Iowa State Foundation hosts distinguished awards celebration

Despite the first two generations of the Gerdin family never having attended Iowa State, the family has been dedicated to serving the Cyclone community. President Wintersteen said this highlighted the family’s philanthropic passions.

By Ashlyn Ware

Despite the first two generations of the Gerdin family never having attended Iowa State, the family has been dedicated to serving the Cyclone community. President Wintersteen said this highlighted the family’s philanthropic passions.

Ashlyn Ware

The Iowa State University Foundation recognized the accomplishments and dedications of alumni and friends Friday.

The Distinguished Awards Celebration gives awards such as the Order of the Knoll, Honorary Alumni and Distinguished Alumni.

As President Wintersteen said in her opening remarks, these awards are a “wonderful celebration of the incredible impacts of alumni, friends and family.”

The Sun Room, tucked away in the back of the Memorial Union, gave the event a sense of posh privacy. The printed programs, the yellow and red rose bouquet on the stage and the clear plaques on the table added to the high-class feel.

But this was not an exclusionary event, nor are the awards. The Foundation’s five Order of the Knoll awards celebrate members who are giving back to the Iowa State community.

The first was the Order of the Knoll Corporation and Foundation Award, which recognizes a generous corporation, foundation or association that partners with the university for recruitment opportunities and research programs. This award was given to Kingland Systems, a software company that’s dedicated to their partnership with the university.

David Kingland, the founder, said the partnership has helped Kingland grow, and he’s happy to give back scholarships, professorships and facilities. According to David Kingland, the company has worked with over 2,000 undergraduate students in the last 10 years.

The Order of the Knoll Faculty and Staff Award went to Olivia M. A. Madison and the late Gregory S. Palermo, the creators of the Madison Palermo Library Scholarship.

The Faculty and Staff Award goes to current or retired faculty or staff that promote philanthropy at Iowa State through personal efforts. In her humble thank you speech, Madison said she was confused when she got a letter from the President’s office.

Maybe there’s a “new novel way of contributing to the university,” Madison said, joking about donating more money. 

Scott and Nancy Armbrust, winners of the Order of the Knoll Cardinal and Gold Award, said, “more than anything, we’re proud to be Cyclones.” 

The Cardinal and Gold Award recognizes service and creative leadership through philanthropy. 

Nancy Armbrust said about their service to the university, “a financial donation is relatively easy… we use our hearts and our minds.”

Jack and the late Carol Johnson were awarded the Order of the Knoll Campanile Award, which recognizes long-term support and inspiring impact on the university. Jack Johnson reminisced about how he met Carol in a “dif. e q” math class.

The Order of the Knoll True and Valiant Award, which recognizes lasting commitment to the university, went to the Gerdin family.

According to President Wintersteen, the Gerdin building is the most noticeable, but the family has also made an impact inside those walls.

“We feel the need to give back to Iowa,” Mike Gerdin said. “Iowa’s given so much to my parents.”

The Honorary Alumni Award is given to an individual who didn’t graduate from Iowa State, but nevertheless has dedicated themselves to the Iowa State community.

The Honorary Alumni Award went to Pamela S. Pithan. Pithan has served on multiple college committees and is a supporter of the ISU Alumni Association. 

“My intentions were always to be a Cyclone, but life got in the way,” Pithan said. “Now I finally get to be an ISU alum.”

The final award, the Distinguished Alumni Award, is the highest honor given to alumni as it recognizes an alum’s contributions to their profession or life’s work. Three alumni were recognized: Mark G. Erlander, Dr. Robert E. Walton, Sr. and Elizabeth A. Yetley.

Before becoming CEO at Cardiff Oncology, Erlander was the chief scientific officer at Biotheranostics where he developed the Breast Cancer Index test.

“ISU was my proving ground,” Erlander said.

According to Erlander, the education he received from Iowa State was challenging in a way that raised his confidence in his knowledge and abilities. 

Dr. Robert Walton, Sr. is the retired CEO and chairman emeritus of the American Breeder Service. Dr. Walton made significant contributions to the field of animal breeding and genetics. Dr. Walton’s mathematical formula for assessing cattle genetics was adopted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Elizabeth A. Yetley worked with the Food and Drug Administration for 24 years as a nutrition scientist and then became the lead scientist for nutrition. Most notably, Yetley and her team developed the nutrition label that consumers see on all food products today.

“My Iowa State degree was always my competitive edge,” Yetley said.

While the Distinguished Awards Celebration recognized the unique accomplishments of these alumni and friends, many of the awardees humbly dedicated their success to the university through nostalgic memories and honest appreciation.

For more information about the awardees, visit the Iowa State Foundation website.