When Kurt met Kristyn

kurtkristynWhile undergraduates at ISU, Kristyn Cassidy and Kurt Tjaden’s paths didn’t cross very often.

They had different interests and living arrangements. Kristyn was a speech communication major and active in the residence halls. An accounting major, Kurt was a member of Theta Chi fraternity and co-chaired Iowa State’s Homecoming celebration in 1984.

The one area where the two Iowa natives (he’s from Charles City; she grew up in Bettendorf) did cross paths was at the Iowa State University Alumni Association, where both served on Senior Class Council.

“Kristyn was in charge of External Relations and I worked for her on Senior Class Council,” said Kurt. Under his breath he added with a smile, “and I’m still working for her today!”

No sparks developed at Iowa State, and after graduation in 1985 the two Iowa Staters headed their separate ways. Kristyn ventured to California, where she established the first ISUAA club in Los Angeles. Kurt moved to Cincinnati and then to Pennsylvania with Procter and Gamble. The couple continued to connect in “our own series of ‘When Harry Met Sally’” moments, according to Kristyn.

One spring, Kurt was back on the ISU campus for Career Day activities. One of the students he interviewed that day turned out to be Kristyn’s brother.

“I found out she was living in California, and since I was moving to Los Angeles I asked Julie Larson (MS ’84) of the Alumni Association if she had Kristyn’s phone number,” said Kurt. “We met up again in California, hung out for a while before we started dating, and eventually got married. We owe it all to Julie!”

While living in Asia off and on for 12 years, the young family (they are the parents of four boys and one girl) tried to maintain a connection with Iowa State. One way was to establish a scholarship in the only area with a shared interest – the Alumni Association.

“We both have a strong emotional attachment to Iowa State,” said Kristyn. “Senior Class Council was the one thing we shared as a couple from our Iowa State experiences, and this is why we decided to support this program.”

Since 2006, the couple has funded the Cassidy-Tjaden Senior Class Council Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded annually to a member of the Senior Class Council with outstanding leadership abilities.

In 2008, the family returned to Iowa. Kurt is the vice president and chief financial officer for HNI Corporation in Muscatine; they make their home in Bettendorf.

“I look at Senior Class Council as a unique leadership opportunity,” Kurt said. “We hope that this scholarship will support other students like us and encourage them to have that same opportunity.”

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