Iowa State University: 2016 in Review

2016 Year in Review

In January…

The Iowa State men’s basketball team defeated No. 1 Oklahoma, 82-77, at Hilton Coliseum in a nationally televised Big Monday contest. It marked ISU’s first win over the nation’s top-ranked team since the Cyclones defeated Kansas in 1957.

Following a month-long investigation by law enforcement officials, CyRide bus driver Benjamin Clague was arrested and charged in the Dec. 14, 2015, death of ISU student Emmalee Jacobs (pictured, right), who was struck by a bus Clauge was driving while she attempted to cross Lincoln Way. Clague would go on to broker a plea deal for 30 days in jail and a $100 fine after the Story County prosecutor concluded that Clague didn’t realize he’d hit a person at the time of the incident. In the wake of the tragedy, Iowa State launched a partnership with the City of Ames to study safety issues on the “Iowa State stretch” of Lincoln Way where Jacobs was killed.

ISU President Steven Leath (L) presented the final report prepared by the Spring Event Planning Committee, which was tasked with determining the future of student events and activities in the wake of VEISHEA’s permanent cancellation. Among the recommendations were alternate dates for cherry pie sales and the creation of a spring arts festival. Implementation of these plans and recommendations is ongoing.


In February…

The ISU Alumni Association held its fifth-annual Cardinal & Gold Gala at the Veterans Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in Des Moines. The event raised $50,000 for first-generation student scholarships, as well as student and alumni outreach and programming.

Martino Harmon (A)(pictured, right) was named ISU’s senior vice president for student affairs, succeeding his now-retired boss Tom Hill (A). Harmon had been serving as the university’s associate vice president for student affairs since 2013.

The state of Iowa held its regular first-in-the-nation presidential caucus, with Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Hillary Clinton claiming narrow victories in their respective races. Iowa State politics experts, including “Dr. Politics” Steffen Schmidt and Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics director Dianne Bystrom (A), made frequent appearances in national media outlets throughout the process as all eyes were, as usual, glued on Iowa.


In March…

The Iowa State Singers were one of four choral ensembles that appeared in the 2017 Gotham SINGS! Collegiate Choral Showcase on Easter Sunday at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

The Iowa State men’s basketball team defeated Iona and Little Rock in NCAA tournament action in Denver, Colo., to advance to its second Sweet 16 in three seasons under first-year head coach Steve Prohm. The Cyclones ended their year – and the distinguished career of fan favorite Georges Niang (pictured, right) – in Chicago on March 25 with an 84-71 loss to top-seeded Virginia. Niang would go on to earn consensus All-American honors and the 2016 Karl Malone Award as the nation’s top collegiate power forward. The now-Indiana Pacer poured in 2,228 points and snared 714 rebounds during his illustrious ISU career.

Cyclone wrestler Earl Hall (133 pounds) closed out his ISU career as a two-time All-American, finishing seventh at the NCAA championships. Unseeded 174-pounder Lelund Weatherspoon, a redshirt junior, and 197-pounder Patrick Downey, a redshirt sophomore, both placed sixth.


In April…

Iowa State student Rachel Wonderlich (S), the Iowa 4-H Youth Development program’s global citizenship intern, was chosen from among 3,000 nominations as the 2015-2016 National Student Employee of the Year.

Iowa State alumnus Goran Micevic (’10 biochemistry)(pictured, right) was awarded a prestigious Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. Micevic, a native of Yugoslavia, is now a graduate student at Yale University studying melanoma epigenetics.

Iowa State junior point guard Monte Morris delighted Cyclone men’s basketball fans with the announcement that he would remain in Ames to play his senior season at Iowa State instead of pursuing the NBA Draft.


In May…

Just five months after being fired from his position as head coach of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, former ISU men’s basketball star Jeff Hornacek (L)(’86 accounting) was named the 28th head coach of the New York Knicks, making Iowa State the only university with two alumni currently serving as NBA head coaches (Fred Hoiberg ’95 (L), Chicago).

ISU President Steven Leath hired Rear Admiral Kate Gregory (L)(pictured, right) to serve as ISU’s senior vice president for university services.

After being postponed twice, the Iowa State softball team finally played host to instate rival Iowa at the Cyclone Sports Complex on May 3. The Cyclones won, 5-0, and in the process captured the 2015-2016 Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series championship for the third-straight season.


In June…

It was the end of an era as ISU senior vice president Warren Madden (L)(’61 indus engr) officially retired after 50 years of service to his alma mater.

Jamie Trachsel (pictured, right) was hired as ISU’s head softball coach, replacing Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler, who was dismissed in May after the Cyclones recorded just one conference win during the season.

The Iowa State Cyclone Football ‘Varsity’ Marching Band performed in Normandy, France, as part of a U.S. government delegation sent to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of D-Day.

Iowa State alumnus Edward F. Knipling (MS ’32 entomology, PhD ’47) was posthumously awarded the Golden Goose Award for his work in the 1950s that helped eradicate a deadly pest called the screwworm fly. The Golden Goose Award is designed to recognize seemingly obscure research that has actually had a major impact on the world.

