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Then and now, 1960s-2000s

Submitted by John Schuh from Ames, Iowa, USA
Distinguished Professor of Higher Education in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Looking forward and looking back

Charting The Future and Remembering Our Past

John Schuh delivered the keynote address at the final College of Education Commencement Convocation on May 6, 2005. His remarks follow.

Thank you very much for your kind introduction. It is quite an honor for me to have this opportunity to address our Commencement Convocation. We are here today to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates, remember the roots of our College of Education, and think about the future. Since this is the last Commencement Convocation we will celebrate as a College of Education, our day is particularly special, for as we look to the future, the next Commencement Convocation for students from the current College of Education will be with students from the current College of Family and Consumer Sciences. They will graduate from the new College of Human Sciences.

Most importantly, this event is about our graduates and their families, friends, parents, and others who have contributed in countless ways to the success that we celebrate today. Let me take a moment to address the parents and family members. One way to conceptualize your student's graduation is to breathe a sigh of relief because tuition bills have become a thing of the past, unless you have other college students in your families or your student who is graduating this weekend is planning on attending professional or graduate school!

This Spring is a very meaningful commencement season for me. My daughter is completing college in 23 days and her graduation is an event that I approach with great pride and a little fear. Pride-because I have been so pleased with the quality of her educational experiences and the zest with which she has pursued them. Fear, because it means that she will be completing another milestone in her life and she isn't our little girl any more.

Parents, family members and friends, what I do know is this. The support, care and love that you have given your graduate are among the most wonderful gifts you can possibly provide. Graduating from college is a life-altering event, and your students will live a different kind of life, fuller, richer, and probably more meaningful, than if they had not had the advantage of a college education. This observation leads to a comment or two I'd like to share with our graduates.

What a baccalaureate degree represents is a major achievement. The research on the impact of earning a college degree is clear and unequivocal: Your lives will be changed in positive ways forever as a consequence of your education. And don't assume for a moment that everyone has a college degree. The most recent data with which I am familiar indicate that less than a third of all the adults in the United States have earned a college degree, so you have moved into select company already. You are graduating from one of the top universities in the world. Iowa State University is a member of the most prestigious organizations of universities in the country, and you can be justifiably proud of your degree and your alma mater.

How did the College of Education ever get to this point? Let me tell you a little bit about a few of the people who have made your college experience possible.

In 1868 Iowa State University President A. S. Welch created a professorship in the “science and art of teaching” that might have led to the first four-year bachelor's degree in education in the country. This marker seems to be in dispute, but what we do know is that ISU has been preparing educators at least since that time, and few universities can make that claim. It would be interesting to have President Welch join us today, because what he began nearly 140 years ago has led to students such as yourselves completing top flight programs in education, exercise and sport science, athletic training and the other academic disciplines represented here today.

Perhaps the single most important event in the history of this college was the appointment of Dr. Virgil Lagomarcino as Director of Teacher Education in 1961. Along with President Robert Parks Dr. Lagomarcino laid the groundwork for the new College of Education, which was established in 1968. Dr. Lagomarcino was appointed as the founding dean. Dr. Lagomarcino served in that role for 22 years until 1990 and still lives in Ames with his wife. We regret that because of health reasons he is unable to be with us today. But you should know this: There are many people who have served Iowa State University with distinction since its founding, but no person ever gave more to ISU than Dean Lagomarcino, who in addition to his years of service, gave his heart and soul to this University. The College of Education is the beneficiary of his good work, and all of us here today owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.

Among Dean Lagomarcino's accomplishments were:


  • The development of academic departments;

  • The founding of RISE, the Research Institute for Studies in Education;

  • The foundation was established for the Center for Technology in Learning and Teaching;

  • A statewide presence in education was established;

  • The recruitment of many new faculty members as the College grew.

During Dr. Lagomarcino' s tenure as dean, another event of major significance occurred. In 1974 the departments of Men's and Women's Physical Education were consolidated and moved to the College of Education. Dr. Barbara Forker was the founding chair of this new department. She stayed on until 1986 when she retired as Distinguished Professor Emerita. As Dean Lagomarcino was to the College, Dr. Forker was to the Department of Health and Human Performance. As Dean Lagomarcino did for the College, Dr. Forker gave her heart and soul to her department. She was a giant in her field and more than any other person provided the foundation for the Department of Health and Human Performance.

