Scott Siepker: Iowa Nice

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Scott Siepker is a nice guy. But he’s not THAT nice guy. He really wants you to know that the famous Iowa Nice Guy he portrays is just a character. One of many characters. Because he’s an actor.

OK, so now that we have that out of the way, we can talk about Scott Siepker the person and how he’s a full-time actor in the state of Iowa, with no day job. The 2005 psychology grad knows that he’s a bit of a unicorn in flyover country.

“I’m an actor in Iowa!” he declares. “It’s not a punch line! Most people laugh when I tell them. I’m like, ‘I’m an actor in Iowa,’ and they go ‘Hahahaha.’ I’m like, ‘No, really!’”

Siepker juggles a ridiculous number of acting and theatrical projects. He does regular guest spots on a radio show each week. He hosts “Iowa Outdoors,” a program on Iowa Public Television. He’s on stage in local theatre productions (including recently portraying  Macbeth). He used to do a show on ESPN. He does a lot (a LOT) of public speaking. And he and his business partners manage a film company, Iowa Filmmakers.

But it was one less-than-two-minute video shot on New Year’s Eve during the 2012 Iowa Caucus cycle that made Siepker a media star. “Iowa Nice” was the brainchild of Siepker’s Iowa Filmmakers partner Paul David Benedict.

“The reason Iowa Nice came about was Paul was listening to some radio report about Iowa, and the way they were describing Iowa just didn’t fit with what he thought the reality of Iowa is. In his head he started saying these funny insults and curses, and he thought, ‘This is funny. I should write this down.’ And then he thought, ‘Who do I know who’s OK with swearing?’ So he came to me. And then we went out and filmed it, and I guess the rest, as they say, is history.”

Siepker posted “Iowa Nice” to Facebook and to his seven Twitter followers. Several media outlets in town for the caucuses picked it up. The video went viral, he says, when Rachel Maddow of “The Rachel Maddow Show” called it the best political ad to come out that year. At last count, the video had more than 1.4 million views on YouTube.

With his newfound success, Siepker tapped back into his Iowa Nice Guy persona for Cyclone Nice and Hawkeye Nice videos, flinging insults at other schools that, he says, “solidified the Iowa Nice Guy as the Sultan of Smack.”

But Siepker himself isn’t anything like his most famous character.

“I’m certainly not that dry,” he says. “I’m not that cool. I’m much more spastic. But I know that character. I can feel it. And it certainly is a part of me, there’s no doubt about it.”

Siepker left his full-time desk job with a major corporate employer in Des Moines in May 2015 to devote more time to his acting career. He recently moved into a larger apartment to accommodate his growing need for workspace. And he can tick off a long list of projects he wants to work on, everything from a feature-length documentary film about Iowa heroes Jack Trice and Nile Kinnick to television series to expanding his reach as a speaker. But mostly he wants to help promote the state of Iowa as a place where artists of all kinds can make a living.

“There are challenges to being a filmmaker and an artist in Iowa, but part of my mission is to make it easier for those who come after me,” he says. “Money is the big thing that’s missing now in Iowa. More artists need to be able to make a living off their art. I’m one of the few, and there have to be a lot more of us – painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, photographers – more of us who are fortunate enough to be able to do that. I don’t want to move. I want to stay here. I love Des Moines, and I want to figure out a way to make everything happen HERE. I have a wonderful life. I might have the BEST life, I really might.”

View the Iowa Nice video
(warning: strong language)

Learn more about Iowa Filmmakers

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Five Things

Here are five things to put on your Cardinal & Gold radar this week:

1) The Iowa Board of Regents meets at 1 p.m. this afternoon in the ISU Alumni Center to vote on a  $300/semester tuition increase at ISU, UNI and the University of Iowa that, if approved, would be effective this fall. The potential increase, which would be the first at Iowa’s state-run schools in four years, is something the Regents say is necessary to cover a $14 million shortfall in funding from the Iowa legislature.

