More Greetings from Lake LaVerne

We received a tremendous response last spring and summer to our call for stories about Lake LaVerne on the occasion of its 100th birthday, and we printed many of those tales in our fall issue of VISIONS magazine.

But here are some more remembrances you may not have seen yet:

Some incidents from the dim-and-distant past, which I have always assumed related: I believe these both happened during 1955-56. The first involved a “bomb”– a device with a timer, left one evening on an upstairs balcony at the end of a women’s dorm, containing what appeared to be two or three sticks of dynamite. The bomb was discovered by a dorm resident and was disarmed by a janitor, who (at great risk to himself!), opened the device and ripped apart the wires therein. As it turned out, the dynamite sticks were fake: The dynamite wrappers were real, but their explosive contents had been replaced by sawdust soaked in syrup. There were a lot of rumors –- even accusations that it was an inside job — but the Ames police did not release much information on their findings.

One morning several months later, there was an explosion near the dam at the southeast end of Lake LaVerne.  Investigation indicated that an explosive had been placed there, with the apparent intent of opening a gap in the dam to lower the lake level. But the attempt was sufficiently nonprofessional that only minor damage was done to the dam, and the lake was not affected.  That incident, in my view, answers the question of what happened to the original contents of the dynamite sticks used in the earlier prank.

Notwithstanding the tools employed, that was not the most successful attempt to drain the Lake. I cannot remember the date — it was between 1954 and 1956 -– when someone pushed a pipe through the south bank of the lake from the ravine that paralleled Lincoln Way. Water ran out of the Lake into the ravine and back to the stream below the dam.  This attempt did, in fact, result in a significant drop in lake level– on the order of a foot or so– before it was detected and the pipe was plugged.  Again, I do not remember anyone officially blamed for the damage: That activity would have required a lot of people, and could not have been done quickly, so I was surprised that nothing came of it, at least during my three years at ISU.

I’m too old to remember much else, but those incidents obviously stuck with me. Believe me, I had no part in any of them, although my roommates accused me of complicity!

James R. Fancher ’56
Naperville, Ill.

thongvanh“I usually come here to hang out over my lunch break. Oh look, the swans are heading our way!”

— Allison Thongvanh ’13

Just read that you’re going to do a story about LaVerne Noyes. Did you know he founded the Aeromotor Windmill Co.?  I just learned this earlier this year. I’m surprised this part of LaVerne Noyes’ life I had never heard before–and I pride myself on knowing lots of ISU trivia. Since the company is still in business and there are scholarships at ISU from the company, I’m excited to read what other info you find out about how the windmill company continues to benefit ISU. Alum Noyes possibly has the longest financial giving back of any alum.

Jay Hinkhouse, MD ’85
Ames, Iowa

I enjoyed sitting on the south side of LaVerne during the fall and looking north across the lake at the changing leaves of the trees with the back drop of the Campanile. That was the best time of year on campus!

Evan Brehm ’12
Newhall, Iowa

trees“We’re in town for a softball game and decided to take a tour of campus. I like the mature trees around the lake.”

One cold winter’s night I was walking back from Memorial Union to my dorm room in Helser Hall along the north side of Lake LaVerne.  Plenty of snow was on the ground, but the sidewalk was quite clean.  About 10’ ahead I noticed another student walking along, and he was smoking.  One whiff told me that it wasn’t tobacco.  He proceeded to drift down to the frozen lake and walk along the ice until he reached the west end.  I slowed down to watch, expecting a catastrophic wipeout, but he made it.

Brad Buecker ’77
Lenexa, Kan.

The year was 1959 and I was a senior at Iowa State College, majoring in civil engineering. I lived in Fairchild House in Friley-Hughes Hall where there was a good mix of engineers and foresters. There was a good-natured rivalry between the two groups and each thought the other dumber, weaker, etc.

A tug of war, it was agreed, would resolve the matter. It was VEISHEA and it was decided that the focal point of the contest would be Lake LaVerne. I’m unsure as to how the rope got across the Lake, but no doubt an engineer figured it out. The foresters chose the north (street) side, which the engineers were on the grassy south side.

