Getting to know you

On July 1, the Big 12 Conference welcomed new members for the first time as West Virginia University and Texas Christian University became part of the league. Need a primer on our two new sister schools? Here’s a quick look at each.



1867, public land-grant

Old Gold and Blue

Nickname: Mountaineers
West Virginia became the “Mountaineers” in the mid-1930s on the heels of rejected mascots “Snakes” and “Miners.”

Mascot: The Mountaineer
West Virginia is one of a handful of universities that still exclusively uses a human mascot. The application process to become the Mountaineer, selected by a student group known as the Mountain Honorary, is very rigorous and includes an essay, interviews, and a trial performance at a late season basketball game. Only one student and an alternate are selected annually, and the job comes with up to 500 appearances per year. Although a beard is often grown, its requirement is a popular WVU myth; in fact, two women have previously donned the Mountaineer buckskins. The West Virginia Alumni Association’s Washington, D.C., chapter donates money every 5-6 years to commission the handcrafting of the Mountaineer’s musket.

Athletics traditions

  • Country Roads: The theme song of West Virginia University, “Country Roads,” has been performed before every home football game since 1972, and John Denver performed it live in 1980. Today it is a tradition for fans at Milan Puskar Stadium to sing the song together after every home victory.
  • Rolling out the Carpet: An elaborate blue and gold carpet is rolled out before every Mountaineer home basketball game, upon which the players run out. One of college basketball’s most recognized traditions, it was begun in 1955.
  • Mountaineer Maniacs: The largest student group on campus, formed to show support for WVU athletics, is active at all Mountaineer contests.
  • FanFest: Thousands of students and fans gather on Mountainlair Plaza to hear the band, meet the cheerleaders and Mountaineer, and cheer on head coach Dana Holgorsen’s football team. It’s the biggest pep rally of the season
    at WVU.

To do in Morgantown

  • Dining: Located about a mile and a half from campus, Mario’s Fishbowl is a local bar and grill that many alumni consider a “must-visit.” Sign the wall and sample some beer out of a (you guessed it) fishbowl. The Boston Beanery is another local favorite for food and drink.
  • Taste an original: West Virginia is famous for inventing the pepperoni roll. Stop at one of the Morgantown’s many local restaurants to taste one.
  • Outdoor recreation: “Morgantown is very mountainous. Everything is located on a ‘hill,’ as we call them,” said Tara Curtis of WVU’s Alumni Association. “We’ve got beautiful outdoor recreational activities here. We’re located on the river; we have trails that run along the river for people who like to walk, bike, or run. And Coopers Rock State Park has unbelievable vistas and trails.”
  • Visit campus: The original West Virginia University campus was built on a hill, and the rest of the town grew up around it. To accommodate university growth, WVU today has two campuses linked by a transit system called the PRT. The football stadium and WVU’s new alumni center are located on the Evansdale (newer) campus. The alumni center is open to visit for pregame
    festivities on gameday.

ISU-West Virginia football series history
The Cyclones and Mountaineers have never met on the gridiron.

Notable matchups in other sports
The ISU women’s basketball team played TCU and West Virginia in back-to-back games at the Paradise Jam Tournament in November 2010. The Cyclones defeated TCU, but lost to the 10th-ranked Mountaineers, 64-53. The Cyclone volleyball team defeated WVU in the schools’ only meeting in that sport in 2003. West Virginia brings the welcome addition of a wrestling program back to the Big 12 after the losses of Nebraska and Missouri in recent years had taken the league down
to three teams.

ISU vs. West Virginia 2012
Friday, Nov. 23, Jack Trice Stadium

tcu-utah fans & field


1873, private

Purple and White

Nickname: The Horned Frogs
There are two stories floating around Forth Worth about the origin of TCU’s unique nickname. One goes as follows: The unimproved field on which the school’s first football team practiced teemed with horned frogs. Because it was observed that the players scampered about like the fierce-looking and sturdy creatures, the players began referring to themselves as such and the name stuck. The second story purports that a four-student committee chose the name in 1897 for their team and for the first yearbook, which was to be published that year. “There may be truth to both stories,” says Rick Waters, a campus history expert and assistant editor of The TCU Magazine. “Addison Clark Jr., who is credited with bringing about both the first yearbook and the first football team, was fascinated with horned frogs and likely influenced that decision.”

Mascot: Super Frog
Super Frog became the official mascot in 1979, following Addy the All-American frog, who had served in the role for the previous 30 years.

Athletics traditions

  • Frog Horn: This 3,000-pound train whistle was given to TCU as a gift sports_tcufroghornfrom Burlington Northern Railroad in 1994. The contraption, which is painted purple and mounted on a four-wheeled trailer, is designed to look like a horned lizard and blasts every time TCU scores a touchdown. It can reach up to 120 decibels.
  • Frog sign: Every school in the Lone Star State has a hand gesture, and TCU is no exception. During the alma mater and fight song, fans fold over their index and middle fingers to mimic the horns on a horned lizard.
  • Bleacher Creatures: At each football game, this group of young Horned Frogs fans is led onto the field by Super Frog and runs out of a tunnel with the team. The concept was the brainchild of head coach Gary Patterson, who suggested it as a way to make games more family-friendly. The tradition has been around long enough that there is now a former Bleacher Creature on the TCU roster – defensive tackle David Johnson.
  • Alma Mater/Fight Song/Riff Ram Chant: Win or lose, TCU’s teams always linger on the field after a competition to sing the alma mater and fight song with the TCU Marching Band and cheerleaders. Students have done the “riff ram” chant at home games since the early 1900s.

To do in Fort Worth

  • Dining: Fort Worth has some of the best Tex-Mex and BBQ cuisine in the Southwest. Joe T. Garcia’s, located in the Fort Worth Stockyards, is known for its fajitas and enchiladas. Railhead Smokehouse and Angelo’s Barbecue are legendary spots to try treats such as ribs, brisket, and smoked sausage.
  • Fort Worth Museum District: Fort Worth is known as a city that celebrates western heritage, and several area museums on the subject make the district the “Museum Capital of the Southwest.”
  • Sundance Square: Rated the “cleanest, safest big-city downtown in the U.S.,” Fort Worth’s shopping, dining, and entertainment district is a major
    attraction for visitors. Find out more at
  • Frog Alley: TCU’s free pregame party starts two hours before kickoff on the east side of the stadium. Live music, food and beverage vendors, live game broadcasts, youth activities, and pep activities are part of the fun.

ISU-TCU football series history
The Cyclones are 0-3 all-time against the Horned Frogs, including a 27-10 loss in Fort Worth in 1995, a 31-21 loss at Jack Trice Stadium in 1998, and a 27-24 loss in the 2005 Houston Bowl at Reliant Stadium.

Notable matchups in other sports
A men’s basketball matchup between the Cyclones and Horned Frogs left Johnny Orr feeling miffed at the 1991 San Juan Shootout. Freshman Fred Hoiberg made a lay-up with 18 seconds left to give ISU a 52-50 lead, but TCU responded by converting a 3-point play thanks to what many witnesses would describe as a phantom goaltending call. “I thought they called a foul, but I never dreamed they’d give him the basket,” Orr said. “The ball was not even near the basket.” The Cyclones lost, 53-52. The Cyclone women’s basketball team is 2-0 all-time vs. TCU. The Cyclones won the first meeting in 1986 at Hilton Coliseum and also beat the Horned Frogs in the 2010 Paradise Jam tournament.

