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Breaking down the big game

By Andy Hallman | Sep 05, 2012

This Saturday is the most anticipated day in the state of Iowa. It’s the day when students from the two largest state-sponsored universities duke it out for 60 minutes on the gridiron. When the final buzzer sounds, we will know the answer to the age-old question: which school is the best? To answer that question we will have to examine the storied histories of these two illustrious academic institutions.


Star Power

Many of the nation’s political bigwigs have donned the cardinal and gold, none more prominent than U.S. Vice President Henry Wallace, who served under FDR from 1941-1945. Wallace developed the first commercial hybrid corn and founded the first hybrid corn seed company, Pioneer. Roosevelt appointed this farm boy from Orient to be his Secretary of Agriculture in 1933 before adding his name to the presidential ticket seven years later. Other politically influential alumni include current Republican Congressman Tom Latham and Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack, as well as former U.S. Agricultural Secretary Ezra Taft Benson, who later became president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Hawkeyes’ cheer section is chalked full of stars from television and the silver screen. Ashton Kutcher, known for his role in “That ‘70s Show” and most recently as Charlie Sheen’s replacement in “Two and a Half Men,” studied at the U of I. Tom Arnold sported the black and gold colors of his alma mater during his tenure as the host of Fox Sports Net's “The Best Damn Sports Show Period.” Iowa also claims the former host of NBC Nightly News for 22 years, Tom Brokaw. The Hawkeyes’ most vocal supporter (in more ways than one) is operatic bass singer Simon Estes, who is still belting out music at the age of 74.



The Cyclones outlasted the Hawkeyes a year ago in triple overtime. ISU was undoubtedly inspired by the perseverance of alumnus Tom Harkin, one of the longest serving members of the U.S. Senate at 27 years and chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. This year, look for the Hawkeyes to surge late in game, taking after one of their alumni, Terry Branstad. When Branstad left office in 1999, he was the longest serving governor in the state’s history at 16 years. And yet, Branstad had enough left in the tank for another run a decade later, when he found his second wind and won his fifth term in the capitol.


First Downs

The two schools have a long history of civil rights promotion. The University of Iowa was the first public university in the country to admit men and women on an equal basis (in 1860) and the first to admit students regardless of race. Among its most distinguished alumni are Martha Angle Dorsett, the first woman admitted to the bar in Minnesota, and Juanita Kidd Stout, the first black woman to serve on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The U of I also produced the first female Republican governor, Kay Orr, who presided over Nebraska from 1987 to 1991.

Iowa State’s first black student is among the most famous students in its history: George Washington Carver. Carver promoted alternative crops to cotton such as soybeans, sweet potatoes and most notably, peanuts, a crop for which he devised over 100 uses. Incidentally, Carver and the aforementioned Wallace were friends, and three of Carver’s ISU professors would go on to become U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture. The Cyclones also claim one of the leaders of the women’s rights movement, Carrie Chapman Catt. Catt was the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the founder of the League of Women Voters. She campaigned for the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote in 1920.


Creative Playmakers

The sign of a good quarterback is one who can think on his feet and create a play after the original one has broken down. Creativity comes easily to students at the U of I, famous for its graduate-level writing program called the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Forty Pulitzer Prize winners have graced its campus as students or faculty.

Iowa graduates famous for their pens and paintbrushes include Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Tennessee Williams and painter Grant Wood, widely known for his portrait, “American Gothic.” Other Hawkeye inventors and discoverers are Everett Lindquist, creator of the ACT, Ignacio Ponseti, who developed a brace for treating clubfoot, and James Van Allen, who discovered the radiation belts around the earth that bear his name.

Not to be outdone, Iowa State has shown its creative side with the vast array of public art scattered throughout Ames. The university has 600 works of art on campus, more than any other university.

Among the Cyclones’ most prized inventions is the first digital computer, created in 1942. The machine was invented by physics professor John Atanasoff and his graduate student Clifford Berry (hence the name “Atanasoff-Berry Computer” or “ABC”). Unlike other computing devices before it, the ABC performed calculations electronically rather than mechanically and it used binary digits to represent all numbers.