I wasn’t a part of the engineers’ squad because at that time I wasn’t “beefy” enough. A lot has changed over the last 57 years. Although not big, my housemate Jerry was a part of the forester team and wore a white dress shirt to the contest. No doubt rules were agreed upon, like the number on each team and how the winner would be determined — probably when all of the foresters were pulled into the Lake.

For a minute or two after the contest started, things were even. Gradually, however — and probably due to better footing — the engineers started their march toward Lincoln Way. I can still see Jerry in his white shirt suspended above Lake LaVerne. Onlookers on the north side of the Lake, seeing the foresters were in trouble, decided to give them a hand and joined the foresters’ squad. Likewise, when the engineers started to be pulled toward the Lake the bystanders on the south side joined the fray. And then it happened: The rope broke and the question of superiority went unresolved.

Dave Gravenkamp ’59
Yreka, Calif.

pokemon“We just came here to find Pokemon.”

Greetings from Lake LaVerne

Lake LaVerne. (Green Hills p.29)

On May 10, 2016, Lake LaVerne celebrated a milestone 100 years. While its credibility as a full-fledged “lake” may never be strong, its significance in the hearts and minds of Iowa Staters is ocean-deep. We asked for your favorite Lake LaVerne memories and stories, and you answered. Here is a sampling of the stories we received:

It’s great to skate:

laverne7“I was raised just up the street from Lake LaVerne (320 Stanton, to be exact). I remember going ice skating many times on Lake LaVerne, but one time especially stands out. I was about eight years old, I think, and I remember it being quite cold – probably around zero. There was always open water on the east end of the lake by the Union. My friends and I would often see how close we could get to the water without going through the ice. This time, I got too close. I don’t remember how much of me actually went into the water, but I believe it was well above my knees. I was able to get back onto the ice – perhaps with help from my friends, but I don’t remember. Deciding that it was time to go home, I went over to where my shoes were but couldn’t get my skates off. The shoelaces were frozen, along with my gloves and my pant legs. I had no choice, as I saw it, and walked home with my skates on. I remember it being very difficult to walk home, but I don’t remember anything after that. I suspect I went in and hid from my parents until I could get my skates off. I don’t think I ever tried to skate close to the open water again.”

– Doug McCay
(L)(’71 indus admin)
Ames, Iowa

“Several of us whose ‘dorm’ was Richards House, which at the time housed overflow transfer students, occasionally ice skated on Lake LaVerne in the winter months of 1964-1965. What fun!”

– Vicki Weissinger Long
(L)(’67 child development, MS ’70 education)
Lee’s Summit, Mo.

“Hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps may or may not have been involved in my memories of ice skating on Lake LaVerne. Those were great times! Special place on a special campus!”

– Randy Benton
(A)(’84 music), LeMars, Iowa

A note about the lake’s namesake:


Several of you wrote to us about LaVerne Noyes the man, pointing out his little-known business success in the wind turbine industry. Among our favorite letters about Noyes (1872, liberal arts and sciences, PhD 1915) is this one from Dan Etler:

“Last October my father, Don Etler (A)(’76 ag engr), and I were in Chicago doing research on a large history project that we have been working on. Our travels brought us to Graceland Cemetery, which is the final resting place to many of Chicago’s elite of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Graceland is located just a few blocks north of Wrigley Field. It was a beautiful, cool, but sunny Friday morning and we arrived bright and early to photograph the graves of the family members we are researching.

After we completed this task we decided to drive around the cemetery and see the stones of the famous people buried there: Cyrus McCormick (founder of International Harvester), Marshall Field (department store), George Pullman (train cars), Philip Armour (meat packing), and William Kimball (piano maker), just to name a few.

On the north side of Graceland there is a small lake, Lake Willowmere, near where many of these famous folks are buried. As we drove along the road I commented that this was sure a beautiful setting. I then noticed near the shore a very large square stone of red granite. The sides had been made smooth and inset was the name: LaVerne Noyes. I remember thinking, ‘I know that name!’ and I drove a few more feet. Then it hit me: Chicago. Wealthy & likely prominent. LaVerne Noyes.

