Iowa farmer Leonard Dolezal donates $2 million for Curtiss Hall auditorium


The lecture auditorium in room 127 of Curtiss Hall is set to be named the Leonard and Evelyn Dolezal Auditorium, after a $2 million donation to the College of Agriculture.

Makayla Tendall

An Iowa farmer has donated $2 million for the renovation of the auditorium in Curtiss Hall.

Leonard Dolezal, 91, is a farmer from Linn County and a longtime donor to the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The auditorium will be renamed the Leonard and Evelyn Dolezal auditorium.

“Because of the generosity of the gift, we are planning to name the auditorium after Leonard and his wife, Evelyn,” said Brian Meyer, director of relations for the College of Agriculture.

The new name itself might be more convenient for students, Meyer said.

“Right now, [the auditorium] really doesn’t have a name,” Meyer said. “People know it as the Curtiss auditorium. For those looking for room numbers, it’s been room 127.”

Meyer also noted that the renovations for the auditorium are already completed for the fall semester.

Dolezal who has farmland across eastern Iowa.

Neil Harl, a close friend of Dolezal and professor emeritus of economics and agricultural law, said Dolezal had been planning to donate a portion of his farmland to charity in honor of his wife, who had passed away.

“The question was, ‘Does Iowa State fit into this?’” Harl said. “[Dolezal] said, ‘You know I really miss my wife.’ … It’s pretty clear that he had been searching for some way to honor her.”

Harl said Dolezal donated toward the renovation because he thought the utmost importance of farmland and agricultural education.

“That’s where his great wealth is from,” Harl said. “He has an eighth grade education, and yet he has a high respect for higher education.”

The friendship between Dolezal and Harl began through Dolezal’s son Kenneth.

“I had this student who had a lot of questions, and I wondered how he came up with all these questions,” Harl said. “I asked him, and he said some of these came from my dad who farms in Linn County.”

Not too long after that conversation, Leonard Dolezal contacted Harl with questions pertaining to agriculture law. The two became close friends following their discussions.

Dolezal also used Harl to mediate various other donations to the College of Agriculture. He has also donated 80 acres of farmland to Iowa State, which now funds the agriculture programs, and an endowed professorship for a professor of agricultural law is also funded by Dolezal.

Harl, after whom the new Harl Commons in Curtiss Hall is named, said another selling point for Dolezal’s donation was that the auditorium was directly above Harl Commons.

“The fact that Leonard and Evelyn are going to be one floor up mattered to Leonard,” Harl said.