Crunching the numbers

During Saturday’s game, you will probably hear a lot of numbers thrown around such as average yards per carry and pass completion percentage. Iowa State was the birthplace of academic statistics in the U.S. when it opened the first statistics department in 1934. George Snedecor, the founder of the department, authored, “Statistical Methods,” one of the most influential texts in the history of statistics. Snedecor was also one of the first people to use Atanasoff’s computer.

While Snedecor developed many statistical techniques in academia, the man responsible for spreading statistical insights to the masses was University of Iowa graduate Darrell Huff. In 1954, Huff wrote the book “How to Lie with Statistics,” which outlined several common fallacies in the field and the ways in which statistics are often intentionally misrepresented in graphs.



Both schools recruit heavily outside the United States, and many of those students have gone on to impressive careers in their home countries. Iowa State alumnus Lee Teng-hui reached the highest office in his native Taiwan, ascending to the presidency in 1988. In 1996, Lee selected Wu Jin as his minister of education. Wu received his college diploma from, you guessed it, the University of Iowa. Perhaps that is a lesson for all of us. No matter which school wins on the field Saturday, we’ll all congregate as friends on Sunday and work together as colleagues on Monday.




Comments (10)
Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Sep 16, 2012 03:46

Yes, I do know him. If any aspiring actor wants his email and phone number.

David White is a graduate of Grinnell College, a Rhodes Scholar, and a graduate of Stanford University Law School. He is currently the National Executive Director of the Screen Actors Guild. He also co-founded and was managing principal of Entertainment Strategies Group (ESG), a consulting firm helping companies and professionals navigate the complex world of labor unions and collective bargaining agreements in the entertainment industry. Formerly general counsel of the Screen Actors Guild, he was also previously a labor and employment attorney with O'Melveny & Myers L.L.P. in Los Angeles, and executive director of the neighborhood-based nonprofit Youth Opportunities Unlimited Inc. Mr. White served as chair of the Grinnell College Board of Trustees. His service interests are varied and include service as a commissioner for urban planning and development in Los Angeles, and membership on the Board of Advisors for the Association of Media and Entertainment Counsel.

Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Sep 16, 2012 03:26

Star Trek's' Walter Koenig to Receive Hollywood Walk of Fame Star

No, I don't know him.

HOLLYWOOD - Walter Koenig today will become the final "Star Trek" cast member to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The star will be the 2,479 on the Walk of Fame and near that of Koenig's "Star Trek" castmate George Takei.

"This is something that you hope and wish for, dream about, but something you never expect to really happen," Koenig said in 2011 when it was announced he would be receiving a star. "It's a joyous occasion and I am deeply honored."

The ceremony comes two days after the 46th anniversary of the premiere of "Star Trek," which Koenig joined in its second season as Ensign Pavel Chekov, a role he also would play in the first seven "Star Trek" movies.

Koenig also wrote the 1973 episode "The Infinite Vulcan" of the animated Saturday morning "Star Trek" series.

Born in Chicago on Sept. 14, 1936, and raised in New York City, Koenig did his first on-stage work while attending The Fieldston School in the Bronx.

Koenig initially aspired to a career in psychiatry, first attending Grinnell College in Iowa as a premed major, then transferring to UCLA, where he received a bachelor's degree, majoring in psychology.

Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Sep 16, 2012 03:12

Grinnell College graduate to lead nation’s largest system of higher education. No, I don't know him.


The governing board of California’s community colleges Wednesday announced the appointment of an acting chief to replace retiring Chancellor Jack Scott. The search for a permanent successor is underway.

Erik Skinner, who now serves as executive vice chancellor for programs, will take over for Scott when he leaves office Friday after serving for three years at the helm of the nation’s largest system of higher education.

In his current post, Skinner oversees academic affairs, student services, facilities planning, research and other programs for the 2.4 million-student, 112-campus system.

He has played key roles in several system-wide policy initiatives, including reforms aimed at improving student success and development of a new two-year degree intended to streamline transfers between community colleges and the California State University system.