I slammed on the brakes and pointed at the stone, yelling to my Dad, ‘Do you know who that is?’ It didn’t take him long (after I provided a few hints) to figure out that this was our Lake LaVerne namesake. Not sure how two Iowa Staters visiting Chicago could have had a more unexpected but memorable moment. It became one of the highlights of the trip.

Iowa Staters should know that our LaVerne Noyes rests peacefully on the shore of a beautiful little lake that is so very similar to the one that still bears his name at his alma mater.

And while all Iowa Staters know Lake LaVerne, few if any know how LaVerne Noyes made his fortune. The turbine on the top of windmills was his patent. His invention dotted the Iowa countryside and made life so much easier for farmers by pumping water from the well to the house. He and his wife had no children, so his fortune was divided up for scholarships (originally for WWI veterans) across 48 colleges and universities, including Iowa State. These scholarships continue to this day.”

– Dan Etler (L)(’95 finance)
Shawnee, Kan.

For when it’s forever:

laverne3“On Sept. 13, 2015, my boyfriend Mike and I set out to complete the Iowa State tradition of walking around Lake LaVerne three times in silence, holding hands to prove we were meant to be together. When we had finished the third lap, Mike got down on one knee and proposed! We will be married on Oct. 15.”

– Katie Brown (L)(’14 history)
Ames, Iowa

“A long time ago, my then-fiancé and I were late arriving for a movie, so we decided to do it [walk around Lake LaVerne three times]. The only problem was, it was below freezing and I was wearing a skirt – a rather short one. My legs didn’t warm up until the end of the next movie screening. But I am happy to report that we have now been married almost 42 years.”

– RuthAnn Royer
(L)(’75 art education, MA ’77 applied art)
Lincoln, Neb.

laverne5“You know that Lake LaVerne tradition, right? My best friend and I attempted to walk around the lake, thinking maybe we could stay friends forever. Anyway, it was super dark and scary and we ran home halfway through.”

– Allie Faivre, sophomore,
ag and life sciences ed

Gone Fishin’:

“I have to laugh every time I hear ‘Lake LaVerne!’ I had this wonderful 10-gallon aquarium with great, expensive fish set up in my fraternity room. I was really fussy about keeping it up. Well, one night a couple of jokers decided to play a trick on me and took one of my wire coat hangers and a pair of my long underwear, tied the legs in a knot, and made a net. They went right down to Lake LaVerne to get a few new fish for my aquarium.

This was done in the wee hours of the night, of course. The next morning I woke up with two gigantic gold fish swimming in my aquarium and all my nice fish huddled in the corner, frightened to death. After a little fishing [in the aquarium], back down to the Lake LaVerne they went.”

– Steve Frank (’76 farm operation)
Storm Lake, Iowa

laverne2“My earliest memory of Lake LaVerne is from 1955. My grandfather, Harry Osborne, had taken me fishing to Little Wall Lake north of Ames and to the Isaac Walton Park east of Ames on several occasions. I was only seven years old at the time, but I do remember that we had no luck with our fishing prowess.

Now is where my Lake LaVerne story begins. I was only seven years old, but needed to have a hernia operation. On July 13 the doctor told my mother that whatever she did, be sure to keep me quiet. So, she planned a fishing trip to Lake LaVerne. Needless to say, that was the day that I caught my first fish. In my mind the bluegill was a whopper. I kept jumping up and down while my mother tried to keep me calm. She snagged an Iowa State student and got him to help put the prize catch in the minnow bucket.”

– Alan O. Bornmueller (A)(’73 arch)
Greer, S.C.

On what ends up in the Lake:

“My uncle, Pete Perret (L)(’60 landscape arch), recalled the 1957 Iowa State basketball win over Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain that caused the campus to go wild. The campus was abuzz after the victory, and someone put some type of explosive under the dam by the lake. After the explosion a brick from the dam was found on the Memorial Union roof.”

– Kathy Perret (’81 elementary ed)
Sioux City, Iowa

“During finals week there was most likely a book or two floating on Lake LaVerne. I always assumed that the student who discarded them either was extremely glad to be done with the class, or tried to resell them, only to find out the bookstore wasn’t buying them back!”

