On the right path

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As a student at Iowa State in the late 1970s, Lori Jacobson (A) was not thinking about a career in museum management.

In fact, she didn’t even know that an art museum existed on campus until she met Nancy Gillespie, then director of the Brunnier Gallery (as it was known then), at the Ames clothing store where she was working part time.

Once she learned of the museum’s existence, she was intrigued. Once she met Lynette Pohlman, she was hooked.

Pohlman (L)(’72 interior design, MA ’76) – who is now the longtime director and chief curator of University Museums – hired Jacobson to help install and catalog collections for the Brunnier. Jacobson immediately knew she was in the right place.

“The first day I showed up at the Brunnier and worked with other students installing a permanent collection of glass, I was in awe and smitten,” she says. “I had no idea that the profession existed. From day one, I knew I was on my path.”

Jacobson was then at the end of her sophomore year. She had struggled with choosing her major; she knew she wanted to go into an area of the arts, but she had shifted from art education to interior design to advertising design and still didn’t feel like she was in the right niche. Once she discovered museums, she added history to her already declared art major. She graduated with a double major in 1980 and stayed on for a year to work with Pohlman on a project that would help build a case for using the museum’s collection in classrooms across campus.

The experience at University Museums, she says, boosted her selfconfidence and pushed her out of her comfort zone.

She became curator of collections at the McAllen International Museum in McAllen, Texas, traveling in Mexico to collect folk art and textiles. She became the assistant museum educator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and then executive director for the Western Museums Association.

“One thing just led to another,” she said. “I learned the design and construction side of exhibitions. I always felt excited to be part of something bigger that had an educational mission.”

Eventually Jacobson co-founded THINK Jacobson & Roth, an exhibition development and management firm. For 15 years she managed designs, installations, fabrications, and other projects for natural history, history, paleontology, and art museums.

Two years ago she decided to “push the edge of the envelope” a bit more by launching Lori Jacobson Consulting, her own Los Angeles-based planning and project management firm, working with educational exhibits and interpretive materials.

One of her first clients was Lynette Pohlman.

Pohlman was looking for a project manager to curate the content for a major University Museums publication.

In just two years, Jacobson helped Pohlman and her team organize documents, photographs, and notes that had been collected over the past 30 years. The result is the comprehensive Campus Beautiful, a 480-page book with 450 images, nine primary authors, and 25 secondary authors.

“It came together surprisingly fast and without as much anguish as you’d expect,” Jacobson says. “If we had done this at [another museum], it would have taken five years. Being part of a smaller, can-do team makes all the difference.”

The book was revealed at the Sept. 19 University Museums 40th anniversary celebration in the Brunnier Art Museum.

Pohlman credits Jacobson with having the time commitment, organization, follow-through, vision, and ability to keep people moving in the same direction.

“The book would not be done if not for Lori,” Pohlman said. “I would still be muddling around. She brings energy to everything she does.”

The joy of group travel

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By Carole Gieseke

One of the true joys of group travel is the intensity and speed with which you become friends with your fellow travelers.

I returned to Ames last week after hosting a two-week trip to South America with a dynamic group of Iowa State alumni and their friends and spouses. We were a compact group of 17 – we could all fit at one big table in a restaurant if we put our minds to it.

In those two weeks we went from being total strangers to becoming lifelong friends. We shared so many things: food and wine, of course, but also hiking sticks and rain gear, Immodium and sunscreen…and lots of stories and laughter.

Together we traveled to two of the absolute wonders of South America: Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. Together we climbed along the ancient civilizations and shared the delight of spotting yet another blue-footed booby.

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At the end of our journey, our biggest surprise was not that we’d eaten and drunk so well, that we’d stayed in charming and unconventional lodgings, that we’d made it to two of our “bucket list” destinations – no, our biggest surprise was how much all of these things had been enhanced by each other’s presence.

Here’s to a very special group of ISU travelers and my new friends!

For information on upcoming Cyclone Travel opportunities, click here.