ISU vs. TCU 2012
Saturday, Oct. 6, Amon Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

How high can he fly?

A love of aviation that started when Mark Maloney was just a kid has had the chance to take off and soar at Iowa State University, due in part to the Johnson Transfer Student Scholarship he received.

Mark Maloney remembers the exact day he fell in love with aviation.

He was 10, and his parents had taken him to Iowa City to attend a “fly-in” at the municipal airport. Over a breakfast of pancakes and juice, aviation buffs who’d flown in were catching up with each other and showing off their planes. But they were also there to answer questions from the visiting public.

“I was able to just go and look in the planes. I even got to take a few rides,” Maloney said. “Afterward, it was all I could think about.”

A visit to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla., around the same time sealed the deal. “That trip gave me an introduction to the whole world of aviation and space travel and the adventure of it all. It was eye-opening and really showed me
all the possibilities.”

howhighFrom there, Maloney’s fascination with aeronautics and aviation only grew. With 17 the minimum age for obtaining a pilot’s license, he settled for doing ground-school training on a sit-in basis when he was just 14. Immediately after his high school graduation in May 2009, Maloney took his pilot’s exam. By December,
he had his license to fly.

By then his father had purchased a used plane, “a Cessna 150 from the ’70s – older, but still a good plane,” Maloney said.

After graduating, he lived at home and attended Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for two years to save on the cost of college. But to realize his career goals, he knew that he would need a four-year degree from a university with a top-notch aerospace engineering program. Once more, Maloney set his sights and was admitted to Iowa State University in fall 2011.

He was able to attend Iowa State with support from the Johnson Transfer Student Scholarship, created specifically for students like Maloney who are trying to save on the cost of a college education by putting in their first years at a community college.

Maloney has been delighted with what he’s been able to do at Iowa State. He became involved with Cyclone Business Jet, an organization that brings together primarily engineering, design, and business undergraduate students to gain hands-on experience designing a 10-passenger business jet. Maloney worked on the structures team, using the state-of-the-art simulation software ANSYS to create design models.

He also participated on the performance team and is proud to be among only a few undergraduates to use Iowa State’s wind tunnel, which allows highly accurate testing of scale models in winds up to 110 mph.

Maloney is looking forward to graduating from Iowa State next spring with a degree in aerospace engineering and an entrepreneurship minor. He wants to use his education to design better aircraft, or perhaps he’ll indulge his love for being behind the control stick and become a commercial pilot. “No matter what I do,” he said, “I want flying to be a part of my life.”


In the summer of 2009, freelance journalist Jennifer Wilson and her architect husband, Jim Hoff, left behind a comfortable life in Des Moines, Iowa, and took their two young children, Sam and Zadie, to live in Croatia, Wilson’s homeland. What began as a crazy idea hatched late one night by two weary parents became a journey that would change the family’s lives. For four months, they lived in Wilson’s ancestral village: Mrkopalj, Croatia (pronounced MER-koe-pie). There they lived a simple life, forged deep and lasting friendships with the local people, explored Wilson’s ancestral roots, and connected as a family on a deeper level than they ever had back home.  While Hoff (’93 architecture) home-schooled the kids, Wilson (’93 English) documented the family’s extraordinary adventure. The result was a book, Running Away to Home, published in 2011.

Mom, Sam, Zadie in the yard

Running Away to Home by Jennifer Wilson
Excerpt from Chapter 1

October 2008
Dawn had not yet broken as I wrestled my suitcase out of my room above the bar in Mrkopalj, a tiny Croatian village nestled in a low mountain range that looks like the Alps but with fewer people and more wild boars. I sweated my luggage down the creaky back stairway, careful to step quietly, for fear that some of the rowdy night drinkers whose noise kept me up all night would now be snoozing somewhere among the empty bottles in the brown-on-brown murk of the bar.

I crept across a quiet courtyard surrounded by weeds, my breath coming in icy puffs against the night. I threw my stuff into the trunk of the rented Volkswagen Polo. Somewhere out there, as I hurriedly rubbed the fog off the windshield with my coat sleeve, hungry bears were creeping down those mountains to rob the wilting gardens of the village. They wouldn’t find much. Most of the cabbages in Mrkopalj (pronounced MER-koe-pie by the locals) were fermenting in wooden barrels by now, its potatoes stacked in red-net bags in root cellars. What the bears did not know (and I didn’t know yet, either) is that they would find more action at the local drinking establishment that was now in my rearview mirror, operated by a man who was, in spirit, one of them.

The last shreds of darkness still cloaked Mrkopalj’s 800 residents and their yard chickens as I skidded past Jesus and the robbers on Calvary, the sheep near the post office, and the dark office of a drunken tourism director. This was the land of my ancestors, the homeland of my mom’s side of the family. The village my great-grandparents left behind when they immigrated to America 100 years ago. From what I’d seen so far, it hadn’t changed much since they left. This, in theory, was a good thing, considering that my husband Jim and I were planning a back-to-basics family sabbatical with our two little kids as America’s economy hit the skids.

In the spirit of scouting possibilities, I planned to explore Mrkopalj for a week.

I fled after 36 hours.

The engine of my tiny Euro car whined in high gear as I floored it out of last century. One urgent thought pulsed continuously through my mind as the sun began to rise: Get me the hell out of here.

I had come to Mrkopalj in search of home. A rustic, simple country home that I hoped to mysteriously recognize on some deep and spiritual level. Preferably, something that smelled like baking bread or maybe hay. Though I knew so little about Mrkopalj when I set out on this scouting mission, I’ve been to enough of my old family’s funerals to know that I look just like them, with knobby cheekbones and eyes so deep set that I’m pretty sure they’ll eventually emerge from the back of my head. In a way, Mrkopalj is an essential part of who I am. Unfortunately, I discovered, this revealed me to be isolated, mildly alcoholic, and dentally challenged.

So that was disappointing. Jim and I had been working up the courage to do something we’d always dreamed about – escaping to a place where we could live simply with our kids, Sam and Zadie. We’d shared the dream of living overseas ever since we’d met and married 10 years before in Des Moines, Iowa. The dream faded as we built our careers – me a moderately successful travel writer, he an architect. It disappeared altogether when the kids came along. We dove blindly into the blur of the American family frenzy, with all its soccer practices and frivolous shopping trips to SuperTarget. We worked. We drove the kids around. We shopped.

We were chest-deep in the fray when the escape fantasy began to revive in me. I wanted to get back to that essential kernel of connection that had brought Jim and me together in the first place. We’d worked hard and happily to carve our own version of the American Dream. We renovated a house together in lieu of dating. When we married, we promised that above all, we’d provide each other an interesting life. We raised two babies in our homemade house where I planted big gardens under the open sky of the uncrowded state where we both grew up.