– Lynne Murphy
(’81 leisure services)
Des Moines, Iowa


“I remember an eventful morning during the fall of my senior year, 1975, when a beef heifer escaped from the old Meat Lab; she took an interesting trip around campus that finished with the heifer in Lake LaVerne. It was an interesting morning.”

– John W. Hallberg (L)(’76 animal sci,
MS ’78 meat sci, DVM ’82, PhD ’84 meat sci)
Kalamazoo, Mich.

“On a warm Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1963 a longtime friend, Ken, and I purchased an eight pack of Miller beer (we were both over 21) and spent a quiet afternoon sitting in the shade drinking our beer, enjoying the warmth, and solving the world’s problems. As the day drifted on we decided it was time to go home, but we knew we could not take the remaining two cans of beer with us. What to do? Since we were near the campus we decided we would hide the beer in Lake LaVerne. We found a niche under the bank on the southeast shore of the lake and, without anyone around, tucked our remaining two cans of Miller in. We had planned to go back again to retrieve our stash, but neither did. After 56 years Ken and I are still friends. Both raised families and had varied lives, but neither went to look for our beer. Is it still there? I think I remember the general location, but over the 52 years the landmarks have changed – plus, I think the lake has been dredged since 1964. Still, maybe we should go back. No sense in wasting beer!”

– John Esser (L)(’65 horticulture)
Madison, Wis.

“I was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy from ISU in 1971. Having spent five years in Friley Hall, walking by the lake almost daily, leads to many memories. Perhaps the most memorable was the time when the NROTC was initiating freshmen NROTC students into the Sextant Society. We were fortunate to be able to experience Lake LaVerne up close; our duty was to patrol the lake to watch out for submarines and swan attackers. We wore our dress navy blue uniforms and used a row boat with oars while underway to cover our patrol area. I can say proudly that during our time on the lake the swans were never bothered and we did not have to have shots after our tour of ‘duty’ on the lake.”

– Paul (Pete) Friedman (L)(’71 chem engr, MS ’77)
Collierville, Tenn.


Five Things

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


1) It was a joyous weekend in Ames as the university paid tribute to the eight individuals who were inducted into the Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame, including gymnast Mark Diab, wrestlers Arthur Holding and Reg Wicks, football coach Dan McCarney, basketball players Megan Taylor and Jamaal Tinsley, softball player Erin Woods White, and distance runner Raf Wyns. Watch Saturday’s football halftime ceremony honoring this year’s inductees.

2) Another highlight of the weekend, from a Cyclone athletics perspective, was the first football victory of the Matt Campbell era: a 44-10 domination of San Jose State at Jack Trice Stadium. Next up is a showdown with Big 12 rival Baylor Saturday at 11 a.m. Plan to be on hand to cheer the Cyclones onward! Oh, and join us for breakfast at the ISU Alumni Center beforehand.

3) Reporting over the weekend raised questions about ISU President Steven Leath’s use of a university airplane, including allegations that his actions were in violation of university policy and/or state law. Leath issued a statement of response here, in which he states that he will no longer pilot any state-owned aircraft. The university also provided a summary of related information here.

4) You probably know that tonight is the first debate of the 2016 presidential general crosbyelection season, pitting Democrat Hillary Clinton against Republican Donald Trump in a televised event from Hofstra University. ISU associate professor of English and speech communication Ben Crosby says the debate sets up as “policy vs. reality show drama.”

“Trump likes to ridicule his opponents. When you’re a policy-driven, deliberative politician, like Clinton, you have to adjust to a dynamic in which deliberation and policy are hardly your biggest problem. Your biggest problem is dealing with an opponent who is condescending and ridiculing. I don’t know if she’s prepared to do that,” Crosby said.

Read more of Crosby’s pre-debate analysis online.

5) THE CHERRY PIES ARE HERE! Purchase yours today from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. in the Joan Bice Underwood Tea Room as “Human Sciences Week” kicks off on campus.

Have a great week!

