Collecting Student Life Amongst Diverse Communities

Because Special Collections is the home of the University Archives (UA), documenting the University’s history is central to what we do.  The University Archives is filled with official records from the institution itself, but the student experience is under-documented.  This is woefully true in the case of black students.  One of the goals of the Library is to change that, but that can’t happen without alumni themselves.

One such student organization is the Eta Tau Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. is the first African American intercollegiate sorority, and it was founded at Howard University in Washington DC 110 years ago. The Eta Tau Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. was chartered at Iowa State University/Drake University June 14, 1973. Anniversaries are reminders of how important it is to reflect upon one’s history and place at the university and the greater community. It is also an opportunity to solidify ones place in the official historical records, making it known and available for generations of students and researchers.


Help us document the Black student experience at Iowa State University. If you have letters, photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, research papers, meeting minutes, clippings, flyers, audio, film, or video recordings from your time at ISU, please consider donating them to the University Archives.

Eta Tau Chapter members at ISU game, ca. 1995. Courtesy of Keena Thicklin, AKA Inititate and ISU Class of

#TBT Bicycle Club

Bicycle Club, circa 1898. University Photographs, box (#).

Bicycle Club, circa 1898. University Photographs, box (1644).

This weekend, one of Iowa’s biggest events begins. No, not the Iowa State Fair (that’s in August). Rather, it’s that huge bicycle ride across the state, RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is a statewide event run by the Des Moines Register that began in 1973. Bicycle enthusiasts have been at Iowa State University since, judging by this photograph, at least the turn of the 20th century. ISU has had a student cycling club for years, currently called the ISU Cycling Club (in the 1970s, it was the ISU Bicycle Club).

Some information on the ISU Bicycle Club in the 1970s is available in the Iowa State University, Student Organizations, Recreation and Special Interest Groups General File, RS 22/7/0/1. Stop by sometime!

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.

LGBT Pride Month

June is LGBT Pride Month. What better time to highlight LGBT-related materials in our collections? Iowa State University strives to provide an inclusive environment on campus, but it hasn’t always been easy. Homophobia was once rampant, not just on our campus, but everywhere. That’s not to say that it’s been eradicated, but overall there appears to be more acceptance today. In the face of the challenges LGBT individuals have faced, several student groups sprung up on campus in the 1970s. These included the Gay Liberation Front (later called the Gay Men’s Rap Group), the Lesbian Alliance, and the Gay People’s Liberation Alliance.

ISU's Gay Liberation Front makes its public debut, 1971. RS 22/4/0/1, Box 1, Folder 35

ISU’s Gay Liberation Front makes its public debut, 1971. RS 22/4/0/1, Box 1, Folder 35

The first gay student group on campus was the Gay Liberation Front, established during the 1971-1972 academic year (it’s unclear if the ISU group was associated with the national GLF). The organization came together to start a gay liberation movement on campus and became publicly visible for the first time in December 1971, with a letter to the editor published in the Iowa State Daily in protest of the play “Boys in the Band,” which was being performed on campus. The letter complained of the production’s “outwardly homophobic attitudes toward the gay lifestyle.” (“30 Years Is Just the Beginning,” Iowa State Daily, April 1, 2002; RS 22/4/0/1, Box 1, Folder 34). Several response letters critical of the initial letter were sent and published. The following year, the group changed its name to the Gay Men’s Rap Group, a name with less of a political connotation. Membership increased drastically from the first year to the next, with around 25 people at the first meeting that second year. A founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, Dennis Brumm, wrote a history of the gay liberation movement at Iowa State on his website, a copy of which we have printed off from 2001 (note: the version in the link above is a bit different than the version in our archive).

A publication that served as an open forum for LGBT individuals in the community to express their thoughts, 1974. RS 22/4/0/1, Box 1, Folder 35

A publication that served as an open forum for LGBT individuals in the community to express their thoughts, 1974. RS 22/4/0/1, Box 1, Folder 35

LGBT student organizations existing today on campus can be found on the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Student Services (LGBTSS) website, along with resources for LGBT individuals and allies. For more information on the history of LGBT organizations on campus, stop by and see the Iowa State University, Student Organizations, Political and Social Action Organizations Records, RS 22/4/0/1. We’d love to see you!