Then, somewhere along the line, things got complicated. I worked during naptimes and nighttimes while I stayed home with the kids, writing in my half-sleep – I was doing it all but none of it well. I found myself mindlessly rushing to school or swimming lessons or ballet or work or another trip to the store, anything to distract my mind from the endless needs of the kids and the longest single-syllable word in human history: “Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahm.” The manufactured schedule replaced a more tangible life. And really, Sam and Zadie just wanted to hang out at home and wrestle and play beauty shop with Dad, though the 6-7:30 p.m. window of time that Jim actually spent with his children was filled with the chaos of supper, bath, and bedtime. We ran because we couldn’t sit still. Neither of us knew why.

As we were living this life of distraction, we began to accumulate things. At final count, Jim bought three grills – the last one cost us four digits. “You can make naan in it!” he’d announced at the unveiling, stepping aside on the porch to reveal a large oval-shaped ceramic urn mounted on a wooden platform. It looked like an altar. But I wasn’t in any position to judge. My shoe collection closely resembled a DSW store in my closet.

Restlessness circulated through our house like that one smell that happens when a mouse crawls into the ductwork and dies. Sort of vague. Faint. But pervasive, and disturbing. I’m not lodging a complaint here, we were comfortable physically, and that’s more than I can say about three-quarters of the world, and for that very reason it just didn’t seem like the right way to live anymore.

Jim and I just sort of looked at each other across the shopping cart one Saturday afternoon, both of us holding the Starbucks that accounted for $150 of our monthly household budget, SUV idling in the parking lot, kids grousing that the Lego set they’d chosen was somehow lacking, and we asked ourselves: Is this the American Dream? Because if it is, it sort of sucks.

It was into this void that Mrkopalj came calling. In August 2008, my great aunt died. Sister Mary Paula Radosevich was the last of the old immigrant family. Because no one else was interested, the nuns gave me her personal papers stored in a bronze-colored tin lock box. To most of my family, the old relatives were old news. But I thought knowing more about them might help guide my own life. My olive-skinned mom rarely mentioned that she descended from thick-accented immigrants, full moustaches upon both the men and the women. I’d once asked her where our family came from, but she would only answer: “Iowa.”

I sensed some shame about these poor ancestors who’d toiled in coal mines, or maybe it was just her natural reticence.

The night after Sister Paula’s funeral, after the kids went to bed, I nestled on the family room couch and sifted through that bronze-colored tin box. I dug out her modestly short handwritten autobiography. In shaky upright cursive, she wrote that her parents, Valentin Radosevich and Jelena Eskra, came from Mrkopalj, Croatia.

Valentin and Jelena’s tale had been furtively tucked away as the Radosevich clan rose to middle-class prosperity. With my generation, the immigrant story nearly vanished. I wished I had more to teach Sam and Zadie about our roots. I didn’t know one old recipe. Few words. No helpful bedtime stories where the misbehaving child gets disemboweled by wolves. But this felt like a start.

I read that Valentin and Jelena had six children. I never met the brothers. But the sisters meant the world to me when I was a girl. The elder Radosevich women, those chuckling old hens, short of stature and big of butt, doted on me, each in her own way.

There was Mary, who became Sister Paula, the oldest and the only one who went to college. She’d become the principal at a Catholic grade school in Des Moines, and at the funeral her former students told me she was strict but fair. I think that’s code for mean. But with me, Sister Paula was attentive and inquisitive. How was I doing in school? Was I making books my priority? Higher even than softball and boys? Growing up in Colfax, Iowa, where the only black person in town bagged groceries and lived at the dump, Sister Paula urged me to broaden my understanding of the world, and to consider travel a crucial part of my education.

Annie was the middle sister, called Auntie by all the cousins. Auntie wore a girdle, a fascinating device of physics with levers and fulcrums underneath her cotton housedress. I know about the girdle because Auntie would let me come into the bathroom during her morning constitutional so I could snap and unsnap her stockings from her garters.

Katherine was the youngest. My Grandma Kate. My mother’s mother. I loved her above all others. Toni perms had burnt her jet-black hair until it was crisp and brittle. Her oversized sweaters sparkled with sequins. Grandma Kate’s eyebrows were singed from lighting Misty menthols on the coil of her electric stove. She drove her metallic blue Volaré just a few notches below the speed of sound.

I was lonely in my mother’s harsh and nervous universe. An unhappy woman stranded in a small town, Mom was prone to days of angry silence. I was an intense and curious kid who seemed born to question.

And just as I have always been a seeker, my mother has been one who has hidden her whole life. I wish I could tell you why she would spend so many days isolated from the children so eager to love her, lashing out in bitterness from an imagined slight from one of us. Or she’d simply level stunning silence that would last for days. I do not know if this was depression, though later I know she struggled with alcoholism. I also don’t know why my dad never stopped it. When I worked up the courage or the anger, I demanded to know what we had done wrong, why she was not like the other mothers, why she couldn’t offer the simple closeness and openness that we all craved. It created a friction between us all, a fear and a void, that has left so many of my questions unanswered. And so, perhaps, I was also looking for my mother in that tin box.

From this odd home life as a kid, I found refuge at Grandma Kate’s house in Des Moines. Though her voice was manly and thick with a staccato Croatian accent, and she had a complete inability to cook anything flavorful, her unabashed love of my company built a foundation for my shaky confidence. She was widowed when I was young, having lost my Italian Grandpa Gino to congestive heart failure, so I had my Grandma Kate all to myself when I’d visit. We’d sit for whole weekends chatting at her Formica kitchen table or calling her other daughter, my vivacious Aunt Terri, on the phone, and only moving every few hours to lie foot-to-foot on the couch reading romance novels.

“Boy, Jenn’fer, I tell ya,” she’d rumble. “They sure make doing it with a man sound a lot better than it is.”

I would pluck her chin hairs, or we’d head to her Saturday night card party where I’d give all the ladies bouffant hairdos. Around Grandma Kate, I was no longer the weepy kid obsessed with horror comics and the Little House on the Prairie box set. She thought I was smart and funny. With Grandma Kate, I was the best version of myself.

She had a stroke when I was in my 20s. My uncle found her on the bathroom floor where she’d been laying for two days. She grabbed my hand when I walked into her hospital room and told me she’d just had a vision of my long-dead Grandpa Gino.

“I almost went, but Gino told me to come back,” she cried. “That big dummy.”

She should’ve just stayed with him. She moved into a nursing home where I’d find her with bruises on her arms and legs and,once, a goose egg on her forehead that the chief of staff couldn’t explain. I’d find her sitting in front of the blaring common-room television, tears streaming down her face.

When she was in the hospital with some sort of complication, I came into her room where two nurses were cleaning her up for the day, one of them swabbing her mouth because she couldn’t swallow well anymore. Grandma Kate began choking on the mouth swab, which the nurse had dropped down her throat. They sent me out as she thrashed around in a panic. When I came back she was dead. I sat by her side, holding her hand as her body went cold, whispering her childhood nickname over and over again: “Kata. Kata. Kata.” I have never stopped missing her.

I dug through these memories on the couch until after midnight, poring over pictures of Mrkopalj on my laptop, dreaming of the village where my Grandma Kate’s parents had come from, this ghost-like place that was simply never mentioned. It seemed like something out of a storybook: a smattering of gnome houses among fields of spotted cattle and fat sheep, hemmed in by low wooded mountains less than an hour from the sea. It appeared to have changed little over the centuries. Like it had been waiting for me all along.

