125-year-old cemetery provides burial to more than 700 faculty


Blake Lanser/Iowa State Daily

John Gray Grant, who passed away in 1983, is one of the more than 700 honored ISU faculty members buried at the university cemetery in the northwest corner campus. Grant had 18 great-grandchildren, three of which are currently enrolled at ISU; Natalie Malliet, senior in elementary education, Alex Malliet, senior in finance and Laurent Grant, senior in culinary science-agriculture. 

Berenice Liborio

John Gray Grant was reading his academic journal in Canada when he saw an advertisement for a job opening at Iowa State.

Grant spent 40 years as a pediatrician at the Iowa State College hospital, from 1931 to the early 1970s.

Grant, who passed away in 1983, is one of the more than 700 honored ISU faculty members buried at the university cemetery on the northwest corner of the campus.

Iowa State has maintained the university’s cemetery since 1876. The 125-year-old cemetery is for tenure faculty members who have served for more than 20 years, a non-academic rank with professional and scientific classification and tenured assistant professors, along with their spouse and any unmarried children.

Catherine Malliet, an ISU alumna, is Grant’s granddaughter.

“I think him being buried at the cemetery represents his dedication to the university among other great names from ISU,” Malliet said.

Grant received his undergrad from the University of Manitoba, Canada. He went to medical school at the University of Rochester in New York and returned back to Canada for about four years.

He applied for an open position in Ames because of the Great Depression in Canada. The country was one of the worst effected financially and economically the country began to collapse, according to YesNet web page.

This is where his family’s ISU legacy started.

Grant had three children and each of those children had three of their own. Of those nine grandchildren, two graduated from Iowa State. Malliet was one of the two who graduated in ’78 and ’81 with interior design and home economics education degrees. Her cousin, Grant Johnson, graduated in ’86 with a degree in electrical engineering.

Both Malliet and Johnson married ISU graduates. Malliet’s husband, Dan Malliet, is currently teaching marketing and organizational behavior at Iowa State.

But the connections don’t stop there.

“Now it gets interesting,” Malliet said.

Catherine Malliet’s mother, Carol Grant, is on the board of governors at Iowa State and is the president of the Curators Association of the university’s museums. They will be celebrating their 40th anniversary.

“[We have] lots of ties to the university,” Malliet said.

Sarah Grant, Malliet’s sister, is not an ISU graduate, but her art is represented throughout campus. Her art can be seen at Season’s, Thielen Student Health Center and the Veterinary Medicine daycare center. She owns her own company called “Sticks” in downtown Des Moines.

“Although she didn’t graduate from here, she’s well represented,” Malliet said.

Grant had 18 great-grandchildren. Three of those great-grandchildren graduated from Iowa State and another three are current students.

This is a family that has been connected to the university for centuries.

One of Grant’s children and Malliet’s aunt, Sheila Moe, is also an ISU alumna and appreciates her father’s connection to the university.

Moe said one of the reasons her father liked working as a doctor at the Iowa State Hospital was because he liked working with students and he could be with his family.

With all the connections the family has with Iowa State, Moe said she finds it appropriate that her father was buried at the ISU cemetery.

“He loved being there at ISU,” Moe said. “It was appropriate because he lived in Ames for a long time.”

Christopher Strawhacker, who graduated from Iowa State in 1995 in landscape architecture, has been a cemetery coordinator for five years.

“I think it’s a unique responsibility and it’s certainly a rewarding interaction when we do met with the families,” Strawhacker said. “It’s a difficult time for them but they’re always very appreciate of the service we provide and the help we can give them so it’s certainly an interesting activity to be involved with.”

Strawhacker said there are numerous stories as to why the cemetery got started. One story he told was about a flood alongside Squaw Creek. The city cemetery sits along the east side of town, but experienced damage, and there was no place to bury the deceased. So the city decided the university could be an alternative and the idea initiated from there.

The ISU cemetery tries to keep its prices competitive with the local cemeteries around Ames.

“We don’t reach out to anyone [to choose the ISU cemetery]. But it seems to be pretty well known. Folks know the cemetery is there,” Strawhacker said. “I think if you’ve been around the university for 20 years, you probably know about it just from being associated with the university.”

Natalie Malliet, Alex Malliet and Lauren Grant are the three remaining great-great grandchildren at Iowa State. Natalie is a senior in elementary education, Alex is a senior in finance and Lauren is a senior in culinary science.

Natalie said she knew Iowa State had a cemetery because she grew up in Ames and her family would drive past it when she was younger. She knew her great-great grandparents were buried there.

“I always thought it was really neat that all my relatives from many years back have gone to Iowa State,” she said.

“Especially knowing that they came to Iowa because they wanted to work at Iowa State. It was definitely one of the reasons that I wanted to be at Iowa State, so it’s really nice to know I’m carrying on the legacy.”

Lauren’s dad used to take her out to the cemetery when she was younger, she said. She doesn’t know where exactly her great-great grandfather is buried, but she knew he was at the ISU cemetery. She said she believes it’s unique that her great-great grandfather is buried there.

“I think it’s really cool. I think it’s something a lot of people can’t say and especially being a student here now, it reminds me that there’s roots here and that it’s just a lot of fun. It’s cool,” Grant said.

Catherine Malliet said it’s an honor that her grandfather is buried at the ISU cemetery along other noteworthy deceased, such as university presidents Adonijah S. Welch and William M. Beardshear, Margaret Sloss, the first woman to receive a doctorate of veterinary medicine from Iowa State, and Edgar W. Stanton, the donor of the carillon in memory of his wife, Margaret.

“I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s an honor because of the years he dedicated to Iowa State. It shows his life-long dedication to the university,” Malliet said. “He spent almost all of his entire career at Iowa State.”