Curriculum of opportunity


By Avery Amensen

Ask a human sciences student what a dream research project looks like, and you may hear the words “leading-edge,” “multi-generational,” “insightful,” and “comprehensive.” Enter the Family Transitions Project, an Iowa State-based research initiative that has focused on the evolution of families since 1989.

The project began as a study of rural families coping with the 1980s farm crisis, a severe recession that impacted the entire U.S. agriculture economy. The study focused on more than 500 adolescents, along with their siblings and parents. Since then, the project has kept up with the original subjects, wherever they’ve ended up, and their romantic partners and children, with researchers collecting information on their social, work, financial, and romantic lives, as well as genetic data. A grant from the National Institute on Aging is currently funding work focused on the original parents in the study.

Olivia Diggs, a second-year graduate student at Iowa State, works with Tricia Neppl, director of the Family Transitions Project, to help collect the data. “I chose to pursue human development and family studies because I am interested in the relationships between parenting behaviors and child outcomes,” Diggs said.

Studies like this are not only unique in structure, but they offer valuable insights. Researchers can assess how the participants’ relationships as couples have evolved and changed over time, helping them decipher why they make the decisions that they do. One of the biggest findings is called the “Family Stress Model,” referring to how economic pressures can impact the quality of romantic relationships, parenting skills, and child developmental outcomes.

Diggs is able to spend 20 hours per week on the groundbreaking project as a recipient of the Ruth and Vincent Mahoney Student Opportunity Fund. Richard Mahoney (L)(PhD ’11) and his wife, Lois Hartman, established the scholarship specifically to provide students with opportunities to pursue internships and research.

Learning opportunities beyond the classroom are a quintessential aspect of the Iowa State experience – yet without scholarships, many students would not be able to participate in them. That’s why student support is a key priority for the Forever True, For Iowa State campaign. Since the start of the campaign, donors have created more than 600 new undergraduate and graduate scholarships. Gifts to the ISU General Scholarship Fund – or to scholarship funds in each college – also make a well-rounded Iowa State experience possible for thousands of students each year.

Having a hands-on research role in such a unique and long-running study is precisely the type of opportunity that could also launch a career for Diggs. After completing graduate school and receiving both her master’s and doctoral degrees, she hopes to become a college professor at a top-tier research institution – where she could one day mentor students like herself.

“Being a Cyclone is about embracing all of the opportunities this school offers,” Diggs said. “It’s about disseminating the knowledge and skills learned here on campus to take the world by storm.”

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.


The (big) sky’s the limit at French Conservation Camp


By Steve Sullivan

After hiking a richly forested Montana mountain range, a team from Iowa State gathered around a campfire to make s’mores.

That’s when the moose made its dramatic entrance. The great beast bounded down a path, stopping briefly to glance at the stunned s’more-makers before plunging into a nearby pond.

Wild moments like this make the new Rod and Connie French Conservation Education Camp a dream classroom for ecology-minded Iowa State students.

The camp was established in 2016 through a $4.1 million gift of a ranch owned by Connie French, of Des Moines, and her late husband, Rod, longtime supporters of and donors to Iowa State. The 50-acre former resort is now a learning facility that is preparing students for environmental careers.

At the camp, students “learn about ecology hands-on, in a natural setting. There’s no better way to learn this material,” said Jennifer Schieltz, camp director and lecturer with Iowa State’s Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management (NREM).”

“This is definitely the most hands-on experience I’ve ever had in any of my classes. We’re using methods that professionals use,” said Drew Jaspers, an animal ecology major who was part of the camp’s first class last summer. “The experience has been way beyond all my expectations.”

The camp is about 50 miles west of Missoula and nestled at the foot of the Bitterroot Mountains, part of the Lolo National Forest in western Montana. The forest is blanketed with a variety of tree and plant species. The region has nearly 1,000 named streams, including Fish Creek, which runs through the camp. Fish Creek is home to several fish species, including bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout, both of which are endangered. The forest’s other denizens include wolves, bears, elk, deer, mountain lions and, yes, rambunctious moose.

Overseen by NREM, the camp was launched last summer with two courses: Wildlife Population Methods and Field Ecology. A Forest Fire Fuels Management course and a Fall Forestry Camp are planned for the future. All these courses have been specifically designed for the location and are open to students in any major at Iowa State.

“Most of our students come from the Midwest and are used to flat landscapes and managed environments, and the animals and plants that live around the  region,” said Mike Rentz, an NREM lecturer who co-teaches the Wildlife Population Methods class. “The camp requires them to learn concepts and processes and apply them in an entirely different ecosystem with different landscapes, and animals  and plants they’ve never seen before.”

