note by Hilda S. White. RS 21/7/109 Box 1, Folder 2.

While a grad student at Iowa State, she met her future husband, Phil White, who went on to earn his D.Sc. at Harvard, where both he and Hilda were employed as biochemists in the Department of Food and Nutrition for about two years.

Immediately following this, Phil’s program at Harvard sent him to Lima, Peru to perform analysis on food consumption in that country, and Hilda accompanied him. It is unclear precisely what her role in the expedition was, as even her own subsequent write-up of the trip centers around her husband’s job and paints her own experience primarily as that of a housewife, referencing the birth of her first child (which would undoubtedly have consumed much of her time!).

KIC Image 0004
Excerpt from a report on her time in Peru. RS 21/7/109 Box 1, Folder 1.

But she was also, it seems, performing research connected to the project simultaneously, publishing papers in professional journals, and receiving her own salary from Harvard.

KIC Image 0002
Research published during Phil and Hilda’s time in Peru. RS 21/7/109 Box 1, Folder 1.

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Research published during Phil and Hilda’s time in Peru. RS 21/7/109 Box 1, Folder 1.

When they returned home in 1953, Phil joined the staff of the American Medical Association in Chicago. The chair of the organization was in the process of looking for a qualified candidate to teach Nutrition at the Home Economics department for Northwestern University at the time, and Phil recommended Hilda, who got the job. She taught there until 1973, when the department dissolved.

While at Northwestern, Hilda continued to perform and publish research, this time on “Inorganic Elements in Weighed Diets of Girls and Young Women” and “Utilization of Inorganic Elements by Young Women Eating Iron-Fortified Foods.” She eventually went on to work at the Chicago Nutrition Association and the journal board of the American Dietetic Association.

KIC Image 0003
Excerpt from Hilda S. White’s published research. RS 21/7/109 Box 1, Folder 1.

Although her the status of her work was so frequently downplayed in favor of her husband’s, it is clear that she made major contributions to her field in her own right.


KIC Document 0001_Page_1_Image_0001
Undergraduate Senior Portrait of Darleane Christian. Bomb Yearbook 1948, pg. 24.

Darleane C. Hoffman (1947-2011), nuclear chemist, might be the most well-known of the alumni featured in this post.

She received both of her degrees from ISU: a B.S. in Chemistry in 1948 and a Ph.D. in Physical (Nuclear) Chemistry in 1951. Her biographical web page for the Women in Technology Hall of Fame (WITI), into which she was inducted in 2000, notes that she had not originally intended to study science at all. She had arrived at Iowa State intending to pursue a career as a commercial artist. However, according to the write-up, the influence of an unnamed female professor in one of her freshman courses peaked her interest in STEM fields, and she decided to switch her focus to chemistry.

Darleane’s notes from Chemistry 512 – Advanced Quantitiative Analysis, a class she took in the Spring of 1949. RS 21/7/100 Box 13, Folder 3.

After graduating with a specialization in nuclear and radiochemistry (interests which would later make her famous), she applied for a job with the radiochemistry group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory only to be told, “We don’t hire women in that division.” Perhaps simply to prove she could, she continued applying to this institute until she landed a position in their Isotope and Nuclear Chemistry division, where she quickly took on leadership roles and worked for 30 years.

During this period of her life, in the 1960s, she also raised two children and would reportedly return to work each night after putting the children to bed.

In the 1970s, while serving as the Division Leader for the Isotope and Nuclear Chemistry division, Darleane discovered a naturally-occurring form of an element called plutonium-244, which scientists had previously believed to be a manufactured substance that existed only in laboratories.

Her group also performed the world’s first aqueous chemistry on hathnium, element 105, around this time.

And these discoveries led to even more innovation once she had accepted a professorship at University of California Berkeley’s Department of Chemistry. In collaboration with European scientists, the groups she led at UCLA discovered the first super-heavy elements, 118, 116, and 114. These became the focal point of her studies in later years.

Among other honors, Darleane received the University of California Berkeley Citation of Merit in 1996, the President’s National Medal of Science in 1997, and the Priestley Medal (the highest honor conferred by the American Chemical Society) in 2000.

National Medal
Ephemera surrounding Hoffman’s reception of the National Medal of Science in 1997. RS 21/7/100 Box 17, Folder 8.