Five Things

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

1) U.S. News and World Report issued its annual college rankings last week, and the news was mixed for Iowa State. ISU was ranked No. 111 on the overall list of top universities, which kept it in the top 27 percent of 189 public universities, but still a bit of a slip from last year’s ranking of 108. Changes in ranking methodology — particularly criteria surrounding “student selectivity” (Iowa State accepts all qualified applicants) play a strong role in ISU’s ranking fluctuation, but President Steven Leath did note that shrinking levels of state support and a pressing need to hire more faculty to keep pace with enrollment growth are currently weighing heavily on him in his administrative role. In his annual address to the university last week, Leath placed a heavy emphasis on this fact. Among the next steps he proposed are a two-tiered tuition structure (which would charge higher tuition to upperclassmen than underclassmen) and the forthcoming launch (at the end of this month) of the university’s next comprehensive fundraising campaign, which Leath hopes will help offset some of the heavy state funding hits the university has been taking of late.

The best news coming out of the U.S. News rankings: The university’s agricultural and biosystems engineering department is now ranked No. 1 in the country and Iowa State (along with the U of I and Northern Iowa) was listed as an “A-Plus School for B Students” — a place where “non-superstars have a decent shot at being accepted and thriving.”

The 2016 Best Colleges guidebook will hit newsstands Oct. 4.

clovis2) The fall 2016 issue of VISIONS magazine hit mailboxes late last week, and we’re already receiving positive response, particularly to the cover story on Iowa’s natural history. Phil Gose (’95 statistics) of Urbandale, Iowa, wrote to say that our cover story on “Iowa’s First Humans” helped him further appreciate a treasure he grabbed from a farm field while walking beans near Jefferson in the early 1980s: a Clovis stone like the one pictured on page 23 of the latest issue — the oldest evidence of humans in Iowa, which dates back 11,000 years. “I keep the stone and still have it today,” he writes. “When I was in school at ISU I came across a display cabinet that had some of these stones and it was then than I finally knew what I really had.”

3) There’s still time to sign up for your chance to cruise with ISU President Steven Leath and First celticlands_main_33c6770b92874Lady Janet Leath next May. The Traveling Cyclones’ “Celtic Lands” journey (May 16-25, 2017) is eight nights aboard the M.S. LeBoréal from Scotland to Wales, Ireland, and France, and a special guest speaker on the cruise will be Dwight David Eisenhower II. To learn more about this very unique travel opportunity or to sign up, contact travel director Shellie Andersen at (877) 478-2586 or

4) This is the week for career fairs: The College of Engineering career fair is tomorrow, and Wednesday will see both the Business, Industry, and Technology career fair and People to People career fair come to campus.

5) After a two-week road trip, Cyclone football comes back to campus this weekend as the Cyclones (0-3) look to get on the winning track Saturday morning against San Jose State (11 a.m.). If you want to have breakfast with us at Cyclone Central (8 a.m., ISU Alumni Center), register by noon on Wednesday. Our special guests this week will be members of the ISU women’s basketball team, who will be on hand to greet fans and sign autographs from 9-10 a.m. Even if you don’t register for the breakfast buffet, feel free to stop by any time.

Have a wonderful week, #cyclONEnation!

Andrew Allen: Advocating for kids


As the CEO of Iowa’s notforprofit Youth and Shelter Services organization, Andrew Allen can relate to the state’s troubled youth in a way nobody else can. Because he used to be one of them.

Charged with felony burglary and vandalism on his 10th birthday, Allen began the life of a juvenile delinquent. Despite having a loving and supportive family, Allen drank alcohol, got high, committed crimes, and nearly failed out of school. Throughout his adolescence, he made regular appearances in juvenile court.

Allen’s father was a recovering alcoholic who got sober before Andrew was born, but the genetic predisposition was there.

“I think I was afflicted with a lot of the characteristics of an alcoholic from the very start, even before I took my first drink,” Allen said. “I was always living on the edge. I always seemed to find trouble. I tended to think I was smarter than other people. I wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. I couldn’t stand authority.”

Allen’s parents took him to a long line of counselors and therapists. At 17, Allen was arrested for drunk driving, and the courts tried him as an adult. It was at that point when Allen knew his youthful actions could have lifelong consequences. He was sent to the Seven-12 House, a residential recovery center in Ames, run by Youth and Shelter Services. For the first six weeks, Allen says, he fought treatment “tooth and nail.” But one day, at age 17 ½, after sneaking a cigarette when he knew that smoking was not allowed, Allen had an epiphany.