Lisa Wasko-DeVetter: ‘The people of Iowa State, people of Uganda draw me back to Ames’

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Lisa Wasko-DeVetter (left) was recently back on campus to accept the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Outstanding Young Professional Award. She took time to meet with current students while on campus.

Growing up in Iowa, Lisa Wasko-DeVetter (’07 biology and horticulture, MS ’10) knew she was going to get two choices of where to attend college: Iowa or Iowa State.

“My dad was a Cyclone,” she says, “so I was indoctrinated early with Cyclone fever.” DeVetter attended football games, toured the campus, and met the faculty members with whom her father used to work in Ross Hall. And when she received her acceptance letter from Iowa State, she knew right away what she wanted to do.

“My reverence for Iowa State came after being here that first semester and that first year being in the biology department and horticulture department,” said the two-time ISU graduate, who also contributed to the university’s service learning program in the Kamuli district of Uganda. DeVetter spent four years coordinating the program’s school garden project, which was aimed at teaching local youth the importance of agriculture, health, and nutrition.

“I was working in Dr. [Gail] Nonneke’s program and could see from the beginning that this was an amazing opportunity for students to get in involved,” she says. “I was interested in traveling and learning about other people and other cultures. Why I remained with the program goes back to the people. I got to interact with some amazing people and have friendships that were kindled. I wanted to keep on meeting new people and build relationships. It was also just a tremendous learning experience. Every year that I went I was learning and it was very enriching.”

Even today, DeVetter – now an assistant professor of small fruit horticulture at Washington State University – continues to sponsor an orphaned child in the district.

DeVetter did not come to Iowa State with a plan that would last her entire four years.

“I originally wanted to be a marine biologist, and I realized that’s really hard to do in a land-locked state,” she says. “I ended up taking a plant systematics course, and that is really where I first developed my interest in plants. Someone in Dr. Nonneke’s program suggested that I take a horticulture class and I said horti-what? I knew that horticulture was the missing piece. It was that applied element that I needed.”

DeVetter recently returned to Ames to accept the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ 2015 Outstanding Young Professional Award, and DeVetter says she will always be drawn back to campus for one simple reason.

“Hands down, the people,” she says. “There’s too many to list; there’s the faculty, the students, the people of Uganda. It’s such a great institution for teaching and research, and, as I learned later on, for graduate research and extension.”

“Once an Iowa State Cyclone, always an Iowa State Cyclone,” she says. “That’s just kind of how I feel.”

— Story and photo by Blake Lanser

A philanthropic journey

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The story of Lora and Russ Talbot is a classic success story about the significant attraction of Iowa State – not only to students and alumni but also to friends of the university. Neither of them ever attended Iowa State, yet here they are today: extremely proud to be Cardinal and Gold.

For Lora Howell, going on a blind date on New Year’s Eve was a new low.

philanthropicjourney3But her friends Jane and Ed, who were dating, insisted she meet this guy from Wartburg College, Russ Talbot. They were sure Lora and Russ would be a great match. So she agreed to meet him. It was Dec. 31, 1966.

Of course, the evening was a huge success. Lora and Russ began to date. Russ transferred from Wartburg to the University of Iowa to convince Lora that he was the one she should marry.

And then, one evening in the fall of 1967, when Lora decided to help Russ improve his laundry skills, Russ popped the question.

“We were walking to a laundromat in Iowa City to have a lesson in laundry protocol. I was going to teach Russ to separate clothes by color so that he didn’t end up with pink underwear,” Lora remembers. “Instead, I ended up with a fiancé.”

The couple married in February 1968. Ed and Jane were in the wedding party. After the academic year ended, they both transferred to Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, where they received bachelor’s degrees, Lora in elementary education and Russ in business administration / economics.

A solid work ethic
Lora was born and raised in Belmond, Iowa. She has two older sisters. Lora started working at the age of 9 as a carhop at one of her parents’ businesses, Gov’s Drive-In. At the age of 12, she was promoted to being a waitress at their Mello Maid Café, a popular gathering place on Main Street. Lora also worked at her parents’ laundry and dry cleaning business and helped with the bookkeeping for her father’s jukebox locations. In her free time, Lora enjoyed riding her unicycle around town.