We are immensely proud of these alumni here at ISU, and we hope their stories will inspire current students. If you would like to learn more about any of these scientists, feel free to visit the archives and browse through their papers.

Poster. RS 21/7/100 Box 1, Folder 1.

#TBT Iowa State’s 1872 Commencement

An estimated 5,047 students are graduating from Iowa State this semester, and many of them will participate in Commencement this weekend. So, in honor of this year’s ceremonies, this #TBT post will be about Iowa State University’s first Commencement in 1872.

Below is the 1872 Commencement program (RS 7/9/4/1).

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Fun Facts

  • The first Commencement took place in November!
  • 26 students graduated in the first class.
  • 2 of the graduates were women.
  • Commencement took place at West House in Ames, which was Ames’ first hotel.
  • President Welch’s first commencement address is available online thanks to the University Library Digital Initiatives.

Below are some proofs from our University Photographs (box 1547). I believe the final product is the image included at the end of this post. It may seem weird that I’m including proofs. But I’m an archivist and, to me, the unpublished stuff is the good stuff.

This collection of photographs (below) of 1872 Iowa State Graduates was given to the Alumni Association in June 1957 by the only living 1872 alumni, J.C. Arthur and Henry L. Page, when they returned to campus for the 65th anniversary of their graduation.

Individual portraits of 26 members of Iowa State Class of 1872, 24 men and 2 women.
Bottom right: “This collection of photographs of all members of the class of Eighteen Seventy-Two was presented to the Alumni Association June 1957 by J.C. Arthur and Henry L. Page on the occasion of the sixty-fifth anniversary of their graduation. The only two living members of the class, Doctor Arthur and Mr. Page returned to the College for the celebration of the sixty-fifth anniversary of their graduation.” (University Photographs box 1547).

Behind the Scenes – Homecoming 2016

Have you ever wondered what it takes to put together a pop-up exhibit? Last Friday, Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA) exhibited about two dozen items for three hours for Iowa State’s Homecoming. The temporary exhibit was open to the public, but our focus was alumni visiting for Homecoming. Today’s post is about our process.

Dry Run

Back in mid-August, we invited the Alumni Center to drop by and see what items we thought we’d include in the October Homecoming exhibit. This dry run entailed staff from the department brainstorming on what items would be best to put on exhibit and what order they should be displayed. Labels were made and the classroom was rearranged into an exhibit space. Heather Botine, Associate Director for Constituent Engagement, dropped by and gave us feedback on how we set the room up and what kinds of materials may engage alumni more. We also discussed what reproductions SCUA could provide for digital display over at the Alumni Center.

Heather Botine, Associate Director for Constituent Engagement, looks at our oldest book with Amy Bishop, Rare Book and Manuscripts Archivist. University Archivist, Brad Kuennen, and Collections Archivist, Laura Sullivan, in background.
Heather Botine, Associate Director for Constituent Engagement, looks at our oldest book with Amy Bishop, Rare Book and Manuscripts Archivist. University Archivist, Brad Kuennen, and Collections Archivist, Laura Sullivan, in background (Photo by Rachel Seale)

Two weeks out

We made sure to promote our Homecoming event in the library and in our social media. We enlisted the help of Monica Gillen, the Communication Specialist for the library, and Jody Kalvik, Instruction, Program Coordinator. Monica helped get the word out and Jody designed flyers, posters, a banner, and our signage.

The week before before Homecoming

We did one last practice run. We tweaked our list of items on display and took into account Heather’s set-up advice. We also invited Sonya Barron, Conservator, to drop by. Sonya ensured our items were sturdy enough to display, offered to provide mounts, and advised us how to safely display materials. We also made final decisions on what would be in the temporary exhibit and what order we wanted to display items, there was some rearrangement.  Pictures were taken of materials so we’d know how to set up the following week.

Two of our rare books propped up in book cradles (Photo b Rachel Seale)
Two of our rare books propped up in book cradles (Photo by Rachel Seale)

The week of Homecoming

Now that we had our exhibit finalists, we had to finish drafting and mounting the labels.

Friday of Homecoming!

We spent the morning setting up and our doors opened at 1 pm. We were so pleased at the opportunity to show off our treasures.

Thank you to everyone who visited us last Friday at 405 Parks Library. To those that missed seeing our treasures on display, drop by and see us sometime. We’re open from 9-5, Monday-Friday.