“Of all the things that I’d done, that was the least of my offenses,” Allen said. “But I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach, like maybe I shouldn’t have done that. And while I didn’t recognize it at the time, I know today that I started to feel guilty. And I think it was not just for the cigarette that I had smoked, but all of my transgressions, all of the sin that existed in my life, and I found myself in the bathroom of the Seven-12 House six weeks into treatment, just crying like a baby. I said what was the most honest prayer of my life; I just said, ‘I can’t keep living like this anymore.’”

Allen spent three more months in the Seven-12 Recovery House, and everything changed. He learned to put one foot in front of the other every day. He followed his treatment plan. He graduated from the program and went to Des Moines Area Community College. He became involved as an active volunteer in the community. He enrolled in a business program at Iowa State and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in management information systems in 2000.

When he took a job in information technology at Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, nobody knew his backstory, and he didn’t plan to tell them. Allen says that he simply created himself as a new person.

“Nobody knew that I was a juvenile delinquent or that I was a drug addict/ alcoholic or that I’d been diagnosed a sociopath. Nobody knew my history. The process through Iowa State and YSS had allowed me to recreate who I was and to present to the employment community the sober, recovering, active community member Andrew Allen. I will forever be grateful for that, for people believing in me and continuing to give me a second – or
a 25th – shot. And for not having my past weigh me down.”

But then Allen got involved in Principal’s volunteer network, and he began to help coordinate projects like volunteer week and Toys for Tots and holiday food drives. He became chair of the company’s United Way campaign and became a member of the foundation board. It was then that someone who knew about his past suggested that he share his story as part of the campaign.

At first, Allen was hesitant. But he ended up sharing his story publicly for the first time as  an adult, and the response was incredible. The company raised more money than it had ever raised for United Way, and won the Spirit of America Award, which is the highest honor United Way bestows on a corporation nationally. Allen found himself on the corporate jet. And he began a multi-year, multi-job trajectory within the organization, culminating as director of community relations for the Principal Financial Group Foundation.

“I was managing the corporate social responsibility for a Fortune 500 company, having been a juvenile delinquent/drug addict/alcoholic/diagnosed sociopath,” Allen says. He knew he had it made. But it wasn’t enough. He didn’t feel like he was fulfilling his life’s purpose. He was, he says, being called back to YSS.

The organization’s longtime leader and Allen’s mentor, George Belitsos (L)(’12 honorary), was retiring. Allen had been asked to serve on the search committee. But person after person encouraged him to apply for the position himself. He became the CEO of Youth and Shelter Services on July 1, 2015.

YSS provides education and prevention, behavioral health, and transition services to youth throughout the state of Iowa. With physical buildings in six communities, the organization has a presence statewide with youth employment and training services, outpatient addiction and mental health counseling, after-school programs, residential addiction treatment, emergency shelters, transitional living, and contracts such as Iowa Aftercare Services Network from the Iowa Department of Human Services.

“If there’s an issue that’s going to impact kids, we’re there,” Allen says. “We’re there at the city council, we’re there at the state, we’re in the community, providing awareness, and advocating on behalf of kids.”

Looking back at his own experience with Youth and Shelter Services, Allen says, “What not a lot of people understand about YSS is not only did they provide the treatment that I needed at the appropriate time, but they went beyond that and they embraced me in this philosophy of community youth development – taking young people and putting them in leadership positions, giving them a voice. That’s what George Belitsos did for me. He believed in me more than I believed in myself.”

Learn more online:

Five Things

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


1) Last week the university released the results of its official head count, and ISU has done it again: broken an enrollment record. The university’s official fall 2016 enrollment of 36,660 is an increase of nearly 1.9 percent (659) over the previous record of 36,001 in fall 2015. Learn more and see the numbers breakdown here.

2) Let’s do a quick Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series scoreboard check and then move on from that topic:


The Cyclones did earn a sweep on the volleyball court Friday night in Ames, but the other two contests didn’t go so well for ISU. Cross country is up next on Nov. 11.