A typical day involves brief lectures before the students go into the field. They might set up camera traps to monitor wildlife populations, survey ground cover and fallen trees to determine available wildlife habitat, or examine trees to compare a burned population to one that’s unburned. Some of their work will provide valuable information for Montana state officials.

“You’re surrounded by whatever you’re working on that day,” said Collin Alfers, an animal ecology major who was among camp’s first students. “It’s total immersion – as if you have a job in the field you hope to go into.”


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.

Pete’s Feat


Pete Kostelnick’s 3,067-mile journey to break a 36-year record for the fastest run across America

By Carole Gieseke

It seems like an unbelievable achievement: Running 72 miles a day for six weeks – the equivalent of nearly three marathons every day – through desert heat and mountain snow, along empty roadways and on busy streets, from San Francisco to New York City, to break  a record that’s stood for 36 years.

Ultra-runner Pete Kostelnick (’09 international business/finance) accomplished the remarkable feat last fall, running 3,067 miles in 42 days, 6 hours, and 30 minutes, breaking the long-standing cross-country record by four days.

“People always ask me why I did it,” Kostelnick said. “I think it was just kind of the nature of the competitiveness in me and wanting to break a record, [combined
with] my love of travel and seeing the country. Road trips are my thing. It was a fantasy I wanted to live out.”

Simple – but competitive
We met up with Kostelnick last summer – eight months after his record-setting run across America – at his parents’ house in rural Boone, Iowa. When we arrived at 6:30 a.m., Kostelnick had already logged an 11-mile run, but he looked fresh if not quite relaxed. Routinely running 200 miles (about 40 hours) each week on top of working around 50 hours a week, you have to wonder: Does he ever relax?

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I’m a pretty simple person. I like to just kick back, lounge, have some beers, talk to people. I think with all the running I do, sometimes it’s nice to just be still for a while.”

But it takes a driven personality to do what Kostelnick has done. He ran track and cross country in high school but did not compete at Iowa State. He continued to run recreationally, mainly to keep his weight down.

Before the run across America, he’d competed in shorter races – 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, and marathons – and eventually found his groove in ultra-
distance road races. He was the first person to run an entire 423-mile RAGBRAI route – Iowa’s iconic bicycle event – in 2013.

He’s finished (and won several) 100-mile and 24-hour races, running as many as
163 miles in one 24-hour period.

After finishing the grueling Badwater 135-mile ultramarathon in 2014, Kostelnick won the race in 2015 and broke the course record in 2016. That event is described
as “the world’s toughest foot race,” with a 135-mile course starting at 279 feet
below sea level in Death Valley and ending at an elevation of 8,360 feet at Mount Whitney. Adding to the length and elevation, weather conditions during the summer race are especially extreme, with temperatures often rising above 100 degrees.


The run for the record
Kostelnick trained for the arduous run across America with 30-mile-a-day training and the accumulated effect of building his legs up gradually over the past decade.

“I think the main thing I had going for me was that I was prepared to do it,” he said, sitting at his parents’ kitchen table. “There are some people who have gone for the record, and they’ve tried doing it on running 10 miles a day. You’re just not going to be able to train that little and all of a sudden magically run 70 miles a day.”

He credits his professional support crew of four, who handled all the logistics – the public relations, the route planning, the medical assistance, and the meals – with keeping him healthy and allowing him to do just one thing: run. He points specifically to one team member, licensed sports massage therapist Cinder Wolff, who not only drove the RV in which he ate his meals and slept each night but also cooked the meals and gave him much-needed therapeutic massages each day.

Nutrition was a huge part of his ability to run long distances each day, he said. During his high-mileage training, Kostelnick routinely consumed 5,000 calories each day, and that number jumped to 10,000 or more during the run across America.

“Essentially, I was burning 100 calories a mile on top of just normal calorie needs, so I was burning well over 10,000 calories most days,” he said. “I think training my body to be able to rapidly digest calories and turn them over into energy was huge going into the run, because for a lot of people that’s a big struggle – they kind of go into a death march in ultramarathons because they can’t keep food down. But for me it wasn’t an issue at all. So that, and then Cinder just cooked really good, nutritious meals.”

Run, eat, sleep, repeat
During the run across America, Kostelnick’s daily routine did not vary. He woke each day at 3:30 a.m. and hit the road by 4 o’clock. At around 11 a.m., after running about 40 miles, he met up with the RV and ate lunch. After a half-hour break, in which Wolff massaged and stretched his muscles, he got on the road again and ran another 30-35 miles. He tried to finish the day’s run by 5:30 or 6 p.m., eat a high-protein dinner in the RV, get a 30-minute massage, and fall into bed.

