Extraordinary gift creates first-in-the-nation endowed alumni position


Russ and Lora Talbot spend much of their time on campus involved in volunteer positions at the Iowa State University Alumni Center. “The ISU Alumni Center is like a second home to us,” Russ says.

In a move that’s been described as both extraordinary and unprecedented, Iowa State University in April became the recipient of a gift to establish an endowed alumni association president and CEO’s position.

Lora and Russ Talbot’s $2.5 million gift created the Lora and Russ Talbot ISU Alumni Association Endowed President and Chief Executive Officer position – the first known endowed alumni leadership position at a college or university anywhere in the country as well as the first non-academic endowed position of any kind at Iowa State.

And what may be the most remarkable element of the newly created endowed alumni leadership position is this: Lora and Russ Talbot are not alumni of Iowa State University.

A lifelong commitment
Endowed chairs, professors, and deans are becoming increasingly common on college and university campuses across the country, and Iowa State is no exception. The ISU Foundation currently manages funds that support 207 named faculty positions, including endowed deanships for four of Iowa State’s seven colleges. In many cases, an endowed position is the highest academic award that a college or university can bestow on a faculty member, and it’s an enduring tribute to the donor who establishes it.

The Talbots, who live in Belmond, Iowa, have been long-time supporters of Iowa State. Their gifts to the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Alumni Association, and the College of Human Sciences’ annual student fashion show have made an immeasurable mark on the campus and its students. But their most recent gift to endow the Alumni Association’s president and CEO position is truly unique.

“Simply stated, we wanted our contribution to make a difference,” Lora explained. “We wanted to increase the visibility of the Alumni Association. We are dedicated to the goal of ensuring that the Alumni Association is the organization that makes a positive difference for alumni, students, and friends for many years to come.”

Funding Johnson’s vision
The Talbots’ relationship with the Alumni Association began in 2008 when they heard Jeffery W. Johnson (L)(PhD ’14), president and CEO of the organization, speak at a Foundation campaign meeting on campus. Johnson made a point to emphasize that non-ISU alumni in the audience could join the ISU Alumni Association.

“We did not know we could be members of the Alumni Association, because we were not alumni,” Russ said. “After that meeting, we immediately became not only members, but life members.”

And the relationship grew from there. Johnson later invited both Russ and Lora to become involved in volunteer positions with the organization. Lora took on a five-year term as the sole non-alumni member of the Board of Directors, and Russ began serving as a board associate on the Awards Review and Selection Committee. They then became sustaining life donors and gave generously to a variety of Alumni Association projects.

“When I think about Lora and Russ,” Johnson said, “I think less about their financial gifts and more about the kind of people they are. They don’t just write a check and disappear. They are the ultimate statement of partnership. They don’t just invest in you; they believe in you and work with you. They become part of the team.”


Jeff Johnson is the first holder of the new Lora and Russ Talbot ISU Alumni Association Endowed President and Chief Executive Officer position, the first of its kind at a college or university in the nation.

Johnson is the first holder of the ISUAA Talbot Endowed President and CEO position. He says the new endowment will allow the ISU Alumni Association to more visibly connect with and engage Iowa State alumni, students, and friends. Funds will specifically support Johnson’s professional development and a portion of his salary and travel expenses, as well as expanded programming initiatives within the Alumni Association. It will also establish a new Talbot Student Intern position for the organization.

Johnson was named the ISU Alumni Association’s chief executive in September 1999. He has a contagious passion for Iowa State and a strong vision for the Association’s future.

Under Johnson’s leadership, the Association has grown to be the second-largest dues-paying alumni association in the Big 12 Conference – now with nearly 53,000 members – and in 2008 the Association moved into a new $13.6 million, 34,500-square-foot alumni center.

“The Talbots’ endowment is the second major impact on the longterm positioning of the Alumni Association,” Johnson said. “The first was Roy (’57 ag journalism) and Bobbi (’06 honorary) Reiman’s (L) gift that allowed us to construct the ISU Alumni Center.”

Johnson said the Association’s work is not yet finished.

“As our alumni base continues to expand, our third goal is to endow some of our key programs to allow us to better serve alumni, students, and friends and to engage a greater number of alumni leaders and supporters for Iowa State.”

