Cyclone families

Meet four families leaving unique Iowa State legacies

BONUS: Read more Cyclone family stories submitted by VISIONS readers on our ISU LegaCY Club website.


A family tradition

Dan Viall, his sister Aimee, and his mother Helene – all Iowa State graduates – talk so often about Iowa State to Dan’s two young daughters that bringing each of them to campus for special fifth birthday celebrations seemed like a natural thing to do.

On a windy spring day in 2014, Helene (A)(’67 math, MS ’70 education) and Aimee (L)(’97 history, MS ’01 family & consumer sciences) brought 5-year-old Livia on a road trip to campus to introduce her to Iowa State. They visited the Memorial Union, where Livia’s dad Dan (L)(’99 MIS) spent much of his time; the Fountain of the Four Seasons; the Campanile; and other central campus buildings. They took her to Friley Hall, where Aimee and Dan both lived. They fed the swans, Lancelot and Elaine, and they visited Hilton Coliseum, where Aimee once played in the pep band for men’s and women’s basketball games. families-memorybookBefore leaving Ames, the trio stopped by the ISU Alumni Center, Reiman Gardens, and Jack Trice Stadium. The day culminated in the publication of a Shutterfly book, Iowa State University: Auntie, Livia, Grandma, and Cy.

Three years later, on another breezy April day, Livia’s younger sister Brooklyn got her turn to visit the ISU campus for the first time with her Aunt Aimee and Grandma. They ate lunch in the Memorial Union food court, visited Parks Library, counted the steps at Catt Hall, fed the swans, visited Friley Hall, and ran across Central Campus. The highlight of the trip was a visit to the College of Veterinary Medicine, because
Brooklyn loves animals.

“Dan and I always talk [to the girls] about Iowa State. Since I don’t have kids of my own, it’s been fun hanging out with Brooklyn and Livia and talking about how important school is,” Aimee said. “I have awesome memories of this place. I could have been a lifetime student.”

Helene plans to make another picture book for Brooklyn to commemorate the special day she spent on campus. “I hope other people will use this idea to make their own memories of the places that are special to them at Iowa State,” Helene said.

The Viall family legacy at ISU includes Helene’s brother, sister, and father. “My dad attended Iowa State College in spring and winter 1936, then went back home to farm in Rembrandt, Iowa. He was the reason I came to Iowa State. He said, ‘If you’re going to major in math, you really need to go to Iowa State.’ So I did.”


Finishing strong

When Alex Bashara was 10 years old, his grandfather gave him one of his most prized possessions: his Iowa State letterman’s jacket.

It was a stunning moment for Alex’s mom, Andrea (L)(MS ’94 prof studies in education), because she remembered the jacket from her own childhood – and it was officially off limits to her and her three sisters. “As kids, we couldn’t touch that jacket!” she says. “It hung in plastic in our hall closet.”

The jacket has become a beloved treasure in the Basharas’ Elkhorn, Neb., home, especially since Alex’s grandfather, George Leonard Dennis (DVM ’68), a former Iowa
State track athlete, passed away in 2014.

George Dennis lived across the street from the Basharas, so Alex and his grandfather were especially close. They watched a lot of Iowa State football and basketball games together on television. Alex visited him nearly every day aft er school, “just to talk about whatever.” It’s tough for Alex to talk about his grandfather, now that he’s gone.

When he gave Alex his jacket, Andrea said it was as if he knew life was short. “He said, ‘This is my most prized possession, and I want you to have it’,” Alex recalled. Just before his death, Alex’s grandfather gave him his Iowa State athletics ring, another of his most treasured possessions. It was a bittersweet moment.

Alex is a 15-year-old freshman at Elkhorn High School now, and for years his wardrobe has consisted mainly of Iowa State gear; he says he wears an Iowa State shirt to school “99 percent of the time.” (“He has on Iowa State shirts in every photo we have of him, unless he’s in a sports uniform,” his mom adds.) He comes by his love of Iowa State naturally; in addition to his mom and maternal grandfather, his dad, Pete (L)(’93 animal science, DVM ’97), paternal grandfather Robert (DVM ’63), and great-uncle Greg Dennis (’71 mathematics) are all Iowa State grads. Alex hopes to be part of ISU’s class of 2024, possibly majoring in computer engineering. His sister, Victoria, 13, is a seventh grader at Elkhorn Middle School.

The family continues to live their lives based on the advice Alex’s grandfather gave his grandchildren just before he passed away: “Love your parents. Run fast. Jump high. Finish strong.”


Cyclone generations

There’s a strong sense of pride in the voices of the Lawyer/Baldwin women: women who have followed directly in the footsteps of M. Lucille Beck Marsh, a 1927 ISU home economics education graduate.

Marsh is the mother of Caryl Marsh Lawyer (L)(’58 textiles & clothing), grandmother of Kimberly Lawyer Baldwin (L)(’83 home economics education), and great-grandmother of Hannah Baldwin (L) – the fourth generation of women in her family to earn an Iowa State degree in an area of home economics. Hannah graduated on May 6 with a specialization in early childhood special education.