Barjche, you say? The history of the modern dance production at ISU

Tonight Orchesis I, ISU’s modern dance company, presents Barjche, the company’s annual modern dance production. The performance has a long history at ISU. Let’s see what we can find in the archives about it, shall we?

Program for first Barjche production in 1944. RS 10/7/3, Box 2, Folder 11.

Program for first Barjche production in 1944. RS 10/7/3, Box 2, Folder 11.

The first production

First things first. What’s up with the name?!? Barjche (pronounced “bar-shay”), came from combining the initials of the officers of the Women’s Dance Club in 1944, the year of the inaugural performance. The dance was initially performed as part of the VEISHEA celebrations, though later on it became a separate event, performed at different times over the years during winter quarter.  The first production included two original dance-dramas, “The Shakers” and “This Life.”

Inside of the program from the 1944 Barjche. RS 10/7/3, box 2, folder 11.

Inside of the program from the 1944 Barjche. RS 10/7/3, box 2, folder 11.

In a letter to the editor of The Iowa Stater from May 1987, Trymby Calhoun Stickels, the president of the dance club in 1944, describes her contributions to the production:

Letter to the Editor of The Iowa Stater, May 1987. RS 10/7/51, Box 3, Folder3.

Letter to the Editor of The Iowa Stater, May 1987. RS 10/7/51, Box 3, Folder3.

“I was a better writer than a dancer, so Miss Moomaw [the club’s advisor] asked me to write a story line and she did the choreography for one of our big numbers. It was based on the Shaker religious group, and, of course, had all the drama that a strict religious theme could offer. Men and women were forbidden to have any contact with each other so we had a forbidden love story and a big tragic ending. It was great fun!” –Stickels, Trymby (Tim) Calhoun. “The ‘c’ in Barjche.” The Iowa Stater May 1987: 9.

Betty Toman

Betty Toman dancing, 1988. Betty Toman Papers, RS 10/7/51, box 4, folder 12.

Betty Toman, 1988. Betty Toman Papers, RS 10/7/51, box 4, folder 12.

One person who has had a significant impact on Barjche is Betty Toman. Toman came to ISU in 1948 as a dance instructor and later became a professor in the Department of Physical Eduction. She served as Barjche’s director for 22 years, eventually expanding the production to include students from three departments: theater, dance, and music. In 1965, she took over advising the dance club, which became known as Orchesis. Orchesis I continues to produce Barjche today.

Barjche production, 1967. University Photograph Collection, box 804.

Barjche production, 1967. University Photograph Collection, box 804.

Although most of the dance pieces in Barjche were choreographed by students, over the years Betty Toman also brought in well-known professional dancers as guest choreographers. One of these was Bill Evans, who was commissioned to choreograph a piece for Barjche 1975 called “Salt Lake City Rag.”

Photograph and program for "Salt Lake City Rag" by Bill Evans, 1975. From RS 10/7/3 and RS 10/7/51.

Photograph and program for “Salt Lake City Rag” by Bill Evans, 1975. From RS 10/7/3 and RS 10/7/51.

More information about Barjche and Orchesis I can be found in the Orchesis Records, RS 10/7/3, and in the Betty Toman Papers, RS 10/7/51. Stop by Special Collections to check them out!

Announcing the Leo C. Peters Papers


Portrait of Leo Charles Peters, undated. (RS 11/10/51, box 3 folder 10)

We are proud to announce that a large expansion of the Leo Charles Peters Papers (RS 11/10/51) is now available for research. Dr. Peters was a staple of the Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1961 until his retirement in 1996.