Making history
The historic gift announcement was made at the April 10 Cardinal & Gold Gala, an ISU Alumni Association fundraising event in Des Moines. ISU President Steven Leath (L) introduced the Talbots and Johnson at the annual dinner and dance.

“We are very grateful to Lora and Russ Talbot for their generous gift to establish this endowed position,” Leath told the gathered crowd. “The Iowa State University Alumni Association is a vital organization that ensures our alumni, students, and friends are connected, involved, and informed. Jeff Johnson is a tremendous and enthusiastic leader, and this gift will bolster his already successful efforts to move the Association forward.”

The Talbots say their contribution is a “wonderful opportunity” to demonstrate how they feel about the Alumni Association.

“We are extremely proud of the historic nature of our commitment to the Alumni Association,” Lora and Russ said. “Our contribution has created the first non-academic endowed position at Iowa State. It also initiated the first endowed alumni association president and CEO position at a college or university anywhere in the country. As donors, it doesn’t get any better than that!”

The Talbot endowment was established by a gift made through the Iowa State University Foundation, a private, nonprofit corporation dedicated to securing and managing gifts and grants that benefit Iowa State University.

Career Corner: Take Advantage of our New Career Coach/Life Coach List!

By Katie Lickteig, Assistant Director of Outreach & Events

coaching-clipart-images3Do you want to make a career change? Have you been looking for a job for some time with no luck? Is your life unbalanced? Every once in a while, some of us find ourselves in a place when we need a little career guidance. We have recently started to list ISU alumni (or non alumni who are ISUAA members) who are certified career coaches or life coaches on our website. If you are interested in connecting with one of them, click here for the list. There is a fee for this type of consultation which will be determined by each individual coach.

Also, if you are a certified career/life coach and would like to be added to this list, contact Katie Lickteig at kbruxvoo@iastate.edu.

Iowa State University breaks student AND alumni records

Iowa State’s fall 2015 enrollment of 36,001 is the largest in school history, an increase of nearly 3.7 percent (1,269 students) over the previous record of 34,732 last fall.

In addition to record-breaking student numbers, the ISU Alumni Association also announces this milestone: The number of Iowa State alumni currently living in the state of Iowa has topped 100,000. A total of 100,223 alumni now reside in the state, making it the highest number of alumni living in Iowa from any institution of higher education.

Coming Together


Among the past decade’s $160 million of athletics facility projects, the completion of the Jack Trice South Endzone expansion is the most ambitious and talked-about yet

By Kate Bruns, VISIONS magazine, fall 2015

Dean McCormick has multiple files in his office labeled “Jack Trice Stadium South Endzone.” One is dated 1997. One is from 2002. Another is from 2008. It’s a project the university’s director for design and construction services has thought about a lot during his 21 years on campus. It’s a project fans have been clamoring for for decades. It’s a job multiple athletics directors have aspired to do. It’s a video McCormick (L)(’81 construction engr) has played in his mind a few times. So when athletics director Jamie Pollard (L) came to him in 2013 and asked if the south endzone of Jack Trice Stadium could be renovated between football seasons, McCormick felt fully qualified to give him an unequivocal no.

No, the $60 million stadium renovation couldn’t be completed in less than a year. But, McCormick says, once he realized Pollard’s proposed club building would be located behind the former south endzone bleachers, he knew they could make something work; the job could get done in a creative way without too much disruption to the Cyclone football program and its loyal fans.

“We put together project goals early on,” said senior associate athletics director for facilities Chris Jorgensen. “One was that we didn’t want to impact the customer and fan experience for the 2014 season, and another was that we wanted to start the 2015 season with two awesome fan experiences. Those aren’t easy goals to meet. The easy thing for our construction team to say would have been, ‘Can we just relocate those fans?’ That would have been easy for everyone – except, of course, the 2,900 fans who sit in that section and bought those seats for 2014. So we just set out to make it work.”

McCormick and Jorgensen say they got the green light to begin planning the project in February 2014 with a firm completion deadline of kickoff on Sept. 5, 2015. That’s less than 19 months to get the job done, and, as McCormick noted, “there could be no plan B.”