Maybe this simple and wide-open existence was just what my family needed. Travel had always cleared my head and renewed my focus. But could I run away from home – and bring my family, too? Was it even possible? As my wondering turned to obsession, it seemed like Grandma Kate and Sister Paula and all the old relatives were answering: Maybe you can.

The more I thought about transporting us back a century and across the globe, the more I thought this was a very good idea. Which, frankly, is crazy. So I figured I’d check with my human sanity barometer one night after I put the kids to bed. I married a steady Midwestern man who spent his free time fine-tuning our Ameritrade accounts. If anyone could spot a dumb idea, it was Jim.

“Let’s talk,” I began, plopping down in front of him as he was watching an ultimate fighting match.

He turned to me. “We are not watching Rock of Love with Bret Michaels,” he said. “No matter what you promise me.”

“This is better,” I said, grabbing the remote and clicking off the television.

He sighed.

“Remember how we used to dream about living overseas together?” I asked.

“I remember,” said Jim.

I smiled, trying very hard to look beguiling. “I’ve been dreaming about it again.”

Surprisingly, Jim did not mock this.

So I unveiled my proposal for a return to the old country, re-learning the forgotten lessons of our ancestors, spending uninterrupted time together as a family. It would be a reverse immigration of sorts – my own family starting over where the ancestors left off. There was a tidiness to the plan.

“I know it doesn’t sound sensible,” I said. “But for some reason it sounds right.”

Now, in most marriages, there is a contented partner and a restless one. You can probably guess which one I am. But Jim wasn’t quite the contented spirit he had been. He’d suspected for a long time that architecture wasn’t the best career choice for someone who would rather build a house than draw one. At night, he pored over cooking magazines, dreaming of owning his own lunch truck. To most people, he was the same old Jim, the guy who’d push your car out from the snowdrift. But I recognized restlessness when I saw it.

I sat there waiting for the onslaught of Reasons Why We Can’t. We’ve got a mortgage. We’ve got pets. We just hooked up the TiVo. But Jim sat in silence.

Then I realized Jim was breaking into the same look he had the first time we met, when he was bellied up at a bar with his buddy Dave, pretending to watch Hawkeye basketball, but really watching me drink whiskey near the jukebox, harmonizing poorly to the Eagles’ “Take It Easy” with my sister, Stephanie.

I liked that look. I married that look. Jim stayed quiet, rubbing his beard, and running his hand over his mouth. Then he got up and poured me a glass of wine.

When he sat down again, he spoke. “You know, I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t do something like that. We’ve got some money saved up. We could rent out the house.”

I chimed in. “We’re not getting any younger. And it’s the perfect timing for Sam and Zadie – they aren’t old enough to put up a fight yet.”

“I could take a leave from work,” Jim said.

I was stunned he was even considering this. “Really?” I said. Maybe we were both crazy.

“Why not?” he asked. “I just sit at my desk all day and think of the things I’d rather be doing – working on the house, making dinner, just hanging out. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a whole day just to hang out with my kids?”

He got up and grabbed the family atlas. He flipped through it with an enthusiasm I hadn’t seen since, well, since he took me home on “Take It Easy” night. We were clicking on this. For some reason, it felt right. Even necessary.

We studied the map of Croatia for a while: the funny tilted wishbone shape, all that seacoast, the proximity to Italy.

“The idea of just leaving. Just walking away,” he shook his head. “Can you imagine?”

I wish I could say that our decision to run away to Croatia was more carefully crafted than the drunken midnight talk of two tired parents. But it wasn’t. Jim and I could argue for hours about the frequency and aptitude of his lawn-mowing skills, right on down to how he only uses the weed-eater biweekly. The smallest minutia imaginable. But in regard to the biggest decision we’d ever make in the trajectory of our family, it really was as simple as two restless souls in a rambling mood setting a ball in motion that hasn’t stopped rolling since.

The day we arrived. Still smiling, because we thought our rooms
Baka Ana and her gardenIMG_7546
IMG_4911IMG_2189photo: jimhoff

A Conversation with Author Jennifer Wilson

Chucking it all and moving to Europe is a fantasy shared by a lot of Americans. How did you manage it financially?
One of the main things people say when they hear about this trip is, “Boy, I wish
I had the money to do something like that.” But there’s a way you can do these things. It’s a lifestyle change. It was amazing to us as a middle class family how much money you can put away if you just batten down the hatches. We simply quit going to superstores. We would buy our food fresh when we needed it. We didn’t have a big, fancy Christmas. And by the end of that savings period of almost a year, it was enough for a very frugal almost a year in Europe in which we lived more cheaply than we ever lived in the States. Some people buy a fancy car when they hit midlife; some people buy a new furniture set or a big TV. We bought a year off.

What advice would you give to others who are ready to leave behind the American Dream and go in search of a simpler life in their homeland?
I don’t think you need to simplify your life by taking a nine-month European vacation. I don’t think that’s necessary. I think to live a smaller, more connected life you can just get rid of a lot of your stuff and you’ll probably feel better when you do. I think sometimes we become prisoners of our own lifestyles and prisoners of our own affluence.

motherland_jenniferHave you thought about writing a how-to?
I think everybody knows what it would take to pare down their life. It’s just a matter of “Are you ready to do it? Are you ready to not take your kid to soccer but instead play soccer with your kid?” That was the question we were asking ourselves. Are we ready to, instead of putting Zadie in expensive ballet, dressing up with her and putting on music and dancing with her? Which is what she wanted anyway. It seems like we were spending so much time in the car en route to things that we should have just been doing on our own.

Now that you’re back in the States and presumably back to your old lives, how has your travel experience changed your family dynamic?
I am much more likely to make everybody stay home now, to sort of stop the rush and pull everybody in. I see that more as my job now. I guess my role as a mom was clarified to me. I’ve become a more confident parent. We still play sports and have music lessons and all that stuff. But if I feel like we’re not connecting – I mean, that’s our big souvenir. That was the greatest gift from buying the year off. It’s hard not to be connected with your family when you’ve just spent three months in a compact car with them driving in a foreign country. We got connection from that, and I don’t want to ruin it. We still buy stuff. But it’s the connection thing I’m much more fierce about.

Food is a major character in the book. Have your eating habits changed since you’ve been back home?
We’ve expanded the garden. In Mrkopalj, the yards are tiny farms. We brought that back with us. The backyard is sort of our working farm now. We’ve got a flock of chickens that provide our eggs every day; we planted berry bushes. The whole idea of being more connected with our food source came from Mrkopalj and the people’s way of life there. It was just such a clean, connected way to eat and live.

Did you always know you’d write a book about your experience?
Yes. I had an agent, and he and I worked together on the proposal. He said, “Don’t expect to get a book deal or an advance before this trip. I have to know before I work with you that all you want from this is a great journey with your family and someday an attractive book on your bookshelf.” And I said, “That’s all I want.” But, miraculously, an editor at St. Martin’s was on board with the idea.

When I was putting together the proposal for the book I was really far behind in our industry. I didn’t know how blogs worked. I didn’t know how social media worked. I had just been writing straight-forward magazine and newspaper pieces. And I wanted to be part of that. So when I was planning this I put in the proposal that I will run a website when I am there and I will develop my platform via social media to work on my audience before the book’s ever finished. And, really, the early readers of this book were my blog readers. Besides just friends and family following the blog I had a nice community of readers before I ever handed in a draft of the book, and they really helped inform how the book was made by their reaction to certain scenes. The early readers were part of that journey the whole way.