Iowa State dedicated a new 49,210-square-foot Economic Development Core Facility on the south side of ISU Research Park. The facility is now operating as a “one-stop” shop for industries and businesses seeking the assistance and expertise of Iowa State faculty and researchers.

In July…

Marston Hall officially reopened following an extensive $27 million renovation that included three new state-of-the-art classrooms, a 177-seat auditorium, a student/lounge welcome center, and much more.

Laura Dunn Jolly (A)(pictured, right) began her tenure as dean and Dean’s Chair of ISU’s College of Human Sciences. Jolly was selected following a national search in April to replace the retiring Pam White (A)(PhD ’81 food tech). Jolly came to ISU from the University of Georgia, Athens, where she was a professor of textiles, merchandising and interiors.

Iowa State closed out the fiscal year by reporting a record $425.8 million in external funding was secured in FY16, including grants, contracts, gifts, and cooperative agreements from governments, corporation, foundations, and other universities.


In August…

Former Cyclone All-American Hillary Bor (’10 accounting & finance, MS ’12) represented Team USA at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, competing in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. Betsy Saina (’13 child, adult, and family services) competed in the women’s 10,000-meter run for Team Kenya, and Mohamed Hrezi (’14 accounting) represented his native Libya in the men’s marathon.

Iowa State women’s shot putter Christina Hillman (’16 child and family services & psychology)(pictured, right) was nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year. She would go on to travel to Indianapolis in October as one of nine finalists for the prestigious honor.

Iowa State’s unique cyber-security playground, “ISERink,” which supports activities ranging from cyber defense competitions to classes and industry training sessions inside a simulated environment that University Professor Doug Jacobson (L)(’80 computer engr, MS ’82 elec engr, PhD ’85 computer engr) describes as a “baby Internet,” was named a finalist for the 2016 R&D 100 Awards.


In September…

Iowa State announced a record enrollment for fall semester 2016: 36,660 students, up 1.9 percent from the prior year.

The Iowa State University Foundation launched the public phase of Forever True, For Iowa State – a historic $1.1 billion fundraising campaign — the largest in university history.

The Iowa State BioCentury Research Farm announced a partnership with Chevron U.S.A., supported by a four-year, $3.5 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, to develop a pilot plant on campus and study an advanced biorenewables technology called solvent liquefaction. The technology converts biomass such as quarter-inch wood chips into a bio-oil that can be processed into fuels or chemicals and a biochar that can enrich soils.


In October…

Homecoming 2016, “Leave Your LegaCY,” was one of the largest celebrations in university history – including the historic return of the ISU Homecoming parade, which hadn’t been held in Ames since 1932.

Iowa State alumnus Pete Kostelnick (’09 finance and international business)(pictured, right) shattered a 36-year-old Guinness World Record when he completed a cross-country run from San Francisco to New York City in 42 days, 6 hours, and 30 minutes.

Two Iowa State University faculty members — Alicia Carriquiry (L)(MS ’86 stat, PhD ’89) and James Roth (L)(DVM ’75, MS ’79, PhD ’81) — were tabbed for induction into the prestigious National Academy of Medicine – a particularly remarkable distinction for a university that does not have a medical school.

The Iowa Board of Regents launched a review of travel and state equipment use policies following multiple media reports about ISU President Steven Leath’s use of university aircraft. The audit would be completed in December, with the Regents’ chief auditor concluding that some of the uses of the aircraft by Leath entered “shades of gray” as to whether or not they violate Regent and/or university policy. The Regents have accepted Leath’s statement of responsibility for some of those uses and his plans to prevent future issues.


In November…

The conclusion of a contentious and divisive U.S. presidential campaign brought race issues to the forefront on college campuses across the country – including in Ames, where protests, marches, and walkouts were prevalent in the days following the election. President Steven Leath responded to increased incidents of intimidation and harassment, as well as the appearance of racist posters on campus, with a video address in which he urged community members to revisit ISU’s “Principles of Community,” noting that “anyone who feels that their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or political views makes them superior to others is encouraged to find another institution.”

Iowa State was one of just 14 collegiate cross country programs to have both its men’s and women’s teams advance to the NCAA championships. The Cyclone men finished 16th and the Cyclone women 29th Nov. 19 in Terre Haute, Ind. At season’s end, head coach Andrea Grove-McDonough was named women’s Big 12 coach of the year and freshman phenom Thomas Pollard (S)(pictured, right) was named men’s Big 12 newcomer of the year.

The Iowa State volleyball team was selected for its 11th-straight NCAA tournament after compiling an 18-10 regular-season record under head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch (L).

The Iowa State football team finally hit its stride under the direction of first-year head coach Matt Campbell. The Cyclones earned their first Big 12 win of the season Nov. 12 at Kansas and then broke the school record for points against a conference opponent the following Saturday in a 66-10 rout of Texas Tech at Jack Trice Stadium.


In December…

Iowa State football legend Troy Davis was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame at a ceremony in New York City. The two-time Heisman Trophy finalist remains today the only Division I football player in NCAA history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

Longtime Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad announced he was stepping down from his post to become the Trump administration’s ambassador to China, paving the way for Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds (pictured, right) to become Iowa’s first female governor just weeks after completing a degree in liberal studies from Iowa State University.