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Photo by Barb McBreen

2) The ISU campus is seeing white lately, as white squirrels are increasingly taking up residence. White squirrel sightings date back to 2000, and associate professor in natural resource ecology and management Tim Stewart says that original squirrel’s descendants are the ones being spied (and ballyhooed on social media) today. Stewart says it’s not necessarily surprising to find the leucistic creatures on campus, even though they are rare: college campuses, especially ones with lots of trees, make great homes for squirrels of all colors.

3) A group of ISU experts recently got together to talk about body image with ISU News Service. The result is a thought-provoking article on the history of BMI, the effect of media images on eating disorders, and what associate advertising professor Joel Geske refers to as the “slippery slope” of regulating the body images used in advertising, as was recently done by the mayor of London. Read the article online now.

4) Big 12 Football Media Days starts this morning in Dallas, Texas. The ISU athletics department website has all the links you need to follow the live coverage.

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5) Central Iowa Cyclones: We have two fun events coming up in Greater Des Moines, so mark your calendars for July 28 and Aug. 6.

Cyclone Night at the Des Moines Botanical Garden July 28 will include live jazz music, hors d’oeuvres and cash bar, hands-on learning stations, guided tours, and a short program featuring ISU alum Kelly Norris, director of horticulture, who will share the story of the garden’s dynamic renewal. Register online by July 20.

Iowa State Night at the I-Cubs Aug. 6 is an annual favorite. The Cubbies take on the New Orleans Zephyrs at 7:08 p.m. at Principal Park, but we’ll be gathering as a Cyclone family starting at 5:30 p.m. with a picnic in the Left Field Corner. Register online by July 29.

Five Things

Here are five things to put on your Cardinal & Gold radar this week:

1) In last Friday’s ISU News Flash, we told you about Team Canada’s promising bid to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in men’s basketball, thanks in large part of the strong play of former Cyclone All-American Melvin Ejim (’14 history). The Canadians ended up advancing all the way to the finals of the FIBA Olympics Qualifying Tournament Sunday in Manilla, Philippines, but lost to the Tony Parker-led France team, 83-74, stopping Ejim’s Olympic dream short by just one game. Ejim previously played for Team Nigeria (the country of his parents’ birth) during the last Olympic cycle, but was cut from the team just before the Olympics.

The Toronto native, who was named to the all-qualifying tournament team, kept his reaction upbeat and his feelings about Canada’s future hopeful on social media:

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Hillary Bor (via cyclones.com)

2) As far as we know right now, there will be just one Iowa State alumnus competing in this year’s Rio Olympic Games: Hillary Bor (’10 accounting and finance, MS ’12) earned a spot Friday night on Team USA, qualifying in track and field in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase.

“Coming in, I knew the race was going to be for the last 800 meters,” Bor said Friday night. “I wanted to be close to the leader but make sure I had enough space when I made a move. The last 200 meters I realized three of the guys in front of me were not moving that fast, so I just tried to boost the last 200 meters.”

The Eldoret, Kenya native and four-time NCAA All-American at ISU finished second to U.S. record-holder Evan Jager in Friday night’s qualifying race, clocking a personal-best 8:24.10. Bor became a U.S. citizen in 2013 when he joined the military. Until last year, he ran only for recreation before realizing 2016 might be a good opportunity to chase the Olympic dream.

“I can’t believe I made the team,” he said.

3) Dr. George Jackson, who served in many roles during his tenure at ISU — including assistant dean of the Graduate College and President of the Ames Chapter of the NAACP, died last Sunday, July 3, at his home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The retired Iowa State leader was beloved by many on campus and was a mentor to countless students, particularly in the black community. A home-going service will be held tomorrow in Florida, but an ISU community memorial service in Ames is also in the works for this fall (details to come). In the meantime, the Dr. George Jackson Memorial Fund is also being set up at the ISU Foundation.

4) The university lost another loyal Cyclone family member last week when Romie Orr, wife of the late Johnny Orr, died Saturday following an extended battle against Alzheimer’s disease. Since being diagnosed with the disease in 2001, she was an activist for Alzheimer’s research, even traveling to Washington, D.C. to lobby the U.S. Senate with her husband. Her husband, who spent 14 seasons as ISU’s head men’s basketball coach, died in 2014.