What has been the response to the book?
In terms of response from readers, I’ve been surprised how many people of
Croatian descent have written me passionate, long letters. Croatian is not a hip nationality. We don’t have pizza or tacos; there’s not a big [special day for Croatians] where we all drink beer and wear purple. So I think having somebody talk about being of Slavic lineage in a really positive way … has helped people connect with this population.

So the Croatia connection surprised me. I thought it would be soccer moms who were looking for escape, and there’s a lot of that, too. But by far the most passionate responses have been people who had any sort of amount of Croatian lineage who were also forced to eat these terrible, cabbage-filled foods growing up.

What’s one of the biggest takeaways for you from this entire experience?
I do hope that when people read the book that they’ll be inspired by the stories of the families that stayed behind when our families came overseas and that we can’t forget our connections with the countries we came from. Because when we do we’re really losing what it means to be an American in the first place. I feel like we have to maintain those connections because they feel connected to us. It was the surprise of the story to me. I knew it would mean a lot to us, but I had no idea it would mean a lot to them, too. I mean, they felt bad that we had missed all these things. Like: “How could you not know how to make tea, Jennifer? We’re going to have to show you how to do that. Any Croatian woman should know that.”


A Cytennial Homecoming Celebration

In 1912, ISU was an agricultural college with 1,830 students. The campus roads were still unpaved, Lake LaVerne was just a marsh, and Curtiss Hall was brand new. In 1912, ISU also celebrated its first Homecoming, an event that would become an integral part of the university during the next century.

The idea was first proposed by Professor Samuel Beyer (1889 LAS), the college’s “patron saint of athletics,” who suggested that Iowa State inaugurate a celebration for alumni during the annual football game against rival University of Iowa. Iowa State’s new president, Raymond A. Pearson, liked the idea and issued a special invitation to alumni two weeks prior to the event: “We need you; we must have you. Come and see what a school you have made in Iowa State College. Find a way.”

The response was greater than Pearson expected. A reported 152 alumni returned to campus, where they enjoyed tours of campus buildings, a play homecoming_buttonpresented by the sophomores, and a football scrimmage between the freshmen and reserves. Classes were cancelled on Friday afternoon and Saturday, and a “pep meeting” was held in Curtiss Auditorium that featured songs, cheers, and a debate. On Saturday morning, the alumni were invited to a reception and luncheon at Margaret Hall to “get together and talk about old times.”

But the main event of the weekend was the football game, which was played at State Field. Although the Cyclones lost 21-7, students and alumni celebrated that night in festivities that were destined to “light up the sky for miles around, shake the stars in their beds, and make the imps below fearful for the strength of the earth’s crust.”

Homecoming 1912 was deemed a success, and plans for the next year’s festivities began almost immediately. Professor Beyer said, “We hope to make the custom so popular that in future years the number who come back will go far up into the hundreds.”

Beyer’s wish came true. As ISU evolved during the next 100 years, so did Homecoming. The celebration’s history is filled with pep rallies, parades, contests, and even riots as the ISU community has come together each year to celebrate alumni, the university, and, of course, football.

The tradition begins
The Cyclone football team has a 37-56-6 Homecoming record, with its longest winning streak standing at three games (1926-1928 and 1976-1978). ISU has defeated Baylor, this year’s Homecoming rival, every time the two teams have met during Homecoming.

Perhaps the least notable Homecoming was in 1918 – because there wasn’t one. The Spanish influenza epidemic struck campus that fall and forced the football program to cancel the remainder of its season.

You might say the lost Homecoming was made up in 1934, the year of two Homecomings. Although the official Homecoming game was played against Kansas, there were more alumni at the Iowa State-University of Iowa game, and it was considered a second Homecoming by the students and visitors.

The 1953 Homecoming was one of the most famous in school history. After the Cyclones upset Missouri 13-6, students marched to President James Hilton’s front lawn and demanded, “No school Monday.” When the students realized he wasn’t home, they staged a sit-down on Lincoln Way (then U.S. Highway 30). The crowd also dragged Homecoming lawn displays into the street and set them on fire.

Police from Ames and several surrounding towns resorted to using clubs and tear gas, but the crowd fought back with eggs, rocks, and pumpkins. Students reluctantly went to classes on Monday but returned to the Knoll again that night, shouting, “We want Tuesday off.” President Hilton (’23 animal husbandry) promised to consider the idea after the next win, to which the crowd responded, “We may not win another game.” They returned to rioting and barricading the highway, but eventually the mob dispersed. The riots were picked up by national news sources such as The Los Angeles Times and Life. The chief of police, Orville Erickson, told Life, “They don’t seem to be angry as much as just plain nuts.”

A second riot occurred during Homecoming 1997, when ISU beat Baylor 24-17 and ended a 13-game losing streak. Hundreds of people rushed onto the field and brought down a goal post, which was then paraded to Lake LaVerne. The mob threw the goal post into the lake, along with a stop sign, the swan-crossing sign, a dumpster, a light post, and barricades. A dozen people were arrested and a few were injured in the celebration. Special equipment was required to pull the objects out of Lake LaVerne, and it cost thousands of dollars to replace the goal post at Jack Trice Stadium.

homecoming_senecaWhile memorable, these events are only part of Homecoming’s rich history. Iowa Staters remember many highlights, including the birth of Cy the mascot, the dissolution and later revival of the Homecoming Queen, and Seneca Wallace’s famous play, “The Run.”

Homecoming is about more than just upsets and defeats. It is a celebration of the university’s past and present, its students, and its alumni. Homecoming is a time to reminisce about college days, meet with old friends, and see the transformations on campus. And while Homecoming at ISU is turning 100 years old, it continues to symbolize all these things and serve the purpose that Professor Beyer envisioned back in 1912.

It’s a Tradition

From bonfire to body paint, train wreck to torchathon, traditions define 100 years of Iowa State Homecoming

Although many ISU Homecoming traditions have come and gone during the past century, one event that has remained since the beginning is lawn displays.

homecomingtraditions_lawndisplaysIn preparation for ISU’s first Homecoming, engineering students constructed
an electric sign on Engineering Hall that measured 55 feet long and 20 feet high. At night the sign’s letters blinked on and off, proclaiming “Beat Iowa, Eat Iowa.”

In the years that followed, signs were a popular decoration for Homecoming. Displays moved to the lawns of campus residences in the early 1920s, and soon a contest was established between the houses. By the 1930s, the displays began to evolve from banners and crepe paper to more complex, three-dimensional structures.

Following World War II, displays began to incorporate mechanical features, and the displays attracted crowds of students, alumni, and community members who walked or drove through the area to admire the decorations.

By the 1970s, popularity in lawn displays began to decrease. The year 1976 saw a short revival of lawn display enthusiasm, as 26 participants entered the contest to celebrate the U.S. bicentennial-themed “ISUSA” Homecoming. The surge was short-lived, however, and the competition decreased again in the early 1980s. Homecoming 1982 became the second year in school history – the first since 1942 – with no lawn displays, as Greek houses devoted themselves to community service instead.