3) The ISU Alumni Association and ISU Extension and Outreach have a really interesting event coming up this Friday in Clay County, Iowa. Researchers at Iowa State have identified more than 1,200 land parcels in northwest Iowa as land grant parcels allowed by the Morrill Act of 1862. ISU Extension and Outreach has gathered the data, plotted it on a map, and started contacting owners to validate that the land has ties to the start of Iowa State University. A special event at the Clay County Fairgrounds will engage those Iowa landowners who are so uniquely part of the Iowa State story!

4) Two interesting lectures are on the docket for this evening on campus: At 7 p.m. University of Wisconsin professor Ahna Skop will speak on the topic “Too Creative for Science?“, and at 8 p.m. Forbes media chairman Steve Forbes will be on campus to address the issue of “How Capitalism Will Save Us.”


5) Congratulations to Iowa State student Kelly Koch (Miss Iowa 2016) on her top-10 finish in last night’s Miss America pageant.

Have a great week, #cyclONEnation!

Amy Brehm: Coffee and Conversation


Adult coloring clubs and Bible studies are welcome in Amy Brehm’s Java Joe’s coffee houses. So are fans of country music and fans of heavy metal. And so, too, are Democrats and Republicans. In the true spirit of a community coffee house, Java Joe’s is all about bringing people together and facilitating conversation.

“It wasn’t the coffee that was my interest,” admits Brehm, who bought the iconic Java Joe’s in Des Moines’ Court Ave. entertainment district with her husband, Tim, in 2007. “I like to be around people. I like to talk to people. I like to be the one that is inviting people in; I like to be the hostess.”

And in 2008, after less than year in the coffee house business – on the heels of 12 years spent as a stay-at-home mom to four kids – Brehm (’92 fine arts) found herself playing host on what is arguably the nation’s biggest stage. A fledgling MSNBC morning program, “Morning Joe,” was denied a spot at the media center during the Iowa Caucuses. But hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were determined to cover the caucuses in Iowa. That’s when the Brehms stepped in and agreed to make Java Joe’s the program’s home base in the state.

The move paid off – not only for Java Joe’s, but for Scarborough and Brzezinski. The unique environment and show format attracted attention – most notably from legendary “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert, who would end up passing away later that year. Russert was watching the “Morning Joe” broadcast from the comparatively stuffy media center and quickly deemed Java Joe’s the place to be. Russert grabbed his coat, took off walking toward Java Joe’s, breezed through the tall entryway, asked Brehm for a bagel (“He didn’t even want it toasted or anything,” Brehm remembers), and sat down to give “Morning Joe” what Brzezinski would later describe as a “literal blessing.”

To this day, Scarborough and Brzezinski gratefully cite Java Joe’s as the springboard for their show’s success.

“Morning Joe” has been back to Java Joe’s every election cycle since. So has “Today,” “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” and “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” Brehm and her family have rubbed elbows with a slew of NBC News reporters and presidential candidates including Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Chris Dodd, Ben Carson, and yes – even Donald Trump, who Brehm says was nice enough to “fake fire” her The Apprentice-loving teen daughters and whose son, Donald Jr., gave her kids some heartfelt advice about growing up in a family business.

It isn’t always easy being at the center of political debate, Brehm admits, grimacing as she sits under a glossy framed photo of Trump affixed to the restaurant’s brick wall and tapping a fingernail at the “F— Trump” that’s been carefully carved by a customer into the tabletop beneath it.

In 2012, a video of Brehm kicking “Occupy” protesters out of Java Joe’s went viral. She says she was a little embarrassed when she received notes of praise and even monetary contributions from fellow small business owners. Brehm says she wasn’t trying to make a political statement; she was just thinking of her customers.

“We know everybody has their opinion, and we definitely want people to come here and voice that – but in a respectful way,” Brehm says. “They come here to see the candidates and hear about what’s going on. That’s what we enjoy about it – seeing all the different sides; everybody’s in the conversation. But for me, I’m honestly just thinking about the camera guys or the guy out in the [production] truck who doesn’t get to come inside; does he need something to eat or drink?”