The Iowa State Cyclone Football ‘Varsity’ Marching Band learned it has been selected to receive the 2016 Sudler Trophy for collegiate marching band excellence from the John Philip Sousa Foundation.


Happy New Year, #cyclONEnation! See you in cyberspace in 2017!

President Leath’s Letter to the ISU Community

December 13, 2016

Dear Iowa State Community:

For nearly three months, there has been significant media coverage about ISU Flight Service and specifically my use of university aircraft. I understand why there have been many questions and concerns. I take very seriously my role and responsibility to adhere to university and Board of Regents policy and to be open and transparent. That is why I welcomed the Board’s decision to conduct a comprehensive internal audit, and I offered my full cooperation.

The Board of Regents Internal Audit report concluded there were no violations of university or Board policy, but there are clearly things I could have done differently and I am sorry for that. I take full responsibility for the issues raised. To avoid any perception of impropriety, I have paid for the following: the use of the Cirrus for training to obtain my instrument flight rating, which was required by the university insurance policy; the amount attributed to my brother and his partner on the flight to and from Elmira, NY; and two trips to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN for medical procedures, which required use of the plane so I could make it back to Ames in time for university obligations.

We recognize there are policies and practices that need improvement, and the audit has provided valuable recommendations. Our plan to move forward includes:

  • I will no longer fly the Cirrus or any state-owned aircraft. Because of this decision and the fact that our head pilot is retiring soon, we plan to sell the Cirrus.
  • We are implementing new guidelines for all users of university aircraft and requiring the purpose of all trips be clearly documented.
  • The ISU Flight Service’s operations manual is being overhauled to contain specific instructions for accurate, detailed record-keeping and billing.
  • Flight Service rates are being examined as part of our budget planning process.
  • And we are conducting a comprehensive review of ISU Flight Service to determine the cost-benefit of retaining this unit.

One of things I enjoy most about my job is meeting people and developing relationships to benefit Iowa State. For the past five years, we have been in the quiet phase of our largest-ever capital fundraising campaign, Forever True, For Iowa State, with a goal of $1.1 billion. As a result, I have been traveling a lot. I saw the university planes as useful, convenient tools that allowed me to meet with donors and cultivate new support across the state and the country in an efficient manner.

I recognize now that I used the university planes more frequently than was absolutely necessary, and I should have been more transparent about my use. I will change this practice, and I will do better to ensure that any time the university planes are used it is in the very best interest of Iowa State.

I truly love my job and I am honored to be president of this great university. Iowa State has the potential for unprecedented impact in the years to come. I am fully committed to moving our university forward, to focusing on the objectives of our strategic plan and successfully pursuing our historic fundraising campaign.

I appreciate your support. And I look forward to working with you.


Steven Leath

A long journey: Iowa’s first humans

Human settlement of what is now the state of Iowa did not begin with Lewis & Clark or the Dragoons discovery corps or the pioneers or even the Native American tribes. Archaeologists believe that people first arrived in  what is today Iowa approximately 12,000 years ago. These people were the ancestors of the American Indians of today, crossing a land bridge into North America and migrating south. Archaeological evidence of human habitation has been found in every county of the state, from the Paleoindians to the Woodland and Oneota cultures.

The first people of Iowa
Many thousands of years ago – perhaps 18,000 to 20,000 years – a migration began in Siberia that would change everything we know about our past.

Slowly and steadily, people walked across what is now the Bering Strait. How? During the last glacial period, sea levels were lowered several hundred meters because massive amounts of water were taken up as continental glaciers, lowering sea levels and exposing land between Alaska and Siberia. Anthropologists have named the exposed continental shelf that connected Russia to North America Beringia.

“From northeast Siberia, people just naturally spread,” Matt Hill, ISU associate professor of anthropology, said. “By 11 and a half thousand years ago, we had people in the mid-continent, south of Canada. All native Americans are derived from ancestral populations in Siberia. This is supported by archaeological evidence, and the genetic evidence leaves little doubt.”

It’s pretty mind-boggling, right?

“Just think about it,” Hill says. “There was a first person who took the first step into Iowa. Somebody took that first step. There was nobody here before them. It was a clean slate. They had to learn the geography, the distribution of plant and animal resources, and the waterways firsthand. They could not rely on anybody else. They could not ask grandma or grandpa. Over time, they acquired information that they could share. We don’t know exactly how, but they shared this information, and these people flourished. They flourished.”

Hill explains that the educational process – understanding the landforms and the distribution of resources – is called “landscape learning.” The earliest humans in the state didn’t stay in one place; they were constantly on the move. Hill describes them as “human foragers” – gathering plant foods, hunting animals, collecting eggshells, and perhaps fishing from the rivers.

Not much is known about the earliest Iowans. “The nomadic cultures didn’t leave much behind,” Steve Lensink (’68 physics), associate director for the Office of the State Archaeologist, says. “They were on the move, and they didn’t carry many heavy items with them. So those archaeological records are gone.”