Born in Kansas, he got his start in engineering at Kansas State University with a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering (1953). Peters worked as an engineer for much of the 1950s at the John Deere Tractorworks in Waterloo, Iowa with the exception of the two years he spent in the 839th engineering battalion of the Special Category Army with Air Force during the Korean War. Peters left John Deere to take up a position as Instructor with the Department of Mechanical Engineering and complete his graduate education, earning both his M.S. (1963) and his Ph.D. (1967) in mechanical engineering and engineering mechanics from ISU. Peters was quickly promoted to Associate Professor, earning full Professor in 1978. He remained with the University until his retirement in 1996. Materials in the collection document Peters’ transition from student to professional to faculty member and provide insight into engineering curriculum development and university-industry partnerships. A significant portion of this collection concerns teaching activities and curriculum for engineering courses.


ISU SAE entry into the SAE mini baja competition, 1983. ( RS 11/10/51, box 1, folder 49)

Part of Peters’ lasting contribution to ISU was his initiation of an ISU student branch of the Society of Automotive Engineers (ISU SAE) in 1968. The branch’s first year was very successful – earning a personal visit from F. B. Esty, the National President of SAE and culminating in the presentation of a branch charter for formal induction into SAE. Other notable guests of ISU SAE were Phil Myers (former president of the Society of Automotive Engineers), Andy Granatelli (Chief Executive Officer of STP), and Jacques Passino (Director of Ford Motor Company’s Special Products Division). Peters’ love of advising and working with students was recognized multiple times via awards for outstanding teaching and advising.

A sketch of the layout for a Moot Court workshop. RS 11/10/51.

A sketch of the layout for a Moot Court workshop. (RS 11/10/51, box 2 folder 29)

Drawing on both his formal education and experience as an engineer, Peters was an expert in product safety and product liability issues. He published in these areas and taught “moot court” workshops at engineering conferences where participants explored product liability and the law. He also worked as an independent consultant and expert witness specializing in patent infringement, products liability, and failure analysis.

One of the special features of this collection is the series of diaries that Peters kept from 1959 to 1969. Scattered throughout notes on classes, tough mechanic jobs at John Deere, thesis due dates, and class exams are hints of his rich family life – “Mark’s First Communion (May 8, 1966)” and “Sue’s 7th and 8th graders bought and gave her a bassinett for a going away gift (January 17, 1958).” Peters was devoted to his family and, along with wife (and ISU alumna) Suzanne Gordon Peters, raised nine children. This collection gives us a glimpse into the many facets of a scholar’s life.

A portion of Peters' 1959 diary.

A portion of Peters’ 1959 diary. (RS 11/10/51, box 2, folder 55)

Suzanne Peters, a birth announcement, and a newspaper account of family in attendance at Peters' doctoral graduation. RS 11/10/51

Suzanne Peters, a birth announcement, and a newspaper account of family in attendance at Peters’ doctoral graduation. (RS 11/10/51, box 3 folder 10)

This collection adds to our steadily growing body of materials on ISU engineering faculty (see Henry M. Black and Anson Marston). Our other engineering collections include: Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), the records of the College of Engineering, and our materials on agricultural engineering and technology.

The Leo Charles Peters papers are now available for research (RS 11/10/51) at our reading room on the fourth floor of the Parks Library. Please come by and take a look – there’s a lot more than we can include in a single blog post!

CyPix: Latino Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15)

Four women performing folklorico in front of a Panama heritage tent.

Folklorico – Iowa State University students at the Iowa Latino Heritage Festival, 2007. (RS 7/5/1)

October 15th marks the end of a month-long celebration of the many contributions Latino Americans have made to American culture and society. Hispanic Heritage Month (the federally designated name) is celebrated at Iowa State as Latino Heritage Month and recognizes the many people who trace their heritage to the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America. Founded in 1992, the ISU Latino Heritage Committee organizes campus Heritage Month events every fall. The festivities usually conclude with Noche De Cultura – an event that offers food, music, speakers, and sometimes dancing. This year’s festivities included Marcha de las Banderas, Latino Game Night, and Top Chef Latino. The full array of events for 2014 are available at Iowa State Daily.