“As executive vice chancellor, Erik has a great understanding of the day-to-day working of the office, but also shares in the vision of the agency, which is to provide a skilled workforce for the state,” Scott said in a statement. “I have every confidence in Erik’s ability to lead the chancellor’s office and system during this transition period.”

Before joining the chancellor’s office in 2007, Skinner served in the Office of the Secretary of Education, advising the governor on K-12 and higher education policy and in the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, specializing in school finance and Proposition 98.

Skinner, 44, received a bachelor’s degree in history from Grinnell College in Iowa and a master’s in public policy from the University of Michigan.

The board announced the appointment during its meeting at San Diego City College. A search committee conducted interviews with candidates for the permanent job Tuesday in closed session and expects to fill the post by the end of September.

Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Sep 13, 2012 01:46

I spent way too much time at Irish bars in New York socializing with the FDNY.

NYC fireman of Engine Company 219 has been missing since 11 Sept 2001. It is believed that he was one of the first to respond to the WTC tragedy.

Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Sep 13, 2012 01:31

I went to Columbia University after graduating from Grinnell College. One of my friends was from Milwaukee and a Columbia University law student. Peter was from a blue collar, lower middle income family. He was the first in his family to go to college. Peter studied intensely. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee (B.A., summa cum laude) in two years. At Columbia, Peter was a James Kent scholar, Harlan Fisk Stone scholar and served as an editor of the Columbia Law Review. He went to work for the top corporate law firm in New York; Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The firm is know for very long hours but for paying extremely well. Hard work does pay off in the long run, as does character. You could not find a better guy than Peter. He made partner in six years. The average partner salary at Wachtell Lipton is $4.5 million a year. I tell the story only so young people know that an average kid can become very successful if they work hard and are dedicated. Peter sacrificed everything for his career. If you are willing to pay the price and few are, anything is possible. 

Peter has been a partner in the Litigation Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz since 1981. His practice has included securities, corporate, ERISA, real estate, insurance and other complex commercial litigation, arbitrations, appraisals and mediation. He has argued in the United States Supreme Court, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Second, Seventh and Ninth Circuits, and the New York appellate courts.



Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Sep 13, 2012 00:35

Grinnell College wants to graduate students that go on to become doctors, lawyers and college professors. I have argued with Grinnell College for years about blending liberal arts with professional job training. They think that I should have gone to a community college. They are very snobbish about what they consider education. They believe that an educated person should have studied the Humanities, the classics and pure science.



Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Sep 13, 2012 00:07

Iowa is fortunate to have many good colleges. As one student said about Grinnell College, "It is perfectly common to find two students talking in a dorm room until 3 AM about 19th century philosophers. My favorite class was Mechanics, my fourth semester physics class. I absolutely loved it, because I could see theories and equations powerful enough to explain any complicated movement your eyes can see." If you are looking to have a lively discussion about college football, Grinnell College may not be the school for you. On the other hand, if you are looking to be trained as a radiology technician ready to operate the new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine at the Washington County Hospital after graduation, have many job opportunities and make $70,000 a year ($100,000 in California), I would suggest the University of Iowa. The U of I has an excellent program for rad techs.



Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Sep 12, 2012 16:29

Yes I do.

Posted by: Andrew Michael Hallman | Sep 12, 2012 14:41

Thanks for the info, Glen. You seem to know a lot about Mary Sue Coleman. Do you know her personally?

Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Sep 06, 2012 23:01

Grinnell College has sent two individuals on to lead the University of Iowa, Howard Bowen and Mary Sue Coleman. Coleman serves as the chairwoman of the Association of American Universities. Time magazine named her one of the 10 best college presidents in the country. President Barack Obama selected her as one of six university presidents to launch the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. Coleman currently serves on the boards of Johnson & Johnson and the Meredith Corporation. She is also a trustee on the Gerald R. Ford Foundation. She and her husband Kenneth have two cats, Gerry and Betty, named for President Gerald R. Ford and his wife.

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