Later in pre-history, when people began to rely on domesticated plants such as corn, the agricultural fields tethered them more to a single location. By the Middle and Late Woodland periods (about 200 BC to 1250 AD), groups of people were beginning to stay in one place. Archaeologists have found records of trade networks, agriculture, earth lodges, burial mounds, and raised-bed gardens.

Although many people assume that early humans lived mainly along rivers, survey work shows habitation occurred throughout the state, according to Lensink. “There are sites all over Iowa,” he says. “Anywhere you happen to be, you’re probably only half a mile at most to an archaeological site.”

There’s no consensus among experts how many Native Americans lived in the state of Iowa prior to European settlement, but the population at any given time likely was no more than 6,000.

“We have 23 federally recognized Native American tribes that were historically resident in Iowa,” Jerome Thompson (’74 anthropology), former curator of the State Historical Society of Iowa, says. “One misperception is that native people all went away, and they didn’t. They’re still here. They’re still practicing their culture.”


Matt Hill holds an unfinished weapon point from the rare Clovis cache found in Carlisle, Iowa.

The Clovis cache
When the Army Corps of Engineers began building a levee in 1968 around the southeast side of Carlisle, a town in central Iowa, it was thought that a late prehistoric village of about a 1,000 years old was present in the area. So some archaeologists from Iowa State were working the site, including Jeff Hruska (’74 fi sheries & wildlife biology), who now works for Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

What they found was shocking: a cache of artifacts that was ELEVEN THOUSAND years old. Matt Hill, associate professor of anthropology, explains the significance: “There is no older evidence of humans in Iowa than this Clovis cache,” he says. “This is one of a kind.  This is really unique. It’s unbelievable.”

The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Paleoindian culture named after distinct stone tools found at sites near Clovis, N.M., in the early 1930s. Clovis people appeared just after the retreat of the last glaciers in what is now the United States, and they are considered to be the ancestors of most of the indigenous cultures of the Americas.

In Iowa, Hill says, “The archaeological record they left behind is incredibly difficult to locate. These sites are really, really rare. Those sites have to be preserved for 11,000 years and then we have to find them. These are needles in a haystack. We’re very fortunate to have found this site.”

The 37 items making up the cache include 25 unfinished weapon points and 12 hand-held scraping tools for defleshing animal hides. The points are made of Burlington chert, a rock that occurs in southeast Iowa.

Blood Run: A National Historic Landmark
In Iowa’s northwest corner, just across the Big Sioux River from South Dakota, lies the remains of a large Native American village and ceremonial site called Blood Run.

In the early 1960s, when Steve Lensink (’68 physics) was in high school, he joined an older friend in the first excavation of this culturally significant site.

“Blood Run was my first chance to do actual digging,” he says. “We found human remains, pipestone pipes, trade beads, and other historic items.”

“Some of these archaeological features had never been found in Iowa,” Doug Jones (’89 anthropology) says.

The Blood Run site is thought to have been populated for 8,500 years, during which earth lodges were built by the Oneota culture and occupied by their descendant tribes. It was  major trading site from about 1500 to 1700. The location adjacent to the river, plus abundant game, fertile soil, and access to pipestone made this land attractive to Iowa’s early people.

“Geographically it’s kind of a magical place,” Jerome Thompson (’74 anthropology), former curator of the State Historical Society of Iowa, says. “Blood Run is the largest site of its kind ever found in Iowa.”

A master plan is in the works by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Thompson says, to further preserve the site. The state of South Dakota has already created the Good Earth State Park southeast of Sioux Falls.


Doug Jones stands near a Woodland Indian burial site in Yellow Banks Park.

Iowa’s cultural treasures
Doug Jones has a tough job.

Jones (’89 anthropology) is an archaeologist in Iowa’s State Historic Preservation Office in Des Moines. His job is to help preserve Iowa’s archaeological record and to educate current Iowans about their past.

Unfortunately, he says, 99 percent of Iowa has been plowed or mined or logged. “There’s not that many places left in Iowa that have not been touched,” he says. “When you find those places, sometimes those places have been left alone for a reason.”Take this site at Yellow Banks Park in Polk County: Woodland Indian cultures constructed mounds in which to bury their dead, along with pottery or personal items, nearly 2,000 years ago. Projectile points and tools from the Archaic period have also been discovered in the park.

But finding the remains of ancient people isn’t easy, he says. “Archaeology sites are tough to deal with, because most of the archaeology site is underground – you can’t see it. A lot of times you don’t know what’s there. Archaeology is a destructive science; the only way you learn about things is by removing artifacts and digging up the context they’re in.”

Education, he says, is the key to preserving these unique artifacts from the past.

“The hardest thing to get people to understand is that there are important things that were left behind that we’re kind of messing up because of what we’re doing today,” he said, “whether it be mining or farming or industrial sites or even just building a house.”

Agriculture: Changing the land
While clear evidence exists that Iowa’s Indian tribes were involved in farming activities, big changes were afoot when Euroamericans began to settle the state in the mid-1800s.