It would take one fraternity to bring back the tradition. In 1984, Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity paired with Gamma Phi Beta sorority to build a lawn display. The following year, more Greek residences entered the competition, and the tradition was officially reestablished at ISU.

The lawn display contest has continued to evolve during the past two decades. Skits that accompany the display presentations have become more elaborate. Tours through the Greek community were formed for Ames residents and alumni, an event that evolved into today’s “ExCYtement in the Streets.”


“Welcome Alumni” banners have been a part of Homecoming since 1912, but a banner contest was not established until the late 1960s. A banner is a large cloth sheet in a free-standing, wooden frame that students decorate using the Homecoming theme.

When lawn display popularity declined in the early 1970s, so did the banner contest. However, with the elimination of the lawn displays in 1982, banners grew as the only Homecoming decoration competition. The banners were moved from central campus to the lawns of the Greek houses, “hopefully to appease those alumni who miss the traffic jams and large crowds once attracted to the Greek system by the displays,” reported the Bomb. As lawn displays returned, banners were moved to outside the football stadium, and then back to central campus.


Starting in the 1980s, Victory Lane has been another decorating opportunity for Iowa Staters. Located in the parking lot north of Jack Trice Stadium, students paint a 4-ft by 4-ft pavement square to demonstrate Homecoming spirit. Participants include various organizations such as residence halls, Greek houses, and campus clubs.

Victory Lane was established for the ISU football team, which traditionally crossed over the area after winning the Homecoming game. Since remodeling the stadium, however, the team no longer goes over the decorated strip. Nevertheless, Painting Victory Lane remains a tradition.


Nothing fires up Cyclone fans before the big Homecoming game like the annual pep rally. In 1912, students held the first Homecoming pep meeting in Curtiss Auditorium, where it was predicted that “battle speeches will be made and battle songs sung, and the yells will raise the dead.” The pep rally became a mainstay of Homecoming and was soon accompanied by a large bonfire.

Homecoming 1930 saw ISU’s first pep barbecue. Named “Hamburgers for Homecoming,” the event provided meals to 3,000 students. The barbecue marked the first time since the burning of Old Main that the entire campus ate as one group.

The pep rally, barbecue, and bonfire were all part of Homecoming during the next decade, feeding the hungry mob of “bean eaters” and providing entertainment such as the men’s quartet, cheerleader performances, and pajama relays. Local bands provided music, and the Cyclone football captains and coaches fired up the crowd. Beginning in 1933, the pep rally and barbecue was also the setting for the Homecoming Queen’s coronation.

A shortage of ground meat during World War II changed the slogan from “Hamburgers for Homecoming” to “Wieners in Wartime.”

In the 1960s, the rally began to include a fireworks display, and in the 1970s, Yell Like Hell finals were added to the event. Pep rallies of the 1980s often included jugglers, hot air balloon rides, the Iowa State Rodeo, and even a Mr. Legs contest featuring the ISU football team. In 1977, “mass campaniling” was added to the pep rally, enabling hundreds of couples to become co-eds at the stroke of midnight while the marching band played the ISU Fight Song and fireworks lit up the sky.

The bonfire disappeared in the mid-1960s and the pep barbecue was eliminated in 1970. Both events resurfaced in 1975 at the request of alumni. The bonfire made sporadic appearances during Homecoming throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The pregame meal tradition continues today as the Cyclone Central tailgate that takes place in the ISU Alumni Center before each home game.

The Homecoming Queen has played a traditional – and at times controversial – role in ISU’s Homecoming throughout the years. Although most records claim 1934 as the year of ISU’s first Homecoming Queen, the Bomb reported that one year earlier Sally Pucket, “a very pretty top heroine,” was crowned as the 1933 Pep Queen. According to the Bomb, “Queen Sally” won the hearts of many local business people, who gave her the keys to the city to reign over for one evening.

homecomingtraditions_kingandqueenThe queen generally held responsibilities that included presenting the prizes for lawn displays and appearing at Homecoming events such as the pep barbecue, pep rally, and parade. She was also introduced to the Homecoming crowd at halftime of the football game.

In 1952, Gib Stanek (’54 ag) was crowned the first Pep King at Iowa State, and he joined Pep Queen Sue Moore (’55 science) in reigning over the Homecoming festivities. The Pep King’s reign was brief, however; the role was eliminated the following year.

Beginning in the late 1950s, the queen contest became more complex, including
a style show, various interviews, and formal teas with the judges. By the 1970s, the contest also included a swimsuit competition, and student groups on campus began to question the relevancy of the queen; they claimed the contest was demeaning to women. The Homecoming Committee discontinued the tradition after 1973.

ISU had 16 Homecomings with no queen, until the tradition was reinstated in 1988. A Homecoming King and Queen were selected based on grades, activities, and community service. Controversy resurfaced in 1997, however, when an evaluation committee determined that the Homecoming court did not encompass the diversity of the student body.

In 2006, the tradition returned. Under the direction of the Student Alumni Leadership Council, the “Cardinal Court” scholarship was established. Today, 10 students are selected to Cardinal Court based on academic achievements and community service, and the top two students preside as King and Queen.


Homecoming involves many events throughout the week, but the most important is the big football game on Saturday. Many groups are responsible for the gameday enthusiasm and spirit at Jack Trice Stadium, including the ISU Cyclone Football “Varsity” Marching Band, mascot squad, cheer squads, and dance teams.

The marching band and cheerleaders have been a part of ISU since Homecoming began. In 1912, the Bomb listed a “Yell Leader,” a male student who led the crowd in cheering for the team. During the next few years, that role would expand to a squad of two or three cheerleaders. The A-M-E-S Quartet, organized in 1915, also entertained the crowds.

In 1924, the “Twisters,” a chapter of the men’s honorary pep organization Pi Epsilon Pi, was formed to assist the cheerleaders and “instill the ‘Fight Ames Fight’ spirit into the student body.”

In 1938, Loraine Spencer became ISU’s first female cheerleader. Women also joined the marching band ranks in 1943, although the band would remain largely male until the 1970s.

The Twisters were reorganized on campus in 1939 as a female pep club and was accompanied in 1940 by Iowa State’s male pep club, the Yellow Jackets or “Yel-Jax.”

The marching band was also growing. With shiny new uniforms, baton twirlers,
and more advanced moving field formations, the 1953 Bomb claimed, “No one left the stands during halftimes of football games this year.” That same year, Meredith Willson, author and composer of “The Music Man,” wrote a new Iowa State pep song, “For I For S Forever,” and performed it at halftime of the Homecoming game.

1954 was another major year for the Cyclones as Cy the cardinal mascot made
his debut. The 8-foot cardinal was introduced during the 1954 Homecoming.

ISU’s Pom Squad was established in 1967, comprised of 10 “Pom Pon Girls” who entertained crowds with choreographed dances. Flag girls were also added
to the marching band in 1972, and the cheer squad, Pom Pon girls, and Pep Council were incorporated with the band’s halftime performance.

In 1980, the Alumni Band was created. Today, roughly 200 former ISU marching band members return to perform at halftime of the Homecoming game each year.

For many students, Homecoming activities start a week early. Homecoming tournaments, held the week before Homecoming, generate fun competition between students with events such as volleyball, treds football (a combination of flag football and ultimate Frisbee), and basketball.