“This isn’t an overly complicated project at its base level,” McCormick said. “But there’s no phased move-in. It’s 100 percent occupied on September 5. It’s all gotta work, and there’s no reserve parachute. I think that’s what makes it unique.”

Recognizing the high profile of the project and the number of stakeholders involved in its success, McCormick and Jorgensen said they ramped up their level of collaboration and learned a few things in the process. Working with ISU Facilities Planning & Management, Neumann Monson Architects, and construction manager The Weitz Company, the project team identified a unique 24-hour decision-making strategy that played a key role in making sure the ambitious project got done in time.

“We just said, ‘We’re going to bring the decision maker and be down here every day at 7:30 a.m. with all the people necessary,” McCormick explained. “We put the decision on the table and we’ll either make it that day or the next day. That kept the panic out of people’s eyes. We managed to keep small problems from getting to be big problems.”

McCormick says the project wouldn’t have been possible without the collaborative leadership of the athletics department. Pollard has overseen $160 million worth of facilities projects during his 10-year tenure, often using unconventional tactics to make dreams into reality but always being flexible, creative, and open about the process.

“I know we’re probably a challenging client,” Jorgensen said. “We will set a general vision and a hard and fast timeline, but we still want flexibility in there as we go, as additional monies are raised, as additional items are designed.”

“Their approach is, ‘Here’s what we want to do; how can we accomplish it?’ Jamie outlines his vision, it is clear, and it doesn’t change,’” McCormick said. “When you start out on that basis, you can accomplish a lot. We have accomplished a lot. So we don’t mind being challenged; the most challenging projects are the most fun in the end.

“Jamie has pushed, but he’s pushed within reasonable boundaries,” McCormick added. “He realizes it isn’t all about athletics – that it has to benefit the whole university. I know I have peers around the country whose athletics departments don’t think that way, but here we’ve found win-win opportunities that have been very beneficial.”

The renovations to the Jack Trice concourses and the creation of the Cyclone Sports Complex, Hixson-Lied Academic Center, Sukup Basketball Complex, and Bergstrom Football Complex are among the major accomplishments of Pollard’s tenure, but ISU has also hung its hat on the ability to maximize efficiency in its facilities. While the excavators were clanging at Jack Trice, the athletics department quietly repurposed the Olsen Building to create a new weight room and locker rooms for several Olympic sports and transformed the old football offices in the Jacobson Building into the multiuse “Heartland Hall” facility. Jorgensen says these facilities are tremendous assets for the athletics department, even if they don’t get much publicity.

But as for September 2015, all eyes are on ISU’s football stadium, which is now the third-largest in the Big 12 Conference with a capacity of 61,000.

“Jack Trice Stadium has always been, in my estimation, a sensational venue,” head football coach Paul Rhoads (A) said. “It’s loud. The fans are on top of you. And now we’re bowling in the south endzone, and I think it will be even more exciting and the decibel level taken up several more notches.”

McCormick and Jorgensen say the Sukup Endzone Club is a fabulous amenity, but they agree with Rhoads that the project will transform the gameday experience for all fans – and football players.

“There will be the ribbon board, the new video board, additional restroom facilities, and an elevator for the mobility impaired that will reduce golf cart traffic,” Jorgensen said. “But it’s also just the overall acoustics and aesthetics of the south end.”

“The project has generated so much excitement in the community,” McCormick said. “It’s a transformation of the image of the stadium.”

On to the next file folder.

Weird, wonderful weather


Bill Gallus, ISU professor of geological & atmospheric sciences, is a self-proclaimed weather nut.

“I was born this way,” he says, laughing. “I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t fascinated by the weather.”

In fact, Gallus says that most students entering Iowa State’s meteorology program – the largest number of ISU students in the physical sciences – love the weather. Maybe, he adds with a wry smile, it’s because they have their own television channel.

Gallus has been working on research to improve prediction of thunderstorms and their rainfall and studying severe storm dynamics for years, and he’s passed on his passion for extreme weather to class after class of meteorology students.

“There’s still a lot to be learned about severe weather,” he says. “It’s a thrill to see if I can learn something to change how we understand tornadoes. Sometimes it’s still like I’m five years old, but it’s more fascinating now because I know how the laws of physics work.”