#Flashback Friday – Cycles vs. Spartans @CycloneATH @isualum

Tomorrow the Cyclones play the Spartans for the 4th time.

The first game between the two teams was in 1958 and the last game was in 1980. Check out the series information from our 2008 ISU Football Media Guide.

Series record for San Jose State from 2008 ISU Football Media Guide: 3 games, Series record 3-0-0, at Jack Trice Stadium ISU leads 1-0-0; at San Jose State ISU leads 1-0-0, 1958 away game ISU won 9-6, 1959 home game ISU won 55-0, and 1980 home game, ISU won 27-6.
Series record for San Jose State from 2008 ISU Football Media Guide (RS 24/6/0/6 box 5, folder 6)


Here’s an article about the 1959 game from the 1959 Bomb:

Cropped page from the 1959 Bomb, ISU Yearbook, describes ISU & San Jose State game. ISU won 9 to 6. "Coach Clay Stapletons players wrote the final chapter to their season by taking control in the second half, coming from behind and defeating the San Jose Spartans, 9-6. Bob Harden, playing the last game of his collegiate career, led the attack by totaling 70 yards in an early third quarter drive. Cliff Ricks conversion gave the Cyclones a one-point lead. The Iowa State fury exploded before the California crowd of 11,000; and a Spartan fumble in Iowa States end zone, recovered by the Cyclone score. Moe Nichols and Bob Harden accounted for 145 and 118 yards respectively, which the Cyclones gained on the ground while reducing the passing average per game for the Spartans from 183 to yr yards. Photogrpah caption: "And Going in for the Cycylones ... But wait! A new rule, enforcing a two-substitutions-per-quarter-per-man rule, required players to sign in with officials before entering the game."
Cropped page 382 from the 1959 Bomb, ISU Yearbook, summarizing the Iowa State San Jose State game.


Drop by the SCUA Reading Room to dig up more football facts & trivia. We’re open Monday-Friday, from 9-5.

Go Cyclones!

Alpha Zeta Fraternity at Iowa State #TBT

Alpha Zeta fraternity in front of Agricultural Hall (now named Catt Hall) on steps. This photograph was taken on May 23, 1927.

(University Photographs box 1627)
(University Photographs box 1627)

Charles W. Burkett and John F. Cunningham, students in the College of Agriculture at the Ohio State University, founded the Fraternity of Alpha Zeta November 4, 1897. Alpha Zeta is a professional, service, and honorary agricultural fraternity for men and women in agriculture seeking to develop leadership skills to benefit agriculture, life sciences, and related fields. There are over 100,000 members worldwide.

Drop by the reading room and review the Alpha Zeta Wilson Chapter (Iowa State University) Records. We’re open from 10 -4, Monday-Friday.

Alumni Spotlight: Fan-Chi Kung (1926)

Fan-Chi Kung studying in his room, undated. (RS 21/7/49)
Fan-Chi Kung studying in his room, undated. (RS 21/7/49)

Here in Special Collections we have a number of alumni scrapbooks and photograph albums. These materials provide insight to what it was like to be a student at Iowa State University across the decades. Fan-Chi Kung was a Horticulture student (B.S. 1926) originally from Beijing (then Peking). His scrapbook is full of pictures of himself and friends both on campus, around Ames, and travels around the United States.

“Days at Ames” – Fan-Chi Kung and friends posing in front of a house, possibly 410 Welch Avenue. (RS 21/7/49, undated)

Chinese students currently comprise about half of the international student population at ISU. Enrollment and admission statistics were not kept for international students during the time Kung attended, but we do know that ISU’s chapter of the Cosmopolitan Club started forming in 1907. The “Cosmo Club,” as it was known colloquially, was founded to “encourage friendship, respect and understanding among men and women of all nationalities.”

Cosmopolitan Club, 1924. (University Photographs RS 22/3, box 1617) [Bonus: there's some remnants of
Cosmopolitan Club, 1924. (University Photographs RS 22/3, box 1617)[Bonus: there’s some remnants of “Beat Drake” graffiti on the columns behind the group]
While at ISU, Kung was President of the Cosmopolitan Club and President of the Ames Chinese Students’ Club. He held international service roles as Secretary of the Chinese Association for Advancement of Science, American Branch, and the Agriculture Society of China, American Branch.