The first mile of the day, he said, was always the hardest. Sometimes his legs were so stiff that he had to be helped out of bed. The first mile was little more than a shuffle. But after that, he said, those early morning hours were some of the best.

“It’s a little daunting to know that you have 60 to 70 miles left, but the first 20 in the dark are peaceful,” he said. “Sometimes you’re running at 4:30 in the morning on a deserted highway in Nevada and you haven’t seen a car drive by in two hours, and it’s just like, ‘Wow.’ Running through ranch land, which I was for a lot of the run, I’d look to my left with my headlamp and I’d see a cow staring back at me. It was just kind of unreal; it’s you’re on like Mars. [At one point] in Nevada, there wasn’t a single gas station or anything for over two days. It was just nothing on top of nothing.”

During the run, a support vehicle leap-frogged ahead every mile or two, providing food and water. But even with a support crew nearby, the run was all his. He battled snowstorms in Utah, 35-mile-per-hour winds across the plains, high elevations, and desert heat.

Kostelnick said he always looked forward to the last 10 miles of the day when, if his pace had been fast enough throughout the rest of the day, he could slow down to a walk and enjoy the scenery. It allowed him to reset his mind, look at his surroundings, and “not be in go-mode anymore.”


A ‘self-healing body’
Pounding the pavement with 120,000 to 130,000 steps each day took a toll on Kostelnick’s body. Even with his high-level training, during the run across America he suffered from badly bruised feet, tight hamstrings, a swollen knee, tendonitis, and minor injuries from two falls. And yet, he completed the run despite the physical challenges.

Warren Franke, ISU professor of kinesiology, said Kostelnick must have an exceptional combination of good genes, good training, and mental toughness.

“The repetition involved with taking this many steps over this many days would almost invariably lead to an overuse injury in most people,” he said. “The fact that nothing severe enough to hinder him occurred is a testament to good genes.

He also must have prepared adequately. The endurance aspect of running this
distance every day is incredible. The enzymatic ‘machinery’ in the skeletal muscles needs to ‘work’ for a very long time for him to run this distance. The physical trauma of running this cumulative distance would have crippled most runners.”

Franke continued: “Finally, the mental toughness needed to stick this out is incredible. Many people can ‘gut things out’ for a brief period, but he did it for 42 days knowing what it’d feel like at the end of the day but getting up and running that distance day after day.”

In an article in Runner’s World magazine, Wolff said that one of Kostelnick’s most remarkable traits, and one of the biggest keys to his ultrarunning success, was his “self-healing body.” His ankles swelled during the first week, forcing him to rest a full 24 hours on Day 7. He suffered through shin splints and inflamed joints. One week his knee was twice its normal size; two days later the swelling was gone. His body recovered, and he journeyed on.

After the run ended last fall, Kostelnick’s legs were swollen and tight. He didn’t get back into the groove of running until April of this year, when he began competing again. He ran a 24-hour race and the 2017 Badwater 135 back-to-back during the summer.

09/13/2016 - Pete Kostelnick. California.Photo By Zandy Mangold

What’s next for the ultramarathon man?
Now that Kostelnick has crushed one of the oldest ultrarunning records recognized by Guinness World Records and broken the course record for Badwater 135, what’s next for this singularly driven young runner?

“I’m all about doing something better than I did it before,” he said. “I think with running, it became way more than just checking off a bucket list. When I did my first marathon, I just wanted to do it, but when I did the second one it became, ‘All right, if you’re going to keep doing them, and you’re going to have to keep doing them better.’ When I realized I wasn’t going to get much faster in a marathon, that’s when I started going further, because I couldn’t go faster.

“I definitely have a very competitive mind-set, not necessarily with others but just with myself,” he continued. “I’m never really satisfied with looking in the rear-view mirror. I like to look forward to new things.”

He says he’d like to do more 100-mile and 24-hour races. And there’s a six-day run record he’d like to break someday.

But he’s in no hurry.

“Ultrarunning is a sport that you can be very good at for quite a while,” he said. “Your peak window is much wider than most other sports. I’d love to keep doing it for a long time.”