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Photo by Christopher Gannon

5) The Memorial Union will be selling the furniture from the former Hotel Memorial Union guest rooms at a public garage sale this Thursday, July 14 (4:30-7 p.m. in the Great Hall). The hotel ceased operations on July 1 in order to make room for much-needed student housing. Learn more about the sale online.

One man’s campus

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Through 50 years and five university presidents, Warren Madden has been a stable and continuous presence at Iowa State

Quick: Name a building on the Iowa State campus that was not built or improved
under the watchful eye of Warren Madden, senior vice president for business and
finance.

That’s a tough one, because Madden (L)(’61 industrial engineering) has served in a management role at Iowa State since 1966 – a full 50 years of leadership and involvement at his alma mater. During that time, Iowa State has grown from 15,000 students (up from 9,800 students when Madden enrolled here as a freshman in 1957) to an enrollment last fall of 36,001.

“Warren Madden has been instrumental in shaping Iowa State University into the world-class institution it is today,” ISU President Steven Leath (L) said following Madden’s announcement in February that he would retire this summer. “He’s impacted every corner of campus over the past 50 years.”

LIFE WITH 36 WOMEN
Madden came to Iowa State as an engineering student in 1957 from the Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn, Ill. He and his future wife, Bev, were high school sweethearts. Bev (L) earned her degree in home economics education at Iowa State in 1960 and began a graduate program in home management. As part of her graduate appointment she became adviser to the home management houses that were located on the east side of campus.

During Madden’s senior year in college, he and Bev decided to get married. The question was, where would they live? Madden remembers being invited to the Tearoom in MacKay Hall, where he was “thoroughly grilled” by then-dean Helen LeBaron Hilton for the better part of a morning before she and others in the department determined it would not be inappropriate for him to live in North Fisher, one of the home management units, with his new bride.

Thus began his adventures living with 36 women.

Every six weeks 12 women would move into the house to serve their quarter-long home management residency. The women had bedrooms on the top floor. The main floor consisted of a big, traditional living room, a kitchen, dining room, and the adviser’s bedroom. The newlyweds had their own living room and study in the basement. Each quarter, the 12 women lived full-time in the home management home, planned all the meals, did all the shopping, and managed the budget. Every meal was unique.

“Think about six weeks of breakfasts and never serving the same thing twice,” Madden says, chuckling. “About week three, you’re out of your traditional eggs and bacon and cereals and toast, and then they’re into cream cheeses and things at 7 o’clock in the morning. I finally said to Bev, ‘Thanks, but why don’t you go out and do all of this and I’ll stay down in the basement with our milk carton, cold cereal boxes, and toaster and I’ll do my own thing.”

A UNIVERSITY ON THE MOVE
After graduation in 1961, Madden went to work for 3M. He earned an MBA from the University of Chicago in 1965.

And then, in 1966, he returned to Iowa State to be the grants and contracts officer for then-vice president for business and finance Wayne Moore. Iowa State was a very different place at that time. W. Robert Parks was president, and the campus was about to embark on a substantial growth spurt, both in terms of its physical size and its student enrollment.

Madden’s role also grew under Parks’ administration (1965-1986). He became the assistant vice president and treasurer and then associate vice president and treasurer. When Moore became vice president for economic development in 1984, Parks named Madden vice president for business and finance, a position he would hold until 2012 when his title changed to senior vice president under President Leath.

In his role as the senior financial adviser to five presidents, Madden oversaw facilities planning and management, accounting and finance, human resource management, public safety, purchasing, University Museums, and more. He helped lead the growth of the campus as it moved south to include what is now the Iowa State Center (Hilton Coliseum, Stephens Auditorium, Fisher Theater, and the Scheman Building), Jack Trice Stadium, Reiman Gardens, the ISU Alumni Center, and the College of Veterinary Medicine facilities.

“I’ve sort of been here through the life cycle of that southern end of the south campus,” Madden says. “Getting those buildings down there and the stadium done, that’s probably done more to change the character of Iowa State than anything else.”

Madden was instrumental in the renovation of Iowa State’s historical buildings: Old Botany (now Catt Hall), Morrill Hall, the Memorial Union, the Campanile, Curtiss Hall, and currently Marston Hall, to name a few. In 1999, Iowa State’s central campus was one of three university campuses to be recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects as a special place embodying the “heart and soul” of the institution.