Russ grew up in Streator, Illinois. He has an older brother and two younger sisters. As a teenager, Russ worked detasseling corn, as a carhop and crew leader at a local drive-in, and as an usher and doorman at the movie theater.

Both Lora and Russ had parents who taught them the importance of hard work.

“At a fairly young age, we formed the beginnings of a solid work ethic, which stayed with us throughout our lives,” Lora said.

Their parents were also giving in nature and taught their children to save and plan for their future.

“Over time, this grew and developed into a hallmark of who we are and how we have conducted our personal, professional, and financial lives,” Russ said.

Early in their highly successful professional careers, Russ worked in the executive management training program of S.S. Kresge/Kmart Corporation in Waterloo while Lora taught first grade in the Wapsie Valley School District. In 1972, Russ was hired as a special agent for the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service in Des Moines, a position he held for nearly 25 years. Lora worked for the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System for more than 30 years as a retirement benefits counselor and as an executive officer. During that time, the Talbots lived in Ankeny, Iowa.

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A philanthropic spirit
In the 1980s and ’90s, the Talbots became committed and active donors and volunteers with local organizations and activities.

“Our philanthropic spirit was energized, developed, cultivated, and put to good use,” Lora says.

The couple became involved in, among other organizations, the Friends of Iowa Public Television, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation, the Very Special Arts Iowa, and the Animal Rescue League of Iowa. Their contributions were multi-faceted: they volunteered as well as making financial contributions.

Russ retired from the IRS in 1996. In 1998, Lora’s father suffered a stroke, and Russ volunteered to move to Belmond to help care for him. He continued to stay in Belmond to care for Lora’s mother until Lora retired in 2004.

By then, the Talbots were deeply involved in the Belmond community. They purchased Lora’s family’s property as well as two adjacent houses, which they later donated. In 2008 they decided to sell their house in Ankeny and make Belmond their retirement home.

In Belmond, their volunteer and philanthropic spirits are well known. They’ve served on boards and donated artwork. They’ve led, been involved with, and been major donors to highly successful capital campaigns for the public library, a scholarship foundation, school building project, and the local hospital. Two libraries are named in their honor.

Lora and Russ have demonstrated creative philanthropy. They are also not afraid to get their hands dirty when volunteering. They purchased a downtown property and donated it to the Library Foundation. Along with other volunteers, they salvaged and restored the property to be  used as a temporary library and to later be sold by the Foundation. In addition, they purchased and donated a house to the Iowa River Players, a multi-community theatre in nearby Rowan, for them to sell as a fundraiser. For their longtime community support and extensive volunteer work, the Talbots were presented Belmond’s Outstanding Community Service Award in 2007.

The Talbots are a team but, surprisingly, they don’t always agree on where their time and money should be spent.

“Some people think we’re completely alike, that we’re joined at the hip,” Lora said. “It helps that we are at our best working as a team, but we’re quite different, especially when it comes to risk or determining the projects we want to support. We’ll weigh the pros and cons and talk things through before making a joint decision.”

Before the age of 40, the Talbots established endowed scholarships at Wartburg College, their alma mater. Their contributions to Iowa State, a university they first “discovered” in 1998, are many. In fact, they say, Iowa State has become their main philanthropic focus. Between trips to Ames and their involvement in Belmond activities, the couple stays busy – but flexible.

“Throughout our lives, we have worked hard. We started early in our marriage to plan and systematically save for the future. We have invested wisely over the years,” Russ says.

“Our focus has been on thinking and acting long term, not for immediate rewards,” Lora says. “As we reflect on our lives and see how we have been richly blessed with success, wonderful health, and good fortune, we understand that we have a responsibility to share and give back, to help others, and do what we can to make the world a better place in which to live. All of this gives us great happiness. We have experienced the joy of giving time and time again.”

Lora and Russ emphasize, “We have tried to live in the same way we now advise young people at Iowa State and in our community to emulate: ‘Think big! Set goals! Work hard!”