Sidebar: About Pete Kostelnick
  • Born and raised in Boone, Iowa
  • Graduated from Boone High School
  • Earned a 2009 degree in international business and finance from Iowa State
  • Day job: Financial analyst for National Research Corporation
  • Parents are both teachers; mother Clare teaches at DMACC and father Charlie has been an ISU faculty member for more than 30 years
  • Now lives in Hannibal, Mo.
  • Married to Nicole Larson, a 2011 ISU chemical engineering grad
  • 8: The number of pairs of shoes he wore in his run across America
  • Sponsor: Athletics-shoe company Hoka One One
  • His guilty pleasure: Ice cream

Sidebar: What Pete Eats

Pete Kostelnick consumed 10,000-13,000 calories a day to provide fuel for
his run across America last fall. Here’s what he ate on a typical day:

  • First breakfast: oatmeal, toast, banana, protein shake
  • Second breakfast: Protein bar or trail mix, Gatorade
  • Brunch: Breakfast sandwich
  • Lunch: Foot-long sub sandwich, followed by something sweet and a big soda
  • Afternoon snacks: Sweetened dried pineapple and banana chips, Gatorade
  • Dinner: Steak and potatoes
  • Dessert: A pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream
  • On his nightstand: protein bars, water, juice, and animal crackers

Kostelnick often ate eggs, red meat, avocadoes, and high-calorie meals like
lasagna, tater-tot casserole, mac and cheese, and spaghetti. While he was
running, his body required nourishment every 20 minutes, and Kostelnick esti-
mates he almost never went more than two hours without eating for the entire six
weeks he was on the road, even waking up in the night to eat protein bars.
All the heavy meals did not weigh him down, however. “I’m really good at running
on a full stomach,” he said.


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.


A dark night in Hanoi

A chance encounter between two Iowans changes the course of many lives

By Kenneth Quinn

A casual conversation 40 years ago on a dark and empty street in post-war Hanoi led to a dramatic family reunification. But it was only a letter in 2016 that revealed that what began that night is truly a story with  a special Iowa State connection.

In March 1977, newly elected President Jimmy Carter, wanting to fulfill a campaign pledge he had made to address the remaining wounds of the Vietnam War, decided to send a special mission to Hanoi to begin the process of accounting for those military personnel whose bodies had not been recovered or whose fate remained uncertain. To that end, he asked Leonard Woodcock, the former head of the United Auto Workers Union, to lead a small but distinguished delegation.

This would be the first U.S. contact with the North Vietnamese government, following the capture of Saigon and the tragic end of the war in 1975. Even though I was still a relatively junior State Department officer, I had been added to the trip based on my six years of experience in Vietnam during the war, my prior service at the National Security Council, and my facility in the Vietnamese language (I had served as President Ford’s interpreter at meetings at the White House).

Before we left, the President convened a meeting in the Cabinet Room with Vice President Mondale and the entire traveling group. The President emphasized that we were going to Vietnam and Laos to inquire about our still-missing and not-yet-accounted-for POW/MIAs from the war.

In addition to using my language skills, I was also appointed as a diplomatic courier, so I could carry a sealed diplomatic pouch (a large orange bag) with an official seal. In it were our communication devices called one-time pads. These were encryption codes that were linked to an exact replica pad back in the State Department in Washington. It was an arduous, time-consuming, letter-by-letter process to create an encrypted message. For each letter in a word, I would have to look  up the substitute in the pad (“A” would become “J,” etc.)

As the code officer, it would be my job to translate the messages prepared by the delegation head into written messages that would just seem to be jibberish, and then transmit them in a commercial telegram back to Washington reporting on our trip. This was necessary because there was no American official presence in Vietnam with secure communications capability.

Hanoi in 1977 had very few signs of any economic activity. There were almost no shops, no market stalls or food for sale on the streets, no restaurants, and no bright signs or neon lights. The one and only sign lit up at night was the large portrait of Ho Chi Minh that sat atop the Vietnamese National Bank building, which was surrounded by lightbulbs.

Moreover, there was almost no automobile traffic, no motorbikes that were ubiquitous in South Vietnam, and almost no vehicle movement of any kind. The few people who were moving about were on bicycle. You literally could walk across any street without first looking in either direction without fear of being struck.

Following our two days of meetings, Woodcock wanted to send a message back to the President, reporting that the visit had gone very well. He had met with the North Vietnamese president Pham Van Dong, and we had been told that 10 sets of remains of American service members would be returned to us before we departed. It was very positive news.

So, I sat up at the hotel using the one-time code pad to encrypt the entire message. We had some clerical staff on the trip who then typed it up for me in  the code letters. Next I needed to walk  over to the telegraph office. It was about  11 p.m. Even though there was no real danger, one of the military officers on the trip, a young Air Force major, offered to go with me. His name was Paul Mather.

As we were walking along the broad, deserted streets of Hanoi, we made small talk. It turned out that, like me, he was from Iowa, from a small town called Greene. I explained that I had grown up in Dubuque. Next we were talking about our experiences during the war, and he said he had been stationed in Saigon when the war ended and was urgently evacuated out of the country. I told him what I had done during the war as an advisor in the Mekong Delta, adding that my wife was from Vietnam.


