Iowa State celebrates inaugural George Washington Carver Day


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Dewayne Goldmon, USDA senior adviser for racial justice and equity, gives keynote speech at reception held to honor George Washington Carver.

With the start of Black History Month, the first George Washington Carver Day was celebrated for students and community members to learn and honor a prominent member of the Black community.

The celebration commenced in the Memorial Union with a large attendance of students, faculty, staff and community members eager to learn the history of Carver.

“To have an opportunity to bring people together of all races and backgrounds was extremely beneficial,” said CJ Carter, a graduate student. “Carver did a lot for Iowa State.”

The program included food, student readings and speakers, including President Wendy Wintersteen, Dewayne Goldmon, USDA senior adviser for racial justice and equity, and Kenneth Quinn, an ambassador and president emeritus of the World Food Prize Foundation.

“In the 176-year history from [Iowa becoming a state] until yesterday, there were only ever two days of recognition ever enacted to honor an individual,” Quinn said. “Now there are three because tonight on this day and forever, George Washington Carver will have his rightful place in the pantheon of Iowa’s greatest agricultural and humanitarian heroes.”

Born into slavery, Carver traveled to find a school that would allow a Black man to learn, which led him to Iowa State. Carver became the first Black student at Iowa State, and he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Iowa State. Eventually, Carver taught as a professor before continuing his journey to Tuskegee University.

“The real story is what you do with your education… we witnessed the beginning of greatness,” Wintersteen said. “That’s why we remember George Washington Carver’s legacy here at Iowa State in programs that live on today.”

Wendy Wintersteen said the George Washington Carver Scholars Program and the Carver Academy are programs in Carver’s honor that seek to uplift multicultural students and encourage as many college opportunities as possible.

“This event highlighted an important person in history and an important person in agriculture,” said Iliyana Sedyankova, a sophomore majoring in animal science. “Everyone needs to be inspired, especially multicultural people.”

The event encouraged students of color in attendance and gave attendees the chance to listen to notable speakers talk about Carver, said Gracelynn Maguire, a senior majoring in animal science.

“Carver had a big life,” Maguire said. “I found it interesting that he was so interested in the peanut and that was the main thing people knew about him.”

Goldman discussed Carver’s journey and experiences. Goldman said Carver was a dedicated man that only used what he could find to accomplish greatness. He also said Carver would often fall asleep at his lab and wake up to continue his work.

“I found out that George Washington Carver spent the majority of his life living in Dorothy Hall on Tuskegee campus,” Goldman said.

Goldman said Carver’s race forced him to socially distance himself before COVID-19 existed. Carver was separated from others until they learned of his brightness. Goldman said he wanted to help more people and his people.

“He didn’t have access to all the resources that he would need. He made field trips across vacant areas of Macon County in Alabama,” Goldman said. “He had a creative and genius way of doing things that had been discarded… He was a genius.”