Athletics events have been a part of Homecoming since its beginning, when the freshmen played the reserve team in a football game to entertain returning alumni. Over the years, competitions such as pushball, arm wrestling, and powder puff football games have been included the festivities.

However, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that athletic tournaments became an integral part of the celebration. In 1979, the Friday of Homecoming was deemed “Thank God It’s Cy Day,” and part of the event included “novelty athletics” such as pushball, weightlifting, and tug-of-war.

Tournaments have grown to involve other activities, including bowling, mud volleyball, pool, darts, flag football, pie-and ice-cream-eating contests, foosball, badminton, and races.


Yell Like Hell was established in 1963, when residences were invited to submit “an original yell” that was judged on enthusiasm, originality, and appropriateness. The five finalists presented their yells again at the Homecoming pep rally.

During the initial years, the competition consisted of a 10-minute skit, a poetry reading, and a small cheer. Performances transformed from a simple yell to reciting the ISU Fight Song, and by the mid-1970s they had developed into short skits that involved ISU superstitions, campus build-ings, or football rivalries.

In the late 1980s, categories such as “demonstration of school spirit” and “use of ISU colors” were added to the judging criteria, which eventually led to the tradition of covering participants’ bodies from head to toe in cardinal and gold paint.

A new improvisation category was added to the Yell Like Hell competition in 2001, in which teams were given a word prior to the performance and judged on how well they integrated that word into their skits. A stomp also became part of the skit that involved clapping, thigh-slapping, and stepping combinations.

Today, Yell Like Hell features multiple chants and the ISU Fight Song, accompanied by choreography. The final round of Yell Like Hell is held at the Friday night pep rally.

Traditions Lost

How many of these Homecoming traditions do YOU remember?


The all-university Homecoming dance is one of ISU’s most festive traditions.

The first “Fall Gala” dance was held in 1912 and became an annual tradition. In
the 1930s, the Homecoming dance was sponsored by the Pep Club. Held in the Armory the Friday of Homecoming, more than 4,000 students danced to a live band, and the Homecoming Queen and lawn display winners were announced during intermission.

Following World War II, the dance became so popular that two pep dances were held in the Memorial Union on both the Friday and Saturday evenings of Homecoming.

The 1950 Homecoming dance featured famed Louis Armstrong and his all-star band. Other guest musicians over the years included Frankie Masters, Buddy Morrow, and Glenn Miller.

The Homecoming dance remained part of the festivities through the 1960s and 1970s, although its popularity slowly decreased as the Homecoming concert attracted more and more students each year. The Fall Gala was officially eliminated in 1972.

In 2000, students reinitiated the Fall Gala. The semi-formal dance was held in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union after the Homecoming game, featuring live music and free Latin dance lessons. The event was popular for a few years but has since disappeared.


VEISHEA isn’t the only ISU celebration that has featured a parade. The Homecoming parade was one of the earliest Homecoming events and was part of the festivities throughout the past century.

The first “stunt parades” in the 1920s included horses, mules, and wagons with decorative signs and costumes. By 1926, the parade had been transformed into a competition with prizes for the best float.

In the mid-1950s, a new form of the parade – the Scrap Heap Scramble – was introduced. Men’s residences and other campus groups built cars made from scraps. Sometimes it was doubtful whether some of the scrap heaps would hold together long enough to finish the trek.

In 1957 the parade made another transformation. Known as the Triumph March, the parade followed a path across campus to the traditional pep rally.

Although the Triumph March was only successful for a few years, it later evolved into the popular “snake dance.” The snake dance was formed by students holding on to each other around the waist. Led by Cy and the cheerleaders, the parade made its way past residence halls and campus buildings, picking up more students on the way and ending at the pep rally on central campus.

When ISU’s president cancelled classes on the Friday and Saturday of the college’s first Homecoming, he inadvertently began a trend in which future students wanted a class dismissal for the annual celebration.

In the 1930s, students decided to take action on their own with a “class break.” Led by an impromptu band, a group stormed into classrooms, disrupting lectures and recruiting students to join a spontaneous pep rally and street dance.

In 1949, students took a different approach. On the Thursday night of Homecoming, more than 3,000 students marched on the Knoll, chanting “No School Friday.” President Friley first refused, but finally gave in and granted a special holiday after Friday noon to disperse the mob. He also promised no school on Monday if the football team won the Homecoming game, a deal that remained for the next few years.

The Torchathon began in 1981 when 27 ISU runners relayed a torch from the University of Missouri – that year’s Homecoming rival – to Ames for the Homecoming celebration. Each runner took turns carrying the lighted torch to cover the 260-mile route in 36 hours.

The Torchathon became an annual tradition. Each year runners would make the trek from the Homecoming opponent’s stadium to ISU’s stadium, carrying the torch through the tailgating lots and finally presenting it during the pregame festivities on the field.


Created in 1940, the Pajama Relay was a popular feature of the annual Homecoming pep rally for more than a decade. Women’s residences competed in the contest, although men were chosen as their representatives to race against each other and scramble into oversized pajamas.


Push ball began as a campus tradition from 1909 to 1927 between the freshmen and sophomores. In 1978 the Homecoming Committee revived the event as part of Homecoming festivities. During the game, each team converged on the 4-ft diameter, leather-covered ball from the sidelines and worked to push it in the direction of the scoring goal. The push ball contest was usually held during the pep rally along with the Yell Like Hell finals. It was eliminated a decade later.

One of the craziest Homecoming traditions was the Great Train Wreck on central campus. Created in 1977, the event consisted of two human trains formed by students holding each other around the waist. One train started at Beardshear Hall and the other at Curtiss Hall. When the campanile bells struck noon, the two groups ran toward each other whistling, and they collided in the middle in a pile-up of bodies. The event lasted roughly five years.

Another popular event that began in the late 1970s took Homecoming away from central campus and into Campustown. Bar Night in 1977 offered arm wrestling and beer-chugging contests at Grand Daddy’s bar. The next year, a dance contest, the Mr. ISU and Ladies’ Leg competitions, foosball and pool tournaments, and comedy and horror flicks were featured as part of the event. By the early 1980s, Cy and the pom and cheer squads were included in Bar Night, and the purchase of a Homecoming button gave students a discount on bar covers.

The event remained popular until 1988, when it was replaced by “A Day in Campustown,” which allowed students with Homecoming buttons to receive specials and coupons offered by Campustown merchants. In 1995, Bar Night briefly returned and during the “Night on the Town,” students of all ages could pay one cover charge for a variety of Campustown bars.

Come home for Iowa State’s Cytennial Homecoming


2012 Homecoming Central Committee co-chairs Morgan Foldes and Alicia Snyder

Iowa State’s centennial Homecoming is fast approaching. New activities, along with traditional events, will make this year’s celebration one to remember.

“Our vision for the 100th Homecoming celebration is that Cyclones of all ages can come back to celebrate the rich tradition and the feeling of community that Iowa State provides to its students and alumni,” said Homecoming Central Committee co-chair Alicia Snyder, a senior in marketing and interior design from Carroll, Iowa.

“As important as it is for us to see students having a great time with our various Homecoming activities, we envision the Ames community and alumni from all over the country coming back ‘home’ to celebrate all that it is to be a Cyclone,” added HCC co-chair Morgan Foldes, a junior in marketing from Johnston, Iowa.