“You can make a good argument that Iowa is the state that’s been most transformed by European settlement,” Jeff Bremer, ISU assistant professor of history, says. “Ninety-nine percent of the prairies are now gone.”

You’ll get no disagreement from Mike Blair (MS ’78 Earth science), a high school earth science teacher in Des Moines who recently gave an Iowa geology lecture in Ames. “Ninety percent of Iowa was covered in prairies just 150 years ago,” he says. “Now there are virtually none.”

Hannah Carroll, an Iowa State PhD candidate majoring in ecology/evolutionary biology and environmental science, is a paleoecologist – someone who studies the ecology of the past. Her work takes her back as far as 11,700 years, but in Iowa she looks primarily at how the environment has changed since Europeans arrived.

“In 1843, before much European settlement, I see reports raving about how beautiful Iowa is; there’s this gorgeous, clear water, all the game you can find, beautiful prairies, beautiful forests,” she says.

“But within 60 to 70 years we have a very different picture. They’re reporting on all the land that’s been drained, and they’re very proud of that endeavor because it opened up so much land to agriculture. Massive public works projects … have drained the land. And now they say it’s beautifully productive and much healthier for the residents because they don’t have stagnant, standing water. But of course you have accordant losses in ecosystem services and diversity and water quality.”

When the first of the European settlers came to Iowa, the best land in the mid-1800s was in southern Iowa, according to Neal Iverson (’83 geology), ISU professor of geological and atmospheric sciences. “But then once the drainage cooperatives started on the Des Moines Lobe footprint, once farmers banded together, this whole part of the landscape was changed forever. That’s something that everybody should know. This part of Iowa, hydrologically and ecologically, isn’t anything close to what it was prior to settlement. And that’s largely due to the drainage of the landscape and due, of course, to the advent of row cropping on an industrial scale.”

“Iowa is unique in its intensity of its agriculture,” Carroll says. “We have several counties in Iowa where 80 to 90 percent of the total land area of the whole county is tile-drained.”

Jane Pedrick Dawson (’83 geology, MS ’86), ISU senior lecturer in geological and atmospheric sciences, understands why Iowa’s farmland was so sought after by Iowa’s early settlers, right up to today’s farmers.

“The most recent glacier retreated around 14,000 years ago, so the landscape is very young. The soil that developed on that landscape is, by geological standards, fresh and brand new, with fresh, ground-up minerals providing nutrients to help make the soil fertile along with lots of organic matter,” she explains. “In parts of Iowa, the landscape is still too new to drain [on its own], so to farm it we had to tile and drain it.”

Farmers today can thank Iowa’s glaciers for their bountiful harvests, according to Iverson. “The whole economy of Iowa really wouldn’t be anything like it is today without the repeated glaciation of Iowa.”

Effigy Mounds National Monument
No big, splashy national parks exist in Iowa. In fact, there are only one national historic site (President Herbert Hoover’s birthplace) and two national historic trails (Lewis & Clark and Mormon Pioneer). But there’s one very special national monument in northeast Iowa: Effigy Mounds.

“When you go up to Effigy Mounds, it’s like walking back in time,” Doug Jones (’89 anthropology), an archaeologist in Iowa’s State Historic Preservation Office, says. The Effigy Moundbuilders were a culture during the Late Woodland period, according to the National Park Service. The construction of mounds was a regional cultural phenomenon. Mounds of earth in the shapes of birds, bear, deer, bison, lynx, turtle, panther, or water spirit were the most common. Like earlier groups, the Effigy Moundbuilders also continued to build conical mounds for burial purposes.

The Effigy Moundbuilders also built linear or long rectangular mounds that were used for ceremonial purposes that remain a mystery. Some archeologists believe they were built to mark celestial events or seasonal observances. Others speculate they were constructed as territorial markers or as boundaries between groups.

The animal-shaped mounds remain the symbol of the Effigy Mounds culture. The national monument is located near Harpers Ferry, Iowa, on the Mississippi River.


Alumnus Steve Lensink works in the Office of the State Achaeologist in Iowa City.

Preserving the past
Steve Lensink (’68 physics), associate director of the Office of the State Archaeologist at the University of Iowa, grew up in Sheldon, Iowa. As a teenager, he followed a friend involved in the Iowa Archaeology Society to dig, seemingly, for buried treasurer at what is now known as the Blood Run site in northwest Iowa.

After that career-shaping summer activity, he says, it was hard to go back to being a lifeguard.

Following his graduation from Iowa State, Lensink describes his graduate school education as “colorful, punctuated by bouts of alternative civilian service” during the Vietnam War years. He joined the staff of the state archaeology office while he was working on his doctoral dissertation and then became the director of the Highway Archaeology Program. Over the past 32 years Lensink has served as the assistant director, associate director, and occasional interim director of the Office of Archaeology located in Iowa City.

“I never wanted to be director for long,” he says with a smile. “I always want to be able to say that the buck doesn’t stop here.”

Lensink and his team conduct research, excavate historic sites, preserve artifacts, and ensure that human remains are properly buried and that Native American sacred sites are maintained. The office also provides educational resources for the public and manages data on all recorded archaeological sites in Iowa.