1) During a spell of particularly wild weather in early March 1990, Iowa had a severe ice storm that brought up to two to three inches of glaze on one day, tornadoes the next day, and then was part of a big tornado outbreak five days later. When Ankeny, Iowa, was hit by one of the tornadoes that day, it apparently picked up many of the piles of tree limbs along the curbs that had fallen in the ice storm a few days earlier!

2) On Jan. 24, 1967, a tornado outbreak brought roughly a dozen tornadoes each to Iowa,Illinois, and Missouri, killing several people. Within 36 hours, Chicago’s biggest 24-hour snowstorm was occurring, and more than a foot fell in the same parts of southeast Iowa that had just had tornadoes.

3) My pick for Iowa’s weirdest weather event was actually pretty weird across a big chunk of the country. On May 27-29, 1947, heavy snow fell across parts of Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan, with around 10 inches in a few spots in each of these states. It would not have been much fun shoveling out the picnic table to celebrate Memorial Day!

1) On Feb. 14-15, 1895, over 20 inches of snow fell in Houston, 15 inches in Galveston, and six inches in Brownsville, Texas, on the Mexican border at the Gulf Coast. Enough also fell in Florida to allow people to go sledding.

2) Cordell, Kan., was hit by a tornado on May 20 three years in a row – 1916, 1917, 1918. I’d guess in 1919 no one hung around to see if it would happen again!

3) The largest hailstone to fall in the U.S. happened on July 23, 2010, in Vivian, S.D. – it was eight inches in diameter and weighed nearly two pounds. Hailstones the size of baseballs or larger can fall at faster than 100 miles per hour.

4) During perhaps the worst U.S. cold wave ever, the temperature fell to -2 in Tallahassee, Fla., on Feb. 13, 1899, and ice flowed out of the mouth of the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.

5) During the “Summer in March” heat wave of 2012, several cities in the Midwest and Great Lakes region had daily low temperatures that were already warmer than the previous record high temperature for the day. In Marquette, Mich., the previous record high for March 21 was 49 degrees. In 2012, it hit 81 that day! That same day, St. Johns, Newfoundland, in Canada set a record high for the month of March that was warmer than the record high for April! That is the stuff of science fiction!

How much do you know about extreme weather events?

1. What is the width of the largest tornado observed in the United States?
a) One mile
b) One and a half miles
c) Two and a half miles
d) Four miles

2. Which city has the coldest mean temperature for a January afternoon?
a) Juneau, Alaska
b) Ames, Iowa
c) Cheyenne, Wyo.
d) Winter Park, Colo.

3. How far away can lightning strike from its parent thunderstorm?
a) Up to 2 miles
b) Up to 5 miles
c) Up to 10-15 miles
d) Up to 40-50 miles

4. Which of the following has the highest temperature?
a) The sand in the desert near Yuma, Ariz., on a July afternoon
b) Surface of the sun
c) Aurora borealis
d) Lightning bolt

5. Which type of cloud is highest in the sky?
a) Cirrus
b) Altostratus
c) Altocumulus
d) Stratus

6. The typical halo one sees around the sun or moon when high clouds move in is caused by ice crystals refracting light by how many degrees?
a) 11
b) 22
c) 33
d) 44

7. Which weather event, on average over the past 30 years, kills the most people in the U.S. each year?
a) Hurricane
b) Tornado
c) Lightning
d) Flood

8. Which of these cities has had a snowstorm drop over 20 inches of snow in just one day?
a) Des Moines, Iowa
b) Barrow, Alaska
c) Houston, Texas
d) Atlanta, Ga.

9. What significant weather event occurred on May 22, 2011?
a) 100 degree heat in Nebraska
b) Flooding rains in eastern Colorado
c) EF5 tornado in Joplin, Mo.
d) Snow in North Dakota

10. Which of the following weather systems resulted in the lowest surface pressure?
a) Hurricane Wilma in 2005
b) The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950
c) Superstorm 1993
d) The ”Polar Vortex” event of 2014

(scroll down for answers)

Correct Answers: 1: C, 2: B, 3: C, 4: D, 5: A, 6: B, 7: D, 8: C, 9: C, 10: A

Freese-Notis: The little weather forecasting company that grew


In the early 1970s – before the public had access to the Internet, before cell phones, before personal computers, even – two fresh-out-of-grad-school ISU meteorology alumni decided to start a company creating customized weather forecasts for businesses.