At the end of the day, Brehm feels like she and her family have succeeded in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment at Java Joe’s, and all her businesses – she not only owns the original Java Joe’s, but also two other locations in Des Moines and a soon-to be-opening Java Joe’s in her hometown of Dubuque, as well as CJ’s Bagels/Topped Doughnuts in Ankeny. Brehm also operates the 4th Street Theater adjacent to Java Joe’s, which has become a favorite performance space in the area for lecturers, comics, musicians, and even poetry slams. The band Switchfoot once played an impromptu after-show at Java Joe’s following a concert in Wells Fargo Arena. (“They just tweeted out that they were going to Java Joe’s and then there they were, sitting in a big circle with their guitars,”Brehm remembers. “We love for people to be able to come in and do that.”)

Brehm says it’s exciting to have actors, comedians, musicians, politicians, and pundits walk through her doors on a regular basis, and she’s made lifelong friends with customers from all walks of life and political ideologies – but they’re ultimately just customers to whom she wants to provide a good experience.

“We just like having people here,” she says. “I don’t get all star-struck. When Joe Biden walks in, he sits down and he talks to me. We’re just two people who do two different things for a living, and we just welcome him.”

It’s a philosophy – and a business model – that’s uniquely Iowan.

“I’m just so proud to be from Iowa,” Brehm says. “This is where the roots are; this is where we started.”

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Moses Bomett: Hopeful Africa


By his own account, Moses Bomett is a man with a foot in two countries a world apart. Born in the United States and raised in Kenya, at age 24 Bomett has spent exactly half of his life in Africa and half in Iowa.

That gives Bomett a unique perspective on philanthropy, social services, global relations, and giving back to the places he loves. At age 16 and a junior at West Des Moines’ Valley High School, he started an organization to send books and other resources to schools in Africa. He continued the organization as a student at Iowa State.

“America is the land of opportunity,” Bomett says. “People don’t fully grasp what that means unless you come from another country.”

His organization, Hopeful Africa, has been active in some capacity for eight years now. To date, it has invested more than $100,000 in seven schools in Kenya, providing more than 5,300 books, 27 computers, and more than 140 student scholarships – and it annually supports 18 teachers in an effort to drive down the high student-teacher ratio there.

“Those are the big numbers,” Bomett says. “There’s one more thing I want to share when we talk about the impact in Kenya, and this you cannot capture in any numbers. There’s a motivational aspect, knowing that there is someone, some people thousands of miles away – you might not have met them, you might never meet them – but they believe in you and they want you to succeed. They want to invest in you. It’s impacted test scores, it’s impacted attendance, it’s impacted the morale of the teachers to teach, just knowing that ‘We have a partner. We have someone behind us.’”

Bomett (A) is a 2013 ISU grad with a degree in economics, political science, and international studies. He graduated knowing he wanted to work in the nonprofit world, and he recently received a master’s degree in public administration from Drake University. For the past two years, he’s worked at the Bernie & Berniece Baker Boys and Girls Club at Amos Hiatt Middle School on the northeast side of Des Moines. Hiatt has a multi-ethnic, diverse enrollment; the school’s minority enrollment is 86 percent of the student body, compared with the state of Iowa average of 21 percent. Bomett counts refugees, students for which English is a second language, and many different cultures and countries represented at the school.

As director of the Baker Club, Bomett oversees all of the daily programming – from cooking programs to fitness to games to homework help and literacy – and hires the staff. The club provides programming after school, during the summer, and over school breaks, serving a full third of the school’s enrolled students.

In both of his nonprofit worlds, Bomett sees a parallel thread in Iowa.

“Once people hear our story, once people see the work we’re doing, the next thing they say is, ‘How can I help? How can I be a part of this? Where do I start? What can I do?’ And that to me speaks specifically here in Iowa and in this Midwest region that there are pockets of opportunity and resources that are untapped. There’s a lot of spirit of helping each other, supporting each other.”

Bomett is passionate about providing life-changing opportunities to kids, both in Iowa and in Kenya.

“I’ve been asked, ‘Where does it feel like home?’ And I say, ‘I don’t know. I’m a son of both worlds.’ I give back to Des Moines and to Africa. It can be doom and gloom, but that’s not the story I want to tell. I see opportunities every day. It’s not a desolate story. It’s a hopeful story.”

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