Traveling Iowa’s best archaeological sites
Iowa’s most significant pre-European settlement sites in Iowa can be visited, along with several museums, to tell the story of Iowa’s earliest people:

  • Blood Run National Historic Landmark in northwest Iowa
  • Toolesboro Mounds National Historic Landmark, Wappelo (southeast Iowa), one of the best preserved Middle Woodland burial sites, plus native prairies
  • Effigy Mounds National Monument in northeast Iowa, part of the National Park Service
  • Yellow Banks Park, Polk County in central Iowa
  • Ft. Atkinson, Winneshiek County in northeast Iowa
  • State Historical Museum of Iowa, Des Moines
  • Museum of Natural History, Iowa City
  • Putnam Museum, Davenport



This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.

Five Things

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


1) Last week Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad accepted a nomination by U.S President-Elect Donald Trump to become U.S. Ambassador to China in his administration. That means that the country’s longest-serving governor will step aside in 2017, paving the way for his lieutenant governor, Kim Reynolds, to become the state’s first female governor. Why is this Iowa State news? Reynolds, who hails from Osceola, Iowa, is an Iowa State senior majoring in liberal studies who will earn her degree from ISU this semester. She joins Iowa’s first female senator, Joni Ernst (’92 psychology), on the growing list of pioneering Iowa women in government who are also ISU grads.

2) Today the Iowa Board of Regents is holding a special meeting to discuss the outcome of its university equipment audit, which was conducted this semester largely in response to a series of media reports that questioned ISU President Steven Leath’s use of university airplanes over the past five years. The audit report is expected to be made public today and will, among other issues, evaluate whether having ISU continue to operate its own flight service — as it has for more than six decades — is the best use of university, state and donor resources.


“Broken Doll #1,” 2000 (oil on burlap), book cover image by Deborah Pappenheimer.

3) An ISU faculty member has created a book and now a play based on her mother’s horrific Holocaust experiences. College of Design senior lecturer Deborah Pappenheimer wrote the book “My Broken Doll: A memoir of survival of the Vichy Regime” — the story of Beatrice “Bea” (Stern) Karp, who was relocated nearly 20 times before the age of 15 as a hidden Jewish child during World War II. The stage adaptation, “My Broken Doll,” which premiered at the Jewish Community Center Theater in Omaha in August, is slated to travel to a dozen schools across Nebraska during the 2016-17 academic year. Learn more about the work and about Pappenheimer’s story on the ISU News Service website.

4) The Reiman Gardens 20-year master plan and the south campus entryway projects continue to come together with last week’s announcement that Roy (’57 ag journalism) and Honorary Alumna Award recipient Bobbi Reiman have once again made an incredible gift to their alma mater. The Reimans have pledged $1.7 million to create “Sycamore Falls,” a feature that will include several waterfalls cascading over native limestone walls, flanked by sculptural terraces with generous swaths of colorful ornamental plants, and ending in a large reflecting pool. Reiman Gardens director Ed Lyon says the falls will provide a unique location for events, and promise to become a distinctive and recognizable image at Reiman Gardens.


“Roy and Bobbi Reiman’s vision of creating a premier garden for Iowa State University and its faculty and students is the basis for the 2015 master plan,” Lyon said, “and we thank them for their generous contribution to help begin the work at the gardens.”

5) Last week was “Hate Week,” and we here in Ames certainly hated it. The Cyclones took on instate rival Iowa in four events — women’s basketball, men’s basketball, women’s swimming and diving, and wrestling — and managed to lose them all. The Hawkeyes now lead the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series, 14-7. Boo.

Have a great week, anyway.




Surrounding Keith and Kathie Ervin (center) are family members Susan Judkins-Josten, Bob Josten, Whitney Judkins, Eric Elben, Bill Ervin, Daniel Ervin, Roxanne Ervin, Alexandra Thompson, Kirstin Robinson, Sean Gassen, and Carol Gassen.


When Keith and Kathie Ervin celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this fall, their family wanted to do something special for them, so they arranged a visit to the Iowa State campanile and a special carillon concert on central campus.

Keith (’56 industrial administration) and Kathie (’56 home economics) met on a blind date in the Memorial Union back when they were students at Iowa State. They were married in Philadelphia on Sept. 1, 1956, and they’ve lived in Vinton, Iowa, for 58 years, where they own and manage Ervin Motor Co. The couple has three grown children: Susan, Carol, and William.

Kathie couldn’t remember specifically if she and Keith had campaniled when they were students.

img_4626“I’m sure we did,” she said, smiling.

Just as we were assembling the family for a group photo, we noticed a young couple happily campaniling. Turns out Nick Schramm (’12 computer engineering) just asked his girlfriend, Kristen Muehlenthaler (’12 computer engineering), to marry him.

Love is definitely in the air.