Director of University Museums Lynette Pohlman (L)(’72 interior design, MA ’76) is one of Madden’s longest-reporting employees, having joined the staff in 1988.

“Warren is very supportive of all of his units,” Pohlman says. “He is very supportive of his staff. He listens, he seeks recommendations, and he fine-tunes your thinking. He allows you to fail, and he celebrates when you succeed. He’s always about moving forward. His greatest assets are continuity, stability, vision, and the trust that he builds.”

Madden coordinated the campus recovery following major flooding in 1993, 2008, and 2010. He worked to establish the Green Hills retirement community, the Gateway hotel complex, and Research Park. He’s served on the boards of many of Iowa State’s affiliated organizations, including the ISU Foundation, ISU Alumni Association, Stanton Memorial Carillon Foundation, and the Agricultural Foundation.

withwarrenHe and Bev have given their personal financial support to projects on campus, including construction of the Palmer Building and the Jischke Honors Building, renovation of Beardshear and Morrill Halls, and key cultural offerings such as the performing arts and museums.

“In addition to managing the university’s budget as it increased from just over $268 million to $1.4 billion and overseeing the expansion of campus to more than 13.8 million square feet of building space, he and Bev have also personally supported a number of campus and community projects,” Leath said.

Madden concurs that he’s had a hand in not only the size and scope of the campus, but also its reputation.

“There are a lot of building programs in 50-plus years – that’s a third of Iowa State’s being around – so I’ve had the chance to see the impact of a variety of facility projects, and lots of them have been challenges,” he says. “The campus is a very different place than it was when I was here as a student.”

TOWN / GOWN RELATIONS
Madden’s impact can be seen beyond the confines of the campus. He’s addressed issues that have benefited the city of Ames as well as the university. He’s a master consensus-builder. And he’s served on countless boards and committees within the community.

He cites the creation of what is now Ames City Hall from what was once the high school as an early victory. He’s worked with the city on student housing issues, the challenges faced during several VEISHEA celebrations, the expansion of meeting and convention facilities, cultural offerings, the CyRide transportation system, and the recent reinvention of Campustown.

“I’ve had a chance to travel around the country, and I really do believe we probably have one of the best relationships you’ll find in college and university communities,” Madden says. “I think we’ve done a good job… Th is is a company town in reality, and Iowa State’s the major enterprise. On any given day there are probably 45,000 people on the campus – and the community’s probably around 64,000 – so more than half of this community is connected with Iowa State either as students or staff and faculty who work here.”

The Maddens can be seen at Iowa State and community events ranging from cultural activities to athletics.

“I tell people – and I’m partly kidding but partly serious – that I get half my work done Sunday mornings in the grocery store,” Madden says. “That’s the kind of community Ames is. Our social life and our work life are so intertwined you can’t separate them. You go to basketball games and you’re there to be a fan and watch and cheer Iowa State on, but I end up interacting with alumni and business in that, which I happen to enjoy.”

For his longtime contributions to the Ames community, Madden received the Ames Tribune’s Citizen of the Year award in 2013.

WHAT’S NEXT
The Maddens plan to spend their retirement years in Ames, their longtime home.

“I hope to be involved in some community and volunteer things,” he says. “I hope I can continue to be an Iowa State supporter, fan, and alumnus and be engaged in ways that are helpful. Bev and I also have a bucket list of some travel we’d like to do.”

He says he’ll miss the day-to-day connections with the people on campus, and he’ll miss his interaction with the students.

“There’s this vibrancy that you have every fall when another 6,000 or 7,000 new people sort of arrive, and they look the same every year and yet you get a year older. I’ll miss some of that interaction. Bev says she’ll know [my retirement is] really happening when I don’t get up and walk out the door early in the morning.”

Madden’s many contributions to campus will no doubt be missed. “Warren has so much Iowa State knowledge and so many connections,” Pohlman said. “Iowa State will miss that.”

“Warren is an institution here and one of the most loyal, generous, and humble people in our Iowa State family,” Leath said. “His legacy is unmatched, and we will be forever grateful for his dedication and service.”