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From the Director

My colleagues in the history department and I were well aware of the last-minute evacuation of the U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam in the spring of 1975, just before the North Vietnamese marched into Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) ending the Vietnam War. What we did not know was that the Marine helicopter pilot who convinced the U.S. ambassador to leave and flew him to safety was Captain Gerry Berry, a Simpson alumnus from the class of 1967.

Save the evening of March 20, 2019, and come hear Gerry Berry tell his remarkable story of America's last days in Vietnam. Several other naval aviators, also from Simpson's class of 1967, will be on hand to discuss their service as well. Details about the program will be available soon.

Speaker Series: The Iowa Constitution: An Enduring Testament to Equality

Our speaker series recently hosted Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady (pictured left), University of Iowa College of Law Professor Todd Pettys (pictured right) and journalist, businessman and attorney Michael Gartner (pictured center). They discussed the origins and legacy of the Iowa Constitution.

Highlighted were several decisions that put Iowa ahead of its time when compared to other states. They spoke on the 1868 Clark v. Board of Directors case, which desegregated Iowa schools before any other state did so and 86 years before the U.S. Supreme Court followed suit. They also described an 1869 decision that allowed Arabella Mansfield to become the first woman lawyer in the nation here in Iowa. These decisions, as well as more recent ones, such as Varnum v. Brien, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2009, were also examined.

Speaker Series: Janet Schlapkohl

Our Speaker Series welcomes Janet Schlapkohl in her one-woman play, "Chore Boots," on Tuesday, October 23. The autobiographical piece examines growing up in the rural Midwest in the 1960s and 1970s and covers key moments of the period including the Vietnam War, the women's rights movement, and later the farm crisis of the 1980s. Come meet Ms. Schlapkohl at the reception from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Hubbell Hall, and stay for her performance at 7 p.m. in the Black Box Theater, both in Kent Campus Center.

Iowa Teacher of the Year Award

Living History Farms (LHF) in Urbandale is a favorite destination for Iowa history field trips, and over the last decade, we have been happy to send thousands of schoolchildren there through our field trip grant program. Last year, we partnered with LHF to help fund its Teacher of the Year Award.

The annual award is given to an Iowa teacher who "brings history to life" and incorprates an LHF tour into their curriculum. This year's recipient was Darice Pamperin, a third grade teacher at St. Francis of Assisi in West Des Moines. Pamperin explained the power of museums and LHF in particular: "The living museum...brings what we read and discuss in the classroom so they [students] are able to experience it in a unique way." For more on the award, see https://lhf.org/educators/teacher-of-the-year/.

Meet Our New Iowa History Center Distinguished Scholars

Kyra Pastor was born in Galesburg, Illinois, before moving to Norwalk, Iowa. She is double majoring in exercise science and psychology to pursue her dream of being a sports psychologist. "I was interested in history because I love learning about cultures and events that mold people and the future."

Simon Van Den Abbeele is from Westminster, Colorado, and plans to study history and political science. Once he has finished his education here, he may go on to teach history. "As someone who loves history, I see no better place to study it than in the heartland of the United States." 

Hannah Spencer recently moved to Indianola from Denver, Colorado. She intends on majoring in forensic science and pre-med. "Being an out-of-state student, I know little about Iowa history. However, it is important to know the history of your environment and how the past developments, conflicts, and interactions all led us to the present day. I am excited to learn more about Iowa history."

Laura Nielsen is from Arnolds Park, Iowa. She graduated from Okoboji High School and is majoring in Spanish, with plans to add a second major in the future. "I believe the understanding of local history is important, and I am honored and excited to work with the Iowa History Center at Simpson."

Abby Loecke is from Manchester, Iowa. She plans to major in history and possibly secondary education. "Despite having an interest in history from the fourth grade and living in Iowa my whole life, I do not know much about Iowa history. I would like to learn more about my home so I can share it with others."

Sienna Hancock is from Troy Mills, Iowa. She is currently planning on studying biology here at Simpson College. "Because of my Grandpa Hancock, I have always had a passion for history. He always had history books that told stories of our ancestors coming from Ireland and making a life here in the United States."

Iowa History Center Scholars Twitter Project

Our Scholars have begun tweeting about Iowa history, either identifying a fun fact of our state's past or describing interesting and little known events from Iowa history. Follow us on Twitter @IaHistoryCenter.

New Iowa History Center Undergraduate Assistant

Levi Lefebure is the Iowa History Center's new Undergraduate Assistant and is triple majoring in history, mathematics and political science. He is from Fairfax, Iowa. He is also involved on campus with cross-country, track, the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, as a co-chair of the voter engagement committee within the John Culver Public Policy Center, as a Campus Election Engagement Project fellow, and as a Simpson Colloquium class leader.

“I have always been fascinated with history. I grew up on a family farm and am especially interested in agricultural history. I'm looking forward to my work with the Iowa History Center and hope to learn more about the state's rural past."

Simpson College History Department

This past May Term 2018, Professors Becca Livingstone and Judy Walden took students to England, Belgium, and France in a course called, "Exploring the Trenches of World War I." The class focused on public history and compared how each nation shaped its past with its portrayals of the war experience in public memorials and museum exhibits.