This photograph, and others from the same event, can be seen in the records of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (RS 7/5/1).

CyPix: ISC Bicycle Club 1898

With RAGBRAI less than a week away, it seems like a perfect time to take a look at bicycle riding at ISU. Say hello to these dapper members of the 1898 Bicycle Club of Iowa State College, posing in front of Morrill Hall.

Two rows of men and women standing with their bicycles.

Iowa State College Bicycle Club, 1898.

The 1890s saw a bicycle craze in America, with Iowa State students–both men and women–joining in. Makes you want to grab your bike and take it for a spin, doesn’t it? To find out more about other student organizations, check out their collections page, or peddle on over to Special Collections.

Early Student Government at Iowa State: What the Cardinal Guild Records Reveal

The blog post below was written by one of our student employees, Barry Snell.  The Cardinal Guild Records (the Cardinal Guild was the organization which preceded the Government of the Student Body) needed some additional work, and since Snell was a Government of the Student Body (GSB) Senator we decided that this would be a great collection to have him work on, and to then write a blog post about! The online finding aid can be found here.

Concerned about Iowa State College’s tremendous growth, both as a school and in the student population, the faculty and staff gathered together in the spring of 1904 to discuss the formation of a student government to help connect the ballooning student population to the administration, and to help student organizations work with one another.  Using the student government models of Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Brown and California, the Iowa State administration chose eleven students from the senior class who were meritorious due to their academic achievements, leadership abilities, and sterling character.

And so it was on May 9, 1904 that those eleven seniors met in Engineering Hall (now Marston Hall) and established what they would eventually name the Cardinal Guild, which would in turn be known as the Government of the Student Body (beginning around 1962).

1906 Bomb_cardinal-guild-1

Members of the first Cardinal Guild (1904, top) and the second (1905, bottom) from the 1906 Bomb (student yearbook).

1906 Bomb_cardinal-guild-2

Second page of the Cardinal Guild’s entry in the 1906 Bomb, which describes the background and purpose of the new organization.

The original members decided that the Cardinal Guild was to be operated to “promote the welfare of Iowa State College,” and, according to an address given by the Guild’s first president, A.R. Buckley, to “bring into close touch and harmony with the various branches of college activity, and serve as a medium of communication between the students, the alumni, and the governing bodies of the college.”  The Cardinal Guild’s original constitution set forth these goals in addition to preserving and promoting desirable Iowa state traditions and customs, fostering and promoting a healthy and democratic spirit, and welcoming and extending courtesies to college visitors.

Calling themselves the “charter members,” the initial group of eleven seniors was tasked with choosing their successors on their own, without the college staff involvement that had chosen them.  This precedent setting appointment system lasted several years, with each preceding Cardinal Guild choosing the members of the subsequent Cardinal Guild.  Eventually, however, the appointment system gave way to popular election by the student body, originally including a rigorous primary system used to select the Guild presidential and vice presidential candidates and their platforms.

Cardinal Guild 1962 nominating convention

Cardinal Guild 1962 nominating convention

A single body at first, the Guild’s organization eventually evolved into a three-branched system of student government to include a senate, an executive cabinet, and a court, and the membership grew accordingly.  To this day, the Government of the Student Body has the same essential organizational structure and mission as its predecessor, the Cardinal Guild.

The Cardinal Guild Records (RS 22/1/1) contains a variety of documents ranging from the original 1904 meeting minutes and notes, constitutions and bylaws through the years, research and publications regarding student involvement, student organization budgets, presidential addresses, committee reports, legislation, and scrapbooks put together in the final decade of the Guild.  Because the Cardinal Guild and today’s GSB are the original student organizations in the sense that they are typically the origin of funding and assistance for student groups, this collection reveals a great deal about student life at Iowa State through the years.

First Guild President Buckley said, “we have various organizations, but there is no single undergraduate body thru [sic] which the students may work, and be brought into contact.  Harmony is an essential in all our endeavors and this must be fostered and encouraged.  The students cannot at present feel that they are in direct communication with the faculty, but this the Guild will right.”