What the Fossils Tell Us: Iowa Comes to Life


What did the Iowa plant and animal landscape look like 12,000 years ago, when the first humans began to arrive? Iowa State experts paint a picture of that time period:
“The landscape was changing from a tundra toward perhaps an oak savanna type of environment,” Matt Hill, ISU associate professor of anthropology, says. “The environment was drying out and warming up; the Ice Age animals – mammoths, giant beavers, mastodons, giant sloths – were teetering on extinction. There would have been camels, stag-moose, and bison” in this area.
“Plants would have been very cold-tolerant,” Hannah Carroll, ISU PhD candidate in the Department of Ecology, Evolution & Organismal Biology, adds. “You would have seen mosses, then lichens, then small flowering plants, with shrubs and trees appearing last. It would have eventually been dominated by a prairie ecosystem.”

Under the sea
Though Iowa today is firmly landlocked, it once was submerged beneath warm, shallow seas.

Inland seas have advanced and retreated over Iowa many times since the late Cambrian, about 500 million years ago. Portions of Iowa were last under water during the Cretaceous Period, which ended 66 million years ago.

At different points in Iowa’s geologic history, Iowa was a coastal area or completely submerged beneath the water. During the Mississippian and Devonian periods, Iowa was a center for diverse marine life. In fact, most rocks under the state’s glacial sediment are marine rocks, and many marine fossils can still be found today in Iowa.

Two areas are worth noting: the Devonian Fossil Gorge in Johnson County near Iowa City, and the Fossil and Prairie Park Preserve in Floyd County near Rockford.

Fossils were first exposed at the Devonian Fossil Gorge following the great flood of 1993. During that event, floodwaters swept away a campground and picnic facilities and first exposed the rocks of the gorge. Subsequent floods have widened the gorge and swept away loose rocks and vegetation to expose additional rocks and fossils.

Further north, in Floyd County, the Fossil and Prairie Park Preserve is a fossil hunter’s
paradise. The former brick and tile quarry is home to brachiopods, cephalopods, crinoids, and corals, remnants from 375 million years ago when the shallow seas covered Iowa.

“This park is a really unusual resource for the public,” Jane Pedrick Dawson (’83 geology, MS ’86), ISU senior lecturer in geological and atmospheric sciences, says. “Most parks in the country prohibit you from collecting anything, and here’s a park that encourages you to get down on your knees and start sifting through the sediment and pull out the brachiopods and crinoids and other fossils and take them home. I can’t think of any other place where the public is encouraged to collect fossils and take them home.”

Another related resource in Iowa is the University of Iowa’s Museum of Natural History. The museum has an exhibition showing a Devonian Coral Reef from 380 million years ago. Just recently, on the University of Iowa campus, a construction crew dug up 385-million year-old coral fossils while working on the expansion of one of the university facilities.

fossils3In other “weird science” news, geologists at the Iowa Geological Survey recently found exceptionally preserved fossils from the Decorah Impact Structure in Winneshiek County, about 60 feet under the Upper Iowa River. It turns out that the fossils came from a 460-million-year-old predatory water bug said to be as big as a human. The creature, named Pentecopterus decorahensis, was a sort of sea scorpion that grew to 5 feet 7 inches with a spike tail and a dozen claw arms sprouting from its head.


Matt Hill finds artifacts in Ledges State Park. Photo by Jim Heemstra.

A state filled with game
When European settlers arrived in what is now Iowa, the state was full of game; there was an abundance of wildlife. Truly, the biodiversity was greater than most people would expect.

More than 450 species lived and bred in Iowa when Europeans arrived, including 68 species of mammals, 186 species of birds, 45 species of reptiles, 21 species of amphibians, and 136 species of fish. An even greater variety of insects, other invertebrates, and plants were found in the state. According to A Country So Full of Game by James L. Dinsmore, several thousand species of plants and animals once occupied Iowa.

Today, a number of those species have become extinct in Iowa or have become threatened or endangered.

Some of the species the European settlers would have encountered included bison, elk, white-tailed deer, black bears, wolves, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, muskrats, otter, beaver, mink, passenger pigeons, prairie chickens, wild turkeys, quail, ruffed grouse, cranes, shorebirds, and waterfowl.

Of course, most of the Ice Age animals had already died out: the stag-moose, mastodon, mammoth, giant sloth, and the like.

It’s not uncommon for Iowans to uncover the bones of extinct animals, especially after a flood. Just walking through the creek at Ledges State Park in Boone County during our photo shoot, Matt Hill, ISU associate professor of anthropology, found a small bone fragment.

“Ledges has 12,000 years of history,” Hill says. “The stream scours out the remnants of buried materials. Everything buried was once on the surface.”

Hill says people bring him fossilized remains to identify every month. Often the bones turn out to be from a recent, domesticated species. But sometimes he hits the jackpot.

“It’s not what we find, from my perspective. It’s what we find out.”

SIDEBAR: The Dinosaur debate
Did dinosaurs live in Iowa? Well, it depends on whom you ask.

The Iowa Geological Survey website says: “Did dinosaurs once live in Iowa? The simple and unqualified answer is, ‘Yes, without a doubt!’ But the actual evidence for dinosaurs in Iowa is limited to only a few fossils. Dinosaur fossils have been found in several states adjoining Iowa (Nebraska, Minnesota, Missouri, South Dakota), and wandering dinosaurs would have been unimpeded by those artificial boundaries.”