Paul Mather (center) with his wife, Loan, and their three children a few days after they arrived in Bangkok from Vietnam in September 1977.

And then, what Paul Mather said next literally stopped me in my tracks. He told me that he had a fiancé, a Vietnamese woman named Loan. When I asked him when they would be married, he said he didn’t know, because she was trapped in Saigon.

Standing there under only a dim street light, I turned to face him and asked, “Are you doing anything to get her out?” He replied that there was nothing that could be done and that the situation seemed hopeless. It appeared that they might never be reunited. I asked if he had discussed this with anyone on the trip. I said it was possible that the delegation could ask  the North Vietnamese to assist him.

I will never forget his reply. Paul said, “No, I could never put forward anything personal about myself that might in any way detract from or disrupt our mission. I just could not do that.”

I was moved by his devotion to duty and impressed by his selfless dedication to our mission. Walking through darkened Hanoi late at night, I thought to myself, “This is so admirable. Maybe I can help him.” So, after our stop at the telegraph office, I said to him, “Why don’t you tell me your fiancé’s full name, ID number, and address. Maybe I can do something.” Paul was hesitant, but I insisted, and eventually he agreed to give me the information.

The next day we were going to have  a final negotiating session with the Vietnamese delegation, and then after about an hour there would be a tea break, during which Woodcock and the senior Vietnamese official would go off alone in a corner and speak informally with just  the Vietnamese interpreter.

Before we departed to go to this meeting, I waited for the right moment to meet with Woodcock alone. I had to be sure that the more senior State Department officers didn’t see me, because in the State Department culture, a more junior officer like me shouldn’t be talking to the head of  delegation without his superior present. But there came a moment when I briefly had Woodcock alone.

Now, Woodcock didn’t know too much about me except from this trip, so I had to convince him of the merits of the case. I told him that I wanted to tell him about this terrific young Air Force officer on the trip, Paul Mather. I explained that he had
a Vietnamese fiancé trapped in Saigon, and I handed Woodcock the piece of paper that had Loan’s name and contact information in Saigon.

I then said to Woodcock, “The tone of everything on this trip is very positive. Watching the Vietnamese and listening  to them, I feel certain that they would like an opportunity to do something nice. They would like to be perceived as doing something special for you and the delegation. Letting Paul Mather’s fiancé leave  the country would be such a gesture.”

I emphasized to him that if he would personally and privately ask his Vietnamese counterpart to free her, there would be a very good chance it would happen.

Woodcock took all this on board, kept the paper, but didn’t really commit to doing anything. I thought I had given it my best shot. Later, after he had his private tête-à-tête with the senior Vietnamese  official, Woodcock privately said to me, “I gave it to him.” Later, I told Paul Mather about what I had done and what Woodcock had done.

We didn’t hear anything, and I began to think that nothing would come from my initiative. However, several months later, we were in Paris, and my boss, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, was now negotiating with the same official with whom Woodcock had interacted in Hanoi. When they had their first coffee break, the official told Holbrooke that he had good news for him – Miss Loan had been  given permission to leave Vietnam.

It would be difficult to overstate the gratitude Paul expressed to me when I passed on this news. For a few years, I used to get a Christmas card from Paul Mather and his family thanking me for getting his fiancé out so they could be married.

During the remainder of my diplomatic career, I continued to be involved in the effort to account for missing men from the Vietnam War, serving for four years as chairman of the U.S. government Inter-Agency Group on POW / MIA Affairs.

In that capacity, I returned to Hanoi on a number of occasions, including one where I personally negotiated in Vietnamese the first-ever access to a North Vietnamese prison to search for missing Americans who might still be alive.

Paul Mather worked on this same issue, culminating with his publishing a book in 1994 entitled M.I.A.: Accounting for the Missing in Southeast Asia. However, we gradually lost contact. After completing my service as American Ambassador  in Cambodia, I retired from the Foreign Service in 1999 and returned home to  Iowa to assume the leadership of the World Food Prize in Des Moines.

I didn’t think again about Paul Mather until I received a letter from him dated Dec. 10, 2016. It was in reading it that I learned about the Iowa State connection that runs like a thread through this entire story. Paul wrote:

“With the passage of time, I have come to realize that I never really adequately thanked you for your intervention, which led to many of the positive events in my life. It has been nearly 40 years since Loan and I were able to re-join…We married in Bangkok in September 1977, within three days of when she and her three children arrived there, compliments of you and Mr. Woodcock…”

Paul, who later confirmed for me that he was an R.O.T.C. graduate of Iowa State (’59 aero engr), explained in his letter that two of those three children also are Cyclone alumni. He wrote further that:

“…elder son Anh…[who] graduated from ISU at Ames [’84 comp & elect engr], has been a computer chip designer for Intel in Austin, Texas for many years…while younger son Thanh, also a graduate of ISU [’89 comp engr], is a software engineer with a company in Bellevue, Wash.”