“We were looking for jobs, and nobody was hiring,” remembers Charlie Notis (L)(MS ’72 meteorology). “It was the early 1970s, and we were in a recession. The National Weather Service was not hiring. People said to us, ‘Why don’t you start your own company?’ and we said, ‘Well, maybe that’s what we should do.’”

Notis and his friend Harvey Freese (L)(’71 meteorology, MS ’73) started a business and called it Freese-Notis Weather – a combination of their last names that serendipitously created a natural name for a weather-forecasting business.

The two started out with one client – Iowa Power and Light – for whom they created customized weather forecasts. Within a year, they signed on more customers, and the company started to grow, providing forecasts for radio stations, the city of Des Moines Public Works Department, other highway departments, and construction companies.

By the late 1970s, the client base had grown to nearly 75. During the 1980s, Freese-Notis began working with agriculture commodity clients; in the 1990s they expanded to provide forecasts for the energy industry.

At first, it was just the two of them: 24 hours on, 24 hours off. Forecasts were provided to customers by phone, with maps sent by modem. Technology was in its infancy back then, and Notis and Freese expanded their reach as technology allowed.

“There was a T1 line with high-speed Internet along Grand Avenue [in Des Moines],” Freese says.

“We were pioneers,” Notis adds.

“Our first computer was an Apple II,” Freese says. “Then we had an ISU engineer build a computer for us.”

Over the years, as the technology improved and the company expanded, Notis and Freese stuck to their original mission: to provide customized forecasts for their subscribers.

“The National Weather Service provides information,” Notis says. “But a construction company wants to know exactly when it will freeze – will it be 32 degrees tonight or 28 degrees? They want to know exactly when it will start raining, so they can plan their day accordingly. Commodity companies are looking for changes in the weather pattern, because if it rains in the growing season, after a lengthy dry and hot period, soybean and corn prices will go kaboom.”

It takes a mix of art, science, passion, and a good memory for details to create accurate weather forecasts, they say.

“You have to have a mind that can remember certain weather forecasts,” Notis says. “What happened eight years ago? No two weather systems are exactly alike.” Freese adds: “You have to draw on your skills and do lots of research…that’s the secret sauce.”

After more than 30 years in the business, Notis says he got tired of getting up at 2 a.m. to go to work, and he recently retired from the company. Freese is “still having fun,” but he’s cutting back on his hours.

“I still find it fascinating,” he says.

Climate change and agriculture: ‘We need to do something’


Gene Takle remembers the moment he first became aware of a new concept called global climate change.

It was August 1988. He was in Denmark, and he was reading an article in Science magazine. Takle had been vaguely aware of what was going on with the earth’s climate, but never thought it would be a “game changer” until he read that article.

He’s since spent the majority of his career pursuing research on global climate change. He’s a co-principal investigator on the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program and was a member of authoring and review teams of periodic assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cited as a co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

The professor of atmospheric science and Pioneer Hi-Bred Professor of Agronomy has shifted his primary focus to the impact of climate change on regional agriculture. He often presents his findings to agriculture networks such as the USDA.

When he has an opportunity to meet with local farmers, he lays it on the line.

“I tell them that climate is changing, humans are having a large fraction of the impact on it, it’s affecting all Iowans, it’s affecting our economy, and we need to do something about it, because it’s going to get worse. That’s the elevator speech.”

He says the information resonates with farmers – up to a point.

“Most farmers will now agree that things are different than they used to be, but a majority do not believe that humans are responsible,” he said. “There’s a lot of year-to-year variability [in the weather]. It’s hard to say, well, this drought was due to climate change but this storm wasn’t. But there are trends in the U.S. that are clearly related to climate change and related to increases in greenhouse gasses.”

Takle is also studying the impact of wind turbines on crops.

“When windmills started sprouting up like dandelions in the spring across the landscape, it just occurred to me to wonder if they had an effect on crops,” he said.

It turns out they do. Just like trees planted as agricultural shelterbelts – a subject Takle researched for more than a decade – a series of large wind turbines have a measurable impact on field temperature, moisture, and wind speed. Takle’s research group is the first in the U.S. to report such field measurements within wind farms.