The three descendants of Lucille Marsh say they were strongly encouraged to go to college, but they had choices about where to attend. Each chose Iowa State for one reason: strong programs in the human sciences.

“My mother said, ‘If this is what you’re  studying, you need to go to Iowa State. It’s on a whole different level,’” Caryl Lawyer said.

Kim Baldwin agrees. She’s a highly regarded high school home economics teacher, now teaching in Parker, Colo. “The leaders (in this profession) are Iowa State alumni,” she says. It’s a theme that played out strongly when Hannah was touring colleges a few years ago.

Hannah looked at schools closer to home – in Colorado and Wyoming – but when she was touring one school, a professor asked her what other schools she was considering. “When she said ‘Iowa State’ they brought out the book they’d be teaching from, and it was written by an Iowa Stater,” Kim says.

Hannah’s family legacy and frequent visits to her grandparents’ home in Manly, Iowa, had already familiarized her with Iowa State, so she toured the campus over fall break, applied, was accepted – and then a scholarship basically sealed the deal.

But Kim told Hannah her decision had to feel right.

“It did,” Hannah says. “And I knew it would make the grandparents happy if I got in.”

Caryl says the Lawyer/Baldwin legacy actually began a generation earlier – nearly 100 years ago – when her grandmother’s vision was for all four of her children to attend college.

“They all went,” she said. And the legacy will likely continue. Caryl has a few more grandchildren hoping to attend Iowa State.


The bell players

In what may be one of the most unique Iowa State legacy families, the Cunningham family of Spencer, Iowa, has also made history.

Four Cunningham siblings – Craig, Carrie, Cayla, and Casey – not only attended Iowa State but also played the Campanile carillon bells. The four even played the bells together during a spring 2016 concert – something that’s never been done before.

Mentor, Cownie Professor of Music, and university carillonneur Tin-Shi Tam said, “A carillon quartet is unique, not to mention that members of the quartet are siblings, and they all attend(ed) Iowa State. The Cunningham Quartet is the first family carillon quartet I’ve ever had, and this may be the first in the history of Iowa State.”

families-573A3042The musical adventure started with Craig (’12 biology/pre-med), now a family medicine resident in Wichita, Kan. During his last year at Iowa State, he “randomly emailed” Tam, telling her he had piano experience and might want to take carillon lessons. The following Tuesday, he auditioned – and began to play.

Carrie (’14 elementary education) was next. She met Tam following one of Craig’s concerts, and she also had piano experience. She started playing, and she and Craig played a duet before he graduated.

Cayla, an ISU senior in elementary education, had less musical experience than her older siblings, and she wasn’t planning to carry on the tradition. But Tam encouraged her to try, and Cayla played for six semesters before leaving campus to student-teach earlier this year. (Despite her protests to the contrary, her siblings agree that Cayla is the most talented of all the Cunningham carillonneurs.)

Bringing up the rear, Casey, an ISU junior majoring in finance, came to Iowa State with no piano experience, save for a few brief lessons in elementary school. “I knew I wanted to play it at some point, just for a semester, just to say that I had played it, but Dr. Tam actually signed me up for the course without asking me,” Casey said. (His siblings laugh.)

The pressure to perform was “immense,” he said, but he continued to play.

Performing in a bell tower is an unusual choice for a musician, but it was an easy one for this family.

“I think the Campanile is such an icon of Iowa State, and because our family has such a deep passion for Iowa State University and the Cyclones since we were very young, I think it was just a natural fit for our family,” Craig said. “It was kind of just a really unique thing that we could say that we could do and tell our kids that we did. It’s something that very, very few people get the opportunity to do.”

“Though they have different musical skill levels, they each had their own adventure and experience on the carillon,” Tam said. “It’s certainly very special to me as their teacher.”

The siblings grew up in a home filled with music: dance, classical music, and musicals. “My mom said her favorite memories are when her kids were just singing and doing things like that,” Carrie said. “So when we had the idea that all four of us could play the carillon, it kind of became not only a bonding experience for us as siblings but also a gift to our mom,” Kathy Cunningham (A)( ’86 elem ed).

The Cunninghams have each played the carillon individually, in a family duet and trio, and historically once as a quartet. Because a quartet on the carillon is so rare, Cayla had to arrange the piece for the spring 2016 concert. The siblings chose Do-Re-Mi from “The Sound of Music,” one of their favorite childhood songs.


In addition to playing the bells, Casey Cunningham is also involved in a special university project: the Campanile Carillon Model. The model is a 1:5 scale replica of the ISU Campanile, including a 27-bell carillon that is accessible, functional, and portable

The 20-foot-tall, 3,000-pound model will serve as an extension of the legacy of the Campanile and will be used at various university events and outreach programs. Students from a wide variety of backgrounds – music, mechanical engineering, architecture, and more – have been involved with the project, along with several faculty advisers, including Tin-Shi Tam.

Further details about the Campanile Carillon model are available at


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.





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