In 2015, it will be 50 years since I graduated from Iowa State with a degree in mathematics.
People often ask why I’m still so excited about our university. After moving east for graduate work, raising a family, and building a career, there was little time to come back to campus for nearly 40 years. Perhaps that helps make it easier to see what a happening place Iowa State is today. Our campus is even more beautiful than ever; the carillon still plays as students walk to class; new facilities are visible on every visit. Enrollment this fall grew to nearly 35,000 students, but the friendly, nurturing, student-centered atmosphere remains.
In part, my enthusiasm for this great place is rooted in gratitude for the many opportunities I had here during my undergraduate years. The strong academic program in the liberal arts and sciences prepared me for two graduate degrees and a career in mathematics publishing. The many extracurricular activities provided opportunities to develop the leadership skills needed to found my own company, Janson Publications, which publishes research-based mathematics textbooks for secondary schools. After being selected by Iowa State for a new, undergraduate, independent study program, I spent a summer in England doing research. The experience whetted an appetite for foreign travel that continues to this day.
There is, however, more to this story. The biggest surprise came when, after retiring from business, I returned for a campus visit. As I looked for ways to give back to the University, many new opportunities opened up for me personally, resulting in a “second act” to my life at Iowa State. At the time, I chose to establish the Janson Professorship within the Mathematics Department, but soon found that LAS was also interested in having input from alumni. Before long I was working on Advisory Councils for the Mathematics Department and the Dean of the College of LAS, joining other alumni who also feel a sense of gratitude and are dedicated to continuing the great traditions we share. This led to work with the ISU Foundation, where I now serve on the Board of Directors and chair the Investment Committee for the University’s Endowment. Each of these activities involves learning about initiatives in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, for the University as a whole, and for the ISU Foundation.
It is a pleasure to see the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences growing larger and stronger, to learn about new programs from faculty and students while on campus, and to interact with others on the Advisory Councils. There is so much passion for the University evident in the interesting presentations and lively discussions among the very talented people who serve on these committees. They are working to preserve the traditions we enjoyed and the excellence of the education received by Iowa State graduates. I encourage you to join us in Ames. You surely will find time spent at Iowa State today every bit as interesting and rewarding as it was when you were a student on campus.
– Barbara Janson (mathematics, ‘65), retired president and founder of Janson Publications and LAS Dean’s Advisory Council member.