The Way It Was

The University of Iowa, 1964-1989

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298 pages, 20 photos

“D. C. Spriestersbach was the chief architect in remodeling the University of Iowa into a modern research university. This is his fascinating, personal, insider's account of that remarkable change. It is also a contribution to the history of American higher education in the last third of the twentieth century.”—Gerhard Loewenberg, professor, political science, the University of Iowa

“University histories are usually written by outsiders, scholars who labor in archives and view the action from a distance. Spriestersbach is an insider intimately involved in the events he describes. his account deals with a decisive moment in the history of the university, when it joined the elite group of research institutions; he offers a unique combination of institutional history and personal reminiscence.”—Stow Persons, Carver Professor of History Emeritus, the University of Iowa

The Way It Was is a wonderfully personal history of two overlapping eras that altered the University of Iowa in fundamental ways. One was the era of growth of big science and the university's increasing dependence on government to support that enterprise. The other was the era of the politicization of the campus as students became deeply involved in the civil rights, Vietnam, and feminist struggles. Duane Spriestersbach, who was smack in the middle of these developments, lets us see them through his observant and, thankfully, not altogether objective eyes.”—Samuel L. Becker, professor emeritus, communication studies, the University of Iowa

The fall of 1964 was an exciting time at the University of Iowa. Its fourteenth president, Howard Bowen, had just arrived, and on a sunny October afternoon he made his first speech to the faculty. This occasion was note worthy enough—former president Virgil Hancher had held the job for twenty-four years—to attract the attention of a professor of speech pathology who had previously confined his considerable energies to teaching and research. Bowen's vision of what the university could become was so intriguing, so compelling, that this professor wrote and offered to help him achieve his objectives in any way possible. This quixotic offer changed Duane Spriestersbach's life and becomes the starting point for his story of his years as a University of Iowa administrator.

Drawing upon his personal files, the university archives, and interviews with many faculty members and administrators, Spriestersbach has created both an institutional and a personal history of the university. Judged by any standard, these years were tumultuous ones for higher education. Economic pressures from the state legislature, issues surrounding grants from such agencies as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, the civil rights movement, student and faculty protests during the Vietnam era, massive changes in the physical and administrative shape of the campus, and the computerization of all parts of campus life had far-reaching consequences. Spriestersbach was at the center of these events at the University of Iowa; his perspective is unique, refreshing, and educational.

Spriestersbach's account of the Vietnam years and of the evolution of computers at Iowa will be particularly interesting to readers. He reported to four presidents, served as acting president, managed hundreds of meetings both dramatic and mundane, and reacted to many administrative restructurings. In this story of his life at the University of Iowa, he reveals the truth behind these words from his 1964 letter to President Bowen: “I think I am an idealist, a person with imagination, and a guy in a hurry. I believe investigation will show that I am a person with competitive administrative and executive abilities.”