Paul concluded the family update by sharing that their daughter Phung, the youngest, followed her Dad’s lead and is now a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.

Reading that letter made me think about the small steps and moments that can have such significant ramifications on many individual lives. What if Paul Mather had not volunteered to walk with me to the telegraph office late that night? What if we had not talked about our Iowa backgrounds? Would Paul have still told me about his fiancé being stranded? What if Woodcock had turned down my request?

And, of course, what if I had just shrugged off the entire matter when Paul initially told me he was hesitant to have the issue raised? That I didn’t, I believe, reflects that special Iowa bond that I felt that night in Hanoi and my admiration for Paul Mather’s patriotism. That is what led to this family being reunited, able to live in freedom, and able to follow in Paul Mather’s footsteps onto the campus in Ames. What a wonderful Iowa State story!

About Kenneth Quinn:
Kenneth Quinn is president of the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines and a former U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia. In his role with the World Food Prize since 2000, he has worked closely with the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in implementing the Global Youth Institute for high school students. He retired from the State Department after a 32-year career in the Foreign Service, where he was a rural development officer in Vietnam, member of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s national security staff at the White House, and a member of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Vienna; he also played a key role in exposing Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge atrocities of the mid-1970s and helping to end them. An Iowa native, he served as a special assistant to Iowa Gov. Robert Ray from 1978-1982. In 2008, Iowa State presented Ambassador Quinn with an honorary doctor of humane letters when he delivered the university commencement address to December graduates. In 2014 Quinn became only the 23rd person in history to receive the Iowa Medal, the state’s highest citizen award.

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.

Top of his game


Allen Lazard is poised to break Cyclone receiving records this fall

By Andrew Stubblefield

Coming out of high school, senior wide receiver Allen Lazard was recruited by traditional powers such as Notre Dame, Nebraska, Stanford, California, and Oregon. The Urbandale High Schooler was one of the most highly touted prospects in his 2014 class.

But family ties and a one-of-a-kind fan base led Lazard to choose the Cyclones. Sitting on the hillsides at Jack Trice Stadium had been a big part of the Lazard family’s routine.

“It was hard for me to say no [to Iowa State],” Lazard said. “At the end of the day I tried to picture myself at any other university and I just couldn’t. I knew Iowa State was the best fit for me.”

With the decision made, Lazard was determined to make a quick impact within the program. He got to work immediately in his first season wearing the Cardinal and Gold. The first catch of his career went for 48 yards against North Dakota State, and Lazard earned Big 12 All-Underclassman honors. Lazard’s early success was not an aberration.

During his three seasons with the Cyclones, Lazard has accumulated 2,419 receiving yards and needs just 677 more to pass Todd Blythe’s school record of 3,096. Additionally, only six receptions separate Lazard and Blythe (’08 lib stds) on the career receptions list.

He has also had at least one reception in the 35 games he has played as a Cyclone, shattering Otto Stowe’s previous record of 23 consecutive games with a reception. Lazard is also tied for the most 100-yard receiving games and most consecutive 100-yard receiving games.

Despite having the records at his fingertips, Lazard is not completely focused on catching them.

“I’ve always been a team-oriented guy,” Lazard said. “All I care about is the success of the team. At the end of the day, if we win the game then I’m happy with whatever I had to do to make that happen.”

Standing at 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighing approximately 222 pounds, Lazard is a dangerous combination of strength, size, and speed.

“Most defenders are significantly shorter than me,” Lazard said. “I would say, on average, [most defenders are] about five inches shorter than me. I have a lot of height and length I can use to my advantage, and I am typically a lot stronger than them as well.”

Lazard’s records and accomplishments are numerous and impressive, but even more remarkable is the fact he accomplished the feats under four different quarterbacks.

During Lazard’s junior campaign he recorded six 100-yard receiving games, good enough to break the school record. He did so under a dual quarterback system, with Joel Lanning (’17 liberal studies) and Jacob Park locked in a battle for the quarterback spot during the entire 2016 season. Park would eventually prevail and earn the spot.

“Park started understanding my style of play,” Lazard said. “[He understood] where I like the ball at, where I’m vulnerable on the field, and where I strive better at. I started understanding where he likes to throw the ball, what he’s looking at, and what his reads are.”

Lazard ended the season strong, with 570 yards in his last five games and three straight 100-yard receiving games – tying a school record – to put an exclamation point on the end of the year.