Cytennial Homecoming plans are being made all across the ISU campus and throughout the Ames community.

“The 100th anniversary of Homecoming will be celebrated community-wide. The university and the Ames community are excited to partner for this special celebration,” said Julie Larson (MS ’84 higher ed), ISU Alumni Association director of outreach and events.

Two of the biggest changes for this year’s celebration are the relocation of the pep rally to the Iowa State Center parking lot and the addition of the ISU Alumni Center Open House on Friday night.

The Alumni Center will be open Friday from 5-9 p.m., with food for purchase (free with your Homecoming button); a cash bar will be provided by Olde Main Brewing Co.

The traditional pep rally will recognize student-athletes and scholastic achievement through Cardinal Court and will feature coaches and student-athletes from the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams. Pep rally attendees will also see the Yell Like Hell finals, a can’t-miss Homecoming tradition. And student organizations will be running carnival booths in the Iowa State Center parking  lot throughout the night. There is ample free parking at the Center.

Alumni are encouraged to connect with friends at the Alumni Center Friday evening. If you would like to plan a reunion, contact Katie Lickteig (’05 marketing) at or by phone at (515) 294-1955. For a list of official reunions go to

Friday night’s pep rally will be followed by ExCYtement in the Streets, a self-guided tour of lawn displays in the Greek community. Another Friday night option is a Homecoming concert in Hilton Coliseum: “Brantley Gilbert’s Hell on Wheels Tour” with special guests Uncle Kracker, Greg Bates, and Brian Davis. Later that evening, head over to central campus for a pancake feed starting at 10 p.m., followed by mass campaniling and fireworks at midnight.

“Friday night will a night to remember,” said Jeff Johnson, ISU Alumni Association president. “We hope alumni will come back for this very special centennial anniversary Homecoming.”

On Saturday, the traditional Cyclone Central Homecoming tailgate will take place at the Alumni Center three hours prior to kickoff. Admission is free, and every-one is welcome to attend. Fans wanting catered meals from Hickory Park must register and pay in advance at The Iowa State football team will face Baylor in its annual Homecoming football game (kickoff time TBD). The Cyclones are 2-0 all-time against Baylor in Homecoming contests (1997, 2009).

On Sunday, an all-you-can-eat breakfast featuring pancakes and sausage will be held from 8-11 a.m. in downtown Ames.

A special attraction at this year’s Homecoming is the creation of a life-sized “Butter Cy” by Iowa State Fair butter cow sculptor Sarah Pratt. The Butter Cy will be on display all day Friday (and Saturday until gametime); the sculpture is sponsored by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Several other Homecoming events are still in the works. Visit for the latest details. The ISU Alumni Association is also posting event information, fun facts, history, and more on the official Cytennial Homecoming Facebook page at

To view a list of alumni and friends who are planning to attend Homecoming (and add your name to the list), go online to and click “Who’s coming?”

Friday night’s Pep Rally & Centennial Celebration and Saturday’s Cyclone Central Homecoming tailgate are sponsored by the Iowa State University Book Store.

Alumni Q&A: Your Financial Future

Investments…portfolio…401(K)….retirement…we all know these words are important, but do we always have a clear picture of what our financial future holds? Julie Fuller (’92) and Michelle Mahoney (’87), co-founders of Generations Wealth Management in West Des Moines, took some time to answer a few common questions on this topic.

Q: What are the three best pieces of advice you would give someone planning for retirement?
Make sure your financial facts are straight about the future. Many people mentally set an age they plan to retire, but don’t put pen to paper to know if that is a reasonable goal.

First of all, understand your income sources (i.e. pension, Social Security benefits, investment income, etc.) as well as your debt outstanding (i.e. mortgage, car loan, credit cards, etc.)  Does it make sense to use cash on hand to pay down debt?  In this low interest rate environment, it probably does.

Secondly, prepare and abide by a realistic budget for monthly and annual expenses. This analysis may provide some nice surprises as you anticipate retirement – such as savings on wardrobe/dry cleaning, gas/car maintenance/parking, and restaurant lunches.

Finally, make sure you research your health care coverage in retirement; private pay and/or Medicare, as well as the projected costs of each. Most importantly however, don’t overlook long term care insurance.  70% of Americans who reach age 65 are expected to need some form of long term care services at some point.  Unfortunately, for those that don’t plan ahead, the out of pocket cost needed at the time of care may be enough to derail your retirement plan altogether.

Is there one particular investment that most people don’t make that they should?

Before you make any investing decision, sit down and take a look at your entire financial situation. An important step to successful investing is knowing your current goals and risk tolerance.

All investments involve some degree of risk. If you intend to purchases securities – such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds – it’s important to understand before you invest that you could lose some or all of your money.  Historically, equities have offered the greatest return over the long term, so we believe all investment portfolios need some allocation to a diversified pool of equities.

Certainly the concern for conservative investors – especially those who keep much of their funds in cash or near cash equivalents (bank accounts, money market funds and short term CD’s) is inflation risk. This is the risk that inflation will outpace and erode purchasing power over time. We believe diversification and asset allocation is the key to a successful portfolio.

There are no magic bullets in today’s volatile investment environment. Often we find one of the best things we offer clients is discipline. To us, that means selling that favorite holding when returns are high, and then reallocating those funds to an underperforming asset class. In other words, “buying low and selling high” – which is much easier said, than done. We truly believe this approach removes emotion from the process, and allows the portfolio to be the most successful over the long term.

401(K) versus a ROTH IRA…which one should I have?
The type of individual retirement account you choose can significantly affect you and your family’s long-term savings. So it’s worth understanding the differences between a 401(K) contribution and a Roth IRA contribution in order to select the best one for you.

Anyone with earned income, and is eligible for a company plan, can contribute to a 401(K). Ideally, you should save the maximum the IRS allows ($17,000 in 2012, with an additional $5,500 for those over 50 years old), but if that’s not possible, shoot for 10% of your income, remembering these contributions reduce your taxable income.  At the very least, contribute at least enough to get the maximum employer match, as that is free money.  Roth IRAs do have income-eligibility restrictions that are also updated annually, so you may or may not be able to make a ROTH IRA contribution.

Both 401(K)s and Roth IRAs provide generous tax breaks, but it’s a matter of timing when you get to claim them. For example, 401(K) contributions reduce taxable income for the year you make the contribution, while withdrawals in retirement are taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Roth IRAs, on the other hand, provide no tax break for contributions, but earnings and withdrawals are generally tax-free.  So with 401(K)s, you avoid taxes when you put the money in, and with Roth IRAs you avoid taxes when you take it out in retirement. Given this different tax treatment, it is ideal to have both types of accounts in your investment portfolio, if at all possible.

One planning idea we recommend is setting up Roth IRA’s for all minor children that have earned income (yes, even if it’s just from a summer job). It’s a great way to get them involved with money and investing while they are still under the roof, and the time value of money on a non-taxable account can be quite substantial.

Julie Fuller, CFP, CPA
Michelle Mahoney, CFP

Generations Wealth Management, LLC
4800 Mills Civic Parkway, #205, West Des Moines, IA  50265

Securities and Advisory Services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser