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.


2 thoughts on “Greetings from Lake LaVerne

  1. Pingback: More Greetings from Lake LaVerne | ISU Alumni Association

  2. Pingback: Five Things | ISU Alumni Association

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