Most recently, Lazard was named a preseason All-American by Athlon Sports, is a preseason all-Big 12 selection, and was named a team captain. Lazard was the second member of his family to become a captain, as his father, Kevin Lazard (A)(’94 management), was a co-captain of the 1993 Iowa State football team.

“It’s a huge honor,” Lazard said. “Just knowing that my dad was a captain [at Iowa State] made me proud of him. Knowing the man that he is, as a family man, makes me feel proud of myself because I know I am doing something right and that he raised me well.”

The Lazard family history runs deep in Ames. In addition to his father Kevin, Lazard’s brother Anthony (’16 kinesiology & health) played football at Iowa State from 2012 to 2016.

It’s that sense of family pride and legacy that keeps Lazard motivated to change the course of history for Iowa State.

“Once I leave this university, I want nothing but success for the future of this program,” Lazard said. “I just want to be sure that I gave this university and this football team as much as I could so that I can leave it in a better place.”

Iowa State has not made it to a bowl game in Lazard’s time at Iowa State, but the Cyclones are set on changing that in the 2017 season.

“I think it is a number-one priority on our list,” Lazard said. “Not only to go to a bowl game, but to win it.”

“We are going into every week planning on winning,” Lazard continued. “We are going to start at the top and we want to go to the Big 12 championship. We are not going to limit ourselves to six wins. We want to aim high.”

The culture is shifting in the Iowa State football program, and Lazard is right at the center of it.

“Coach Campbell always says, ‘Change happens in small amounts,’” Lazard said. “You get one or two guys and their attitude changes, you see it starting to feed off to other people.”

After the 2016 season, Lazard flirted with an opportunity to take his talents to the NFL. Ultimately, he felt he still had more to give to the university and decided to stay in Ames for his senior year. With his decision to stay, Lazard will have one more season to cement his legacy at Iowa State.

“I want people to talk about me forever,” Lazard said. “I want people to consider me a Cyclone great and that I helped put Iowa State football on the map.”

Andrew Stubblefield is a junior at ISU, majoring in public relations.

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.

In one sitting

Meythaler-Mullins, Laurie

Laurie Meythaler-Mullins

Rose Frantzen’s paintings capture a rare human condition

By Carole Gieseke

Rose Frantzen paints in the moment.

The very nature of her art forces her to make decisions while she paints – with no planning or sketching beforehand. Every color, every stroke, every nuanced fold of skin, is chosen quickly as she sits across from her very live and human subject.

It’s called alla prima – an Italian phrase meaning “at first” or “in one sitting” – and it’s pretty much the Olympics of painting.

Williams, Paxton

Paxton Williams

Frantzen has mastered the alla prima art form, first with her much-heralded Portrait of Maquoketa series of 180 portraits of people from her home town of Maquoketa, Iowa, which landed in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in 2009. She connected with Iowa State through a 2015 commission by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences that  became a remarkable dual portrait titled  Do You Know What’s Inside this Flower? George Washington Carver Mentors a Young Henry A. Wallace.

Then, in 2016, Frantzen mesmerized Iowa State Fair goers by painting portraits of 21 Iowa State alumni, students, faculty, and staff in the Iowa State exhibit space in the Varied Industries Building – about two per day for 10 days – while half a million visitors looked on. She followed up with another series of portrait-painting sessions, creating 13 more portraits of Iowa Staters on campus in March and April 2017.

The combined portraits have become a permanent part of University Museums’ Art on Campus Collection and will be exhibited as Faces of Iowa State Aug. 21 – Dec. 8 in the Brunnier Art Museum, followed by  a touring exhibit in 2018.

Frantzen said the process of painting in front of so many people in a public space felt like being in a bubble, because “the distractions were enormous.” It forced her to become very focused.

Mallapragada, Surya

Surya Mallapragada

“There’s such an immediacy with this process,” she said. “You have to be on your game. You’re trying hard to get a sense of the person, and you really don’t know them. The conversations I had [with Iowa Staters] were really enlightening. I felt like I was a student; I was learning from every person I sat in front of.”

Iowa State’s tradition of portraiture began in the 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, when the administration made it a priority to commission and paint portraits of presidents, deans, accomplished faculty, and distinguished alumni. A steady commissioning of portraits continues to take place across campus as a means of “celebrating, commemorating, and honoring Iowa State’s cultural legacy,” according to Lynette Pohlman (L)(’72 int des, MA ’76), director and chief curator of University Museums.

Frantzen’s process is incredibly fast and intimate. The results are raw and electric. “There’s a human connection left in the paintings,” Frantzen said. “It’s that intimacy of one person looking at another person [when you do] live portrait painting.