First page of the minutes for the first Cardinal Guild meeting on May 9, 1904 (RS 22/1/1, box 1, folder 1).

First page of the minutes for the first Cardinal Guild meeting on May 9, 1904 (RS 22/1/1, box 1, folder 1).

The original meeting minutes book (the first part is available online here), which spans the years 1904 through 1909, shows the Cardinal Guild’s immediate interest in working with Iowa State College staff to make student life better.  The members of the Guild formed committees right away at the beginning of the 1904 fall semester, on September 13th.  They created the committees to work with the Athletics Department to staff refreshment stands during games, to establish a celebration on the anniversary of the founding of Iowa State College, and to investigate transportation options for visitors to the college during Excursion Day (Note: Excursion Day was formerly one of the largest events at Iowa State in that it brought thousands of alumni and community visitors to Iowa State to view the farms, research and school in general.  Excursion Day may be considered, in part, a precursor to VEISHEA).

As the fall 1904 minutes report, the staffing of the Athletics Department refreshment stands was the Cardinal Guild’s first successful external official act to come to fruition that directly connected them to their student constituents and assist a school department.  One may examine all the surviving Cardinal Guild minutes we have in the collection up through the late 1950s, as well as witness GSB activity in the modern day, and see that as far as student involvement goes, the role of student government at Iowa State has hardly changed since its very beginning.  Iowa State students, it seems, though not surprisingly, have always had an interest in helping one another out.

Several Cardinal Guild records which document its very early years are now available online.  The first part of the minute book can be found here (the entire minute notebook can be found in the Cardinal Guild Records, RS 22/1/1, box 1, folder 1).  Another set of documents available online are two commencement addresses by the first two Cardinal Guild presidents, A. R. Buckley (1904) (original in RS 22/1/1, box 1, folder 2) and R. R. Jorgenson (1905) (original in RS 22/1/1/, box 1, folder 1).

Scrapbooks from the Cardinal Guild Records.

Scrapbooks from the Cardinal Guild Records (RS 22/1/1, boxes 7 and 8).

Another fascinating set of items in the collection are the scrapbooks.  Ranging from 1950 to 1962, marking the final twelve years of the Cardinal Guild prior to becoming the Government of the Student Body, the scrapbooks are collections of various newspaper clippings, mostly from the Iowa State Daily, of various things regarding student life and directly relating to Cardinal Guild activities.  This amazing array of articles paints a vibrant picture of what life was like at Iowa State in the mid-20th century.  Interestingly, the public relations committee of the GSB continues the scrapbooking practice to this day.

One notable event captured in the scrapbook is the riot that took place one night in 1956.  A secret society calling themselves the Pi Xis (Greek letters: Π Ξ), aka the “Pixies,” were a rascally bunch of students who existed to pull pranks and generally be disruptive.  The Pixies were possibly a throwback to the days of the underground Greek system, accidentally created by the college’s ban on fraternities and sororities in the late 1800s due to their untoward behavior at the time.  Rather than obey the ban, the Greeks of the day simply made their activities secret until some years later the ban was lifted by the college.  Early Iowa State legend has it that some of the first fraternities here never stopped being secret, giving credence to the claim that the Pi Xis were one such group.

Regardless of their origins, the Pixies did exist and were alive and well on the evening of Thursday, May 24, 1956.  They were planning a demonstration for unknown purposes, though probably simply to create some temporary disorder.  Their plan was to meet at the Campanile at 10:00 PM and go from there.  However, members of the Cardinal Guild found out and deployed themselves to the Campanile ahead of time.  Turning the Pixies back as they arrived, the Guild was confident they had prevented the shenanigans.

Not ones to be easily thwarted though, the Pi Xis regrouped.  At approximately 11:00 PM, someone blew a bugle at the Memorial Union, sounding a rallying call.  The Pixies and other nefarious students rallied indeed, and the bunch moved to Friley Hall, where they shouted and raised a ruckus, attempting to call more students into their growing numbers.  As fortune would have it, the residents of Friley weren’t interested.  Frustrated by their rioting impotence, the Pixies moved on to Sorority Circle, where they attempted to break into the Delta Delta Delta house and disturb the girls in residence there.

