Iowa State University Alumni Association

Stories Archive


When the ISU Alumni Association presents its highest awards April 7 at the Distinguished Awards Celebration, an international pioneer of maternal and infant nutrition will be part of the festivities: Susan E. Carlson (A)(PhD ’75 food and nutrition), currently the AJ Rice Professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Kansas Medical Center, is internationally celebrated