Kung was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1929. He is buried in the Iowa State University Cemetery. His grave marker reads “Above all nations is humanity,” the motto of the Cosmopolitan Club.

Cutting and pasting: alumni scrapbooks

A trip to your local craft store will tell you that scrapbooking is a popular American activity. But this is not just a recent phenomenon. In fact, scrapbooking has been popular for the last century or more, and this is made evident by the number of alumni scrapbooks we have here in the University Archives.

Scrapbooks provide a unique window into the history and culture of a time period. They save many of the things that would otherwise be lost to time, such as newspaper clippings, dance cards, theatre programs, and flyers. Early 20th century Iowa State College students, like many of their cohort around the country, kept scrapbooks to capture their experiences and memories of the fun times they spent outside of classes.

Pages from the Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81, showing dance cards and sports score charts, circa 1913-1919.
Pages from the Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81, showing dance cards and sports score charts, circa 1913-1919.

Scrapbooks also capture the larger historical and cultural environment in which the individuals lived out their lives, such as the scrapbook below from Mary (Graf) Speer, who attended Iowa State College in the 1940s. The first page of her scrapbook includes a newspaper front page headline proclaiming victory in Europe during World War II–obviously a huge concern to the students of the day, who had friends and family members fighting both in Europe and in the Pacific Theater.

From Mary E. (Graf) Speer Scrapbook, RS 21/7/250, 1945.
From Mary E. (Graf) Speer Scrapbook, RS 21/7/250, 1945.

Raymond T. Benson’s scrapbook from World War I documents the military activity on campus.

Page from Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81.
Page from Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81.

Scrapbooks also present unique challenges to archivists in terms of storage and preservation. Because scrapbooks often contain 3 dimensional objects, this can strain the binding, as with Raymond T. Benson’s Scrapbook below.

Cover of Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81.
Cover of Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81.

While the photograph above shows a scrapbook placed in a box to protect it, other scrapbooks required more extensive housing treatments. Mary Graf Speer’s scrapbook came to the archives missing a cover, so spacers were placed inside the box to keep the individual pages together, while some material was removed to a separate folder.

Mary E. (Graf) Speer Scrapbook, RS 21/7/250, in box with spacers and separated material in folder.
Mary E. (Graf) Speer Scrapbook, RS 21/7/250, in box with spacers and separated material in folder.

Sometimes a scrapbook needs special treatment, not because it is in bad condition, but in order to keep it pristine. Lottie M. Rogers, who attended Iowa State College in 1901-1902, created a beautiful scrapbook. Library conservators created a special box to maintain it in its originally beautiful condition.

Lottie M. Rogers Scrapbook, RS 21/7/149, circa 1901.
Lottie M. Rogers Scrapbook, RS 21/7/149, circa 1901.

Box created to house the Lottie M. Rogers Scrapbook.
Box created to house the Lottie M. Rogers Scrapbook.

More alumni scrapbooks and other papers can be found in RS 21/7, Alumni and Former Students.

ISU poets and critics: celebrating National Poetry Month

“I have sprung my heavy door aside
so that the sun will not be hindered
sweeping its pattern and its warmth into my room.”

Cover of The Moon is Red by Helen Sue Isely, published 1962. MS-352, Box 2, Folder 8.
Cover of The Moon is Red by Helen Sue Isely, published 1962. MS-352, Box 2, Folder 8.

So begins the poem, “The Open Door,” by Helen Sue Isely in her book The Moon is Red. April is the month to swing open Iowa doors to the growing warmth of the sunshine after the snows of winter. (Never mind this week’s rain!) April is also the time to celebrate “poetry’s vital place in our culture” during National Poetry Month. Iowa State may best be known for its agriculture and science programs, but it is not without its contributions to poetry, one of which is Isely.

Helen Sue Isely was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 1917, but she moved to Ames in 1945 with her husband Duane Isely, ISU Professor of Botany, and spent the rest of her life here. She published more than 800 poems in over 200 literary journals and magazines, including such well-known titles as Southwest Review, Antioch Review, and The McCalls Magazine. Her book of poems, The Moon is Red, was published by Alan Swallow in 1962, and won the first place award for poetry from the Midland Booksellers Association. Her other honors for poetry include those from the Iowa Poetry Association (1955-1958, 1961-1963), the Georgia Poetry Society (1954), and the South West Writers Conference (1956, 1959). To learn more about Isely and read her poems, check out the Helen Isely papers, MS 352.