Cardinal Guild members, with the help of like-minded students, took positions before the Tri-Delts’ doorways and windows, pushing back all who tried to enter.  With amazing fortitude, the Guild held back the invaders, defending the honor of the women within.  But still refusing to give up, the Pi Xis regrouped yet again and headed for the women’s dormitories on campus.

Page from the scrapbook describing the Pixies' raid.

Page from the scrapbook describing the Pixies’ raid (RS 22/1/1, box 7).

Once more into the breach, dear friends, did the intrepid members of the Cardinal Guild rush.  Finding the Pixie rioters at Roberts and Barton Halls, the Guild redeployed themselves, employing their tried and true tactic of manning the doorways and blocking all who attempted entry.  In Gandalf-esque fashion, the Guild’s message to the Pi Xis was clear: You shall not pass.

The battle of wills persisted, with the Pixies taking a page from history.  In a scene that Caesar would have recognized and would have made his enemies in Gaul proud, the Pi Xis discovered ladders nearby and attempted to raise them and scale walls of the women’s dorms.  Guild members fought the ladders from the hands of the would-be invaders, and pushed them back away from what would prove to be an impenetrable blockade.


Another page from the scrapbook with a new article describing the Pixies’ schemes the evening of May 24, 1956 (RS 22/1/1, box 7).

In what was less like the Thrilla in Manila and more like the Lames in Ames, this battle of wills ended with a righteous victor: The Cardinal Guild.  Citing their bravery and good character in the midst of difficult circumstances, Iowa State President James Hilton and the police chief congratulated and thanked the members of the Cardinal Guild for their gallant actions that night.

Want to know more?  Such as how the Pixies also tried to blow up the College Creek dam across from the Memorial Union with a bundle of dynamite and a homemade timer, or how the Cardinal Guild actually had a pact with the college to mobilize in the event of such insurrections and disturbances?  What other cool stories of campus legend lurk in the archive of the Cardinal Guild?  You’ll have to stop by Special Collections and request to see the Cardinal Guild Records (RS 22/1/1) to find out!

New collection: Team PrISUm Records

1997-1999 Team PrISUM and solar car:  Phoenix

2011 is the third year of President Geoffroy’s Live Green! initiative, and last week was the third annual Symposium on Sustainability here on the ISU campus. Iowa State also has a wide variety of sustainability related research projects, departments and organizations and the University Archives holds the records of a variety of these.

Recently, the Iowa State University solar car team, Team PrISUm, donated their records to the University Archives. You may have seen examples of the solar cars the team has constructed throughout the years displayed at various university events. Now you can visit Special Collections to do research and find out more about the development of these cars and past activities and projects carried out by Team PrISUm!

Team PrISUm constructing a solar car.

Team PrISUm is a student-run organization that started in 1989. The team designs, builds, and races solar powered electric vehicles in the American Solar Challenge (previously known as Sunrayce). Teams have two years between races to design, construct, and test their cars. The team is composed of students from a variety of backgrounds including engineering, design, and business. Team PrISUm also focuses on outreach projects and education to raise awareness about solar energy and efficient transportation and displays the cars at events on campus and throughout the state.

Team PrISUm at the 1997 Sunrayce event with the solar car ExCYtor

The records contain information documenting the activities of Team PrISUm, including news clippings, proposals, design notes, statistics, fundraising information, brochures, solar car and race information, and videotapes. There also hundreds of photographs in the collection documenting the various incarnations of the ISU solar car, solar car construction and racing, outreach projects, and team members. The team’s newsletter, “The Sundial”, consists of valuable information regarding the development of each car. The collection also includes documents relating to Sunrayce and the American Solar Challenge such as correspondence, proposals, race regulations, and route books.

The finding aid for the Team PrISUm Records is available at: