Founding dean’s legacy lives on through Ivy College of Business

ca. 1981. From left to right: Martin Zober, Gary Aitchison, Chuck Millar (former chair of management), Charles Handy (founding dean), Ken Elvik (former chair of accounting), Lee Hoover (former chair of finance) and Linda (Tausz) Ferguson (administrative assistant).

Kirstie Martin

Before 1978, having a College of Business on campus was a dream for students and faculty at Iowa State. But thanks to Charles “Chuck” Handy and his colleagues, this dream became a reality.

Before what is today known as the Ivy College of Business, the college was known as the Department of Industrial Administration. A few staff who were involved with the Department of Industrial Administration attempted to turn it into a College of Business, but the effort was unsuccessful until Chuck Handy came along.

Chuck Handy was named the department chair of Industrial Administration in 1978 and took a different approach to getting the department to be named a College of Business. The Board of Regents had concerns about more than one university in Iowa having a college of business, as the University of Iowa was seen as the “business school” at this time.

He managed to get the department named “School of Business” by 1980 and then officially named a College of Business on July 1, 1984.

“Chuck had a way about him,” said Raisbeck Endowed Dean David Spalding.“He had a little smoother way of handling things and a very good people touch. That approach made all the difference.”

Before coming to Iowa State in 1958 as an accounting instructor in the department of industrial administration, Chuck Handy graduated from Independence High School in Independence, Iowa and served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in economics from Westminster College in Missouri and his master’s degree in accounting from the University of Iowa. Chuck Handy earned his doctorate in economics while teaching accounting at Iowa State.

Chuck Handy died on January 4, 2016, and the day of the funeral brought bad weather. Many faculty and alumni were coming to Independence from Ames but couldn’t make it because of the weather, so the Ivy College of Business held a memorial service for him at Iowa State in April 2016.

“We really wanted to make a point of honoring Chuck Handy the way we should have,” Spalding said. “So we had a great event here that April.”

Chuck Handy’s legacy lives on to this day. There are scholarships awarded to students at Iowa State and graduates from Independence High School in his honor. His legacy also lives on through his children, grandchildren and wife, Mary Catherine “Mary Kay” Handy.

After the passing of their own significant others in their earlier years, Chuck and Mary Kay Handy reconnected.

“We had dated years ago, then went different directions,” Mary Kay Handy said. “After 50 years, he called me when he was back for a class reunion and asked me to join him at dinner with some friends. He had such a good time he stayed for several days, and that is what began the ‘courting’ as he called it.”

Mary Kay Handy is a graduate from the University of Iowa but said nothing compares to the atmosphere of Iowa State.

“The warmth and welcome I always felt at Iowa State was amazing,” Mary Kay Handy said. “Of course I was there with a VIP, though. It was kind of thrilling when we would go back to Iowa State. Everyone would say, ‘Hi, Dean Handy.’”

Chuck Handy’s legacy can also be seen on campus in Room 1360 in the Gerdin Business Building. This office is home of the college’s graduate programs and is called the “Dr. Charles B. Handy Graduate Programs Office.” One of the reasons Chuck is so connected to the MBA program is because of Iowa State alumnus, Bill Kalm.

Kalm is a member of Spalding’s Advisory council.

“Bill funded some of the aspects of this internal case competition and named it after Chuck,” Spalding said. “Because of the critical role that he played in Bill’s time here as an undergraduate, he gives a lot of credit for what he was able to accomplish in his life to Chuck.”

Spalding said Kalm’s story is not an unusual one.

“There are a number of people that have talked to me about the impact [Chuck] had on their lives,” Spalding said. “Thinking about that impact that faculty can have on students has really helped me as I’ve thought about some of the things we have emphasized here as my time as dean.”

This impact has encouraged Spalding to keep an “open-door policy,” especially regarding students, Spalding said.

Mary Kay Handy has an immense amount of stories about students that Chuck Handy impacted.

“I have met some young men who had some problems during their time in school,” Mary Kay Handy said. “Chuck helped them out. He gave people chances to get into the masters program that normally would not get the chance, and they surprised everybody by becoming very successful.”

Chuck Handy and Spalding met in December 2013 after Spalding came to Iowa State for the internal case competition in the College of Business. For the following two or three years, Spalding would go up to Independence to have lunch with Chuck and Mary Kay Handy.

“It was a great connection for me to be able to make,” Spalding said. “Chuck was so critical to the success of this college. Having the chance to meet with him and be able to spend time with him was important and very fulfilling for me.”

Spalding said Chuck Handy reminded him again about the fundamental importance of students to the College of Business.

“Each individual student has individual needs,” Spalding said. “And we need to be helping them as broadly as we can. Through not just what we teach them in the classroom, but also support that we are providing them through career services, and the advising work that we are doing in the undergraduate advising area.”

Chuck Handy spent five years as the Dean of the College of Business and became known as the “Founding Dean.” He wrote regular columns in the Prospectus magazine, which is the magazine in the College of Business. On the last page of each issue, there was an article titled “From the Desk of Founding Dean Charles Handy.”

In the last column published before his death, Chuck Handy wrote, “One of the great joys of my life has been my association with Iowa State University academic business program. I joined it during its infancy and, along with other dedicated personnel, helped to establish a solid program base. Its growth has been one to look to with pride. I see a great future for business education at Iowa State.”

Mary Kay Handy said Chuck Handy was very humble and didn’t like to take full credit for all the work he did.

“Anytime someone said, ‘Well you were the Founding Dean,’ he would just say he was at the right place at the right time,” Mary Kay Handy said. “He really did love Iowa State. I’m grateful that I got to spend the time with him that I did.”