And in the book Iowa’s Geological Past, author Wayne L. Anderson says: “Evidence for dinosaurs in the state is scant, consisting of a single bone fragment from Guthrie County. [Researchers] tentatively identify the bone as dinosaurian based on its size and microscopic structure.”

Not so fast, says Matt Hill, ISU associate professor of anthropology. “It needs to be made clear that there were no dinosaurs in Iowa,” he says, adding, “Don’t believe everything you read.” He cites the confusion of a recent find, a fossil that was first thought to have come from a sea reptile but eventually was determined to have come from…a horse.

“In short, to say the dinosaur record in Iowa is scant is an overstatement,” he says. “It consists of one very small piece of suspected dinosaur bone from a stream.”

To wit: “No dinosaur fossil has yet been firmly identified from Cretaceous strata anywhere in the state of Iowa,” according to a 1996 field guide to the Cretaceous of Guthrie County written by Larry J. Wilson, Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

However, the author goes on to say that the bone fragment found in the Guthrie County gravel pit is possibly a dinosaur fossil, and “it is hoped that some diligent or exceptionally lucky collector will one day produce an identifiable bone.”

And so the debate continues. Stay tuned.

SIDEBAR: Moose in our midst
The little-known stag-moose, an Ice Age animal, lived in Iowa as far back as 30,000 years ago and went extinct just under 10,000 years ago. Matt Hill, ISU associate professor of anthropology, has specimens of these unique animals in his Curtiss Hall office on campus.

He holds up one antler, found in Parkersburg, that he radiocarbon dated to be between 12,600 and 12,800 years old. He picks up another, found by a retired game warden in western Iowa. Another, found in the 1970s by a gravel pit operator in Polk County and currently on display at the State Museum in Des Moines, is thought to be about 30,000 years old.

“I just got really lucky, dating that old one [and then this young one],” Hill says. “The number of directly dated stag moose in the country – there are only a handful. They’re unusual.”

He says the stag-moose – which had the body of a moose, the face of an elk, and an antler rack like neither – were here before glaciers covered central Iowa, and they returned for a short time after the glaciers retreated. The age of the most recent specimen suggests that these animals lived at the same time as the earliest known humans in the area.


This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.

Five Things

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

1) The Iowa Board of Regents is meeting in Cedar Falls today and tomorrow, most importantly for the purpose of interviewing three finalists for the open University of Northern Iowa president position. Not on the agenda is the outcome of an audit of travel policies and state equipment use at the three regent universities, including Iowa State’s purchase of airplanes. The board requested the review last month from its audit team on the heels of questions about President Steven Leath’s use of university planes.


Other business that is on the agenda: review of schematic design for ISU’s $84 million Student Innovation Center; a vote on 2017-2018 tuition and fees, which includes a proposed 3 percent increase for nonresident undergraduates and a new system of differential tuition for upper division students in certain majors; approval to re-name ISU’s Black Cultural Center on Welch Ave. to the George Jackson Cultural Center; approval to purchase more land in south Ames for expansion of the ISU Research Park; and approval for a variety of residence hall projects — including an $11.4 million renovation of the bathrooms in old RCA and $3.3 million worth of renovations in Wallace and Wilson Halls.

2) If someone you know and love is an Iowa State basketball fan, please don’t say the “O” word to him or her. The Cyclone men and women are both in the process of healing from some fairly fresh overtime wounds, as the men lost in the extra session to Cincinnati Thursday night at Hilton and the No. 6 Mississippi State women came all the way back from a substantial deficit to defeat the hard-fighting Cyclones in extra time Saturday in the Big 12-SEC Challenge, also at Hilton. Both teams have a big game on the agenda for 636074738426514195-bballcyhawkthis week, of course, traveling to Iowa City for the Cy-Hawk showdown Wednesday (women) and Thursday (men). If you want to watch the men’s game with friends in your area, be sure to stay tuned to our alumni events calendar. There will be many national gamewatches on the schedule this week. Iowa State currently leads the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series 7-6 and could make steps toward winning an unprecedented fourth-straight rivalry crown with a good showing at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this week.

005_laineyhat_48ad13a715d5d3) Christmas Day is just 20 days away now. In need of some stocking stuffers? Check out our knit hat, headband, and gloves; “Best of ISU” postcard book (clearance priced at only $5!); metal cuff bracelet; Vineyard Vines ISU necktie; or “The Art of Christian Petersen” book (clearance priced at $4) in the Alumni Collection online store. Our collectible pewter ornaments from Adams & Adams, Inc.,  are also a popular item that can be at your door quickly. There. Did we save the day for you?

4) Your last chance to see the final fall-semester ISU Theatre production, “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail,” is coming up this weekend (Friday-Saturday). Learn more and get your tickets.

5) The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at ISU is hosting its winter open house this Thursday at the ISU Alumni Center (1:30-2:30 p.m.). If you’re 50+ and love learning, come check out this great opportunity to connect in the Ames community and enhance your knowledge through some great classes. Classes are offered in the fall, winter, and spring annually, and the winter term is a shorter four weeks.