Front cover of the first volume of Poet and Critic under Gustafson's editorship. Vol. 1, No. 1, Fall 1964.
Front cover of the first volume of Poet and Critic under Gustafson’s editorship. Vol. 1, No. 1, Fall 1964.

Richard Gustafson and Poet and Critic

In 1964, ISU Professor of English Richard Gustafson revived the literary journal Poet and Critic, publishing it through the Iowa State University Press. The journal had been founded three years earlier by William Tillson of Purdue University. Unable to keep it up with multiple demands on his time, Tillson ceased publishing it after only a couple of years. With the aid of a grant from the President’s Permanent Objectives Committee, Gustafson took the journal under his wing and revived it. The magazine’s rebirth was greeted with enthusiasm by those who had been familiar with it under Tillson’s editorship, and many supporters sent in letters of support, such as this beautifully illustrated note from Menke Katz, editor of Bitterroot, a quarterly poetry magazine.

Letter from Menke Katz, editor of the poetry magazine Bitterroot, to Richard Gustafson, ca. 1964. Poet and Critic Manuscripts File, RS 13/10/0/5, Box 1.
Letter from Menke Katz, editor of the poetry magazine Bitterroot, to Richard Gustafson, ca. 1964. Poet and Critic Manuscripts File, RS 13/10/0/5, Box 1.

The note reads,

“Dear Editor Richard Gustafson, staff and supporters,


“Delighted to know Poet and Critic is living again. Knowing Poet and Critic when William Tillson was editor, I am certain it will again be an inspiration to everything which is just and beautiful in poetry. I certainly feel refreshed to hear the good news! Good luck to you! I enclose $3 for a year subscription and will do all I can to influence others to do the same.

“Best Wishes,

“Menke Katz”

The text around the flower, reads, “A flower for Poet and Critic from Menke Katz.” (Poet and Critic Manuscripts File, RS 13/10/0/5, Box 1).

Poet and Critic had a unique mission, not only to promote the work of lesser-known poets, but also to encourage better craftsmanship among the poets, and to do this, they encouraged the contributors to comment on each others’ work. Each poem published in the magazine was followed by one or two short critiques, thus opening up a conversation around the poem. This explains the title, as well as the journal’s tagline, “magazine of verse/a workshop in print/a forum of opinion.” Contributors include the well-known poet Robert Bly, Ted Kooser, Leonard Nathan, Colette Inez, Robert Lewis Weeks, and the aforementioned Helen Sue Isely.

Ted Kooser

Various issues of The Salt Creek Reader, from the Richard Gustafson Papers, RS 13/10/53, Box 1/Folder 7.
Various issues of The Salt Creek Reader, from the Richard Gustafson Papers, RS 13/10/53, Box 1/Folder 7.

A discussion of ISU poets would be incomplete without mentioning Ted Kooser. An ISU alum (1962), Kooser served as Poet Laureate for the United States (2004-2006) and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2005 for his book Delights and Shadows. He teaches as a Visiting Professor of English at University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Gustafson and Kooser, both poets, also both edited literary magazines. Copies of Kooser’s The Salt Creek Reader can be found in the Richard Gustafson Papers, RS 13/10/53, Box 1/Folder 7. The Reader contained a single poem per issue and was printed initially as a broadside, or a single sheet printed on one side, and later as a postcard. The first issue of the journal, published 1967, contained a poem by Gustafson titled “Tornadoes, Earthquakes, Plagues and Sultry Deaths.”

As you celebrate National Poetry Month, feel free to stop by Special Collections to examine these and other collections. Happy reading!

A Cyclone Who Changed the World: Frederick D. Patterson

It’s African-American History Month and it’s past time that we featured Frederick Douglas Patterson (’23 and ’27) – an alumnus who had a significant and continuing impact on educational funding and college attainment. He is most known for his work with the Tuskegee Institute (now University) and as the founder of the United Negro College Fund (now UNCF).

Portrait of Frederick D. Patterson (RS 21/7/19)
Portrait of Frederick D. Patterson (RS 21/7/19)

Continue reading “A Cyclone Who Changed the World: Frederick D. Patterson”

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