Is it any wonder that buildings on campus are named in honor of Dean Lagomarcino and Dr. Forker? Our experiences at ISU are better because of what they did for us.

After Dean Lagomarcino retired in 1990, Dr. Norene Daly was appointed as Dean. She served until 1997. Among the highlights of her service at ISU were:


  • The national presence of the College grew;

  • International student teaching programs were begun;

  • Awards programs for the College were expanded; and

  • The curricula of the departments that comprised the College were revised.

In 1998 Dr. Walt Gmelch was appointed to succeed Dean Daly. In Dean Gmelch's time:


  • Faculty scholarship was strengthened;

  • External funding increased dramatically;

  • International activities involving ISU students and faculty occurred around the globe;

  • The College of Education became increasingly important in providing leadership for the University in countless ways.

We also do not want to overlook the service of two interim deans: Dr. Camilla Benbow who served from 1996 to 1998 and our current Dean, Dr. Jerry Thomas. Dr. Thomas, in particular, has provided stellar leadership for this College during our final year. Much of Dean Thomas's work has focused on laying the foundation for the new College of Human Sciences and the fruits of his efforts will be manifested in our new College. Jerry, on behalf of our faculty and students, thank you for your commitment, energy, support and encouragement to all of us.

So what would President Welch encounter if he could come back and check up on his investment of the one faculty position he created in 1868? He would find a College of Education that has evolved into a mature academic entity. He would learn that


  • We have some of the most popular majors in the University at both the undergraduate and graduate levels as measured by enrollment;

  • Our students are engaged in practical experiences to complement what they learn in the classroom;

  • We have high placement rates of graduates. More than 90% will secure employment in their chosen field or go on to graduate or professional school;

  • Many of our students have participated in international experiences;

  • Our faculty routinely are recognized nationally and internationally as fellows in their professional organizations. They receive prestigious awards, and they serve in important leadership positions in their professional societies;

  • And, the College has experienced an ever increasing trajectory in terms of external support and faculty publications.

This brief history brings us back to our graduates this weekend. I want to wind up my comments with a word or two directed to them. I have identified a few people among the many who have provided leadership for the development and maturation of this college. They were instrumental in developing a place where you could learn and grow. All of us have benefited from their efforts.

Graduates, you should never forget the family and friends who have given you encouragement, help and love. In addition to them don't overlook your teachers from elementary and high school, your coaches, music instructors, tutors, spiritual advisors and others who went out of their way to help you. At ISU lots of people—faculty and staff—similarly provided help and support because virtually no one completes a degree on his or her own. You owe them more than you can imagine.

So, how do you repay all these people, and the citizens of Iowa who provide support for our wonderful institutions of higher education? I asked my major professor that question when I was finishing my degree. He told me that I could never repay him for what he had given to me. But he said every time you work with a student in the future, you are thanking him and everyone else who helped you with your education.

In a fundamental sense, higher education is concerned with preparing people to lead and serve our society. To lead can be defined as committing ourselves to providing educational opportunities so that the members of those generations that are less fortunate can experience increasingly richer, more fulfilling lives. To serve means taking what we have learned in college and applying that learning in ways that advance the human condition throughout the world, often one person at a time. When you are helping someone rehabilitate an injury, designing a fitness program, coaching young people or teaching a child to read, remember the confidence and trust that have been placed in you, and the faith that you will do for them what your predecessors have done for you. President Welch appointed one professor. Dean Lagomarcino had a vision for a new college. Dr. Forker led her programs to new heights. They were committing themselves to the future without really knowing the direction it would take but they were confident that they were preparing a place where people could learn and serve the next generation. The more you take advantage of opportunities to help people, every day if you can, the more you are repaying your obligation to those who helped you. This is the way it works in our society. One generation provides opportunities for the next and asks for nothing in return, other than to hope that the next generations will provide similar opportunities for those who succeed them. Your challenge is just that-to provide a better life for those who follow you. Fulfill that challenge and you will be thanking President Welch, Dean Lagomarcino, Dr. Forker and everyone else who has provided opportunities for you.

Finally, let me add my congratulations to you on the completion of your degree. I know you have prepared well for the next steps of your life's journey, and I am proud of you.

Many thanks, best wishes and Godspeed.