Everyone who is painted is looking right at me, too. You don’t often have the liberty to do that in life. Part of what I feel this culture needs is a more present awareness of each other’s humanity. When you sit across from anybody for four to five hours and look at them and appreciate them and  talk to them, you cannot help but feel genuine fondness and maybe even love for them. That experience – in that exchange, in that moment – that is a vivifying human act.”

Ebbers, Larry

Larry Ebbers

Larry Ebbers (A)(’62 ag ed, MS ’68, PhD ’72 higher ed), a university professor in the ISU School of Education, was one of Frantzen’s subjects.

“I loved the process,” Ebbers said. “Rose Frantzen has the ability to engage you in a conversation about your areas of interest and expertise and at the same time describe her life history in a way that made the time go so quickly. Everyone agreed that she really captured me.”

Frantzen said she found each of the Iowa State subjects extremely passionate. “The people of Iowa State have a passion for their work, for what they’re doing; they’re driven and directed and very positive. When I was painting the people of Iowa State, I felt like I was experiencing humanity at its best.”

Jackson, Petrina

Petrina Jackson

Faces of Iowa State

  • Grace Amemiya*
  • Marcia Borel (’78 family environ)**
  • George Burnet (’48 chem engr, MS ’49, PhD ’51), Anson Marston dist prof emeritus / retired chair of Dept of Chem Engr**
  • Alicia Carriquiry (MS ’86 statistics, PhD ’89 an sci), dist prof statistics**
  • Jay Chapman (’90, MS ’93 aero engr)**
  • Miriam De Dios (’04 mgmt/mkt)**
  • Larry Ebbers (’62 ag ed, MS ’68, PhD ’72 higher ed), univ prof, School of Education**
  • Simon Estes (’97 honorary)
  • Evan Fritz (’16 kinesiology)**
  • Wayne Fuller (’55 ag business, MS ’57 ag econ, PhD ’59), dist prof emeritus in stats/econ*
  • Mary Giese (’68 elem ed)**
  • Matthew Goode (’17 materials engr)
  • Carol Grant (’52 home ec)**
  • Mary Jane Hagenson (’74 physics, MS ’76 biomed engr, PhD ’80 chem engr)**
  • Stephanie Hansen (’02 an sci), assoc prof of an sci
  • Norm Hill, dir of logistics & support services
  • Kathy Howell (’68 math)**
  • Petrina Jackson (MA ’94 English), head of Special Collections / Univ Archives*
  • Karen & Gerald Kolschowsky (’62 ag business)**
  • Warren Kuhn, prof emeritus / retired dean, ISU library services
  • Lori Jacobson (’80 history / advertising design)*
  • Monica Lursen (’72 dietetics)
  • Joe Lyon (’51 dairy science)**
  • Surya Mallapragada, dist prof / Carol Vohs Johnson chair in chem & bio engr
  • Ed McCracken (’66 elect engr)**
  • Laurie Meythaler-Mullins (PhD ’08 vet med)
  • Dave Miller (’75 elect engr), retired dir, Facilities Planning & Mgmt**
  • Dynette Mosher (’81 home ec ed, MS ’84), College of Human Sciences alumni relations dir**
  • Charity Nebbe (’96 pol sci)**
  • Suku Radia (’74 accounting)**
  • Eric Schares (’05 elect engr)
  • Shirley Stakey (’57 home ed ed)**
  • JaneAnn Stout (’71 applied art, MA ’74)*
  • Paxton Williams (’00 comm studies/pol sci)**

Plus: Rose Frantzen (self portrait) and her husband, Charles Morris

Frantzen will paint two additional portraits during a two-day residency on campus in October

Schares, Eric

Eric Schares

Exhibit locations

Nebbe, Charity

Charity Nebbe

Brunnier Art Museum (ISU campus)
Aug. 21 – Dec. 8, 2017

Maquoketa Art Experience (Maquoketa, Iowa)
Dec. 9, 2017 – Feb. 12, 2018

Muscatine Art Center (Muscatine, Iowa)
Feb. 15 – April 15, 2018

Pearson Lakes Art Center (Okoboji, Iowa)
April 26 – July 23, 2018

Blanden Art Museum (Fort Dodge, Iowa)
Aug. 4 – Oct. 14, 2018

Additional dates and locations may be added.

Artist reception

Kuhn, Warren

Warren Kuhn

Oct. 10, 2017, 7-8:30 p.m.
Meet Rose Frantzen and view the 39 portraits included in the Faces of Iowa State exhibition  in the Brunnier Art Museum. Free admission. RSVP to

*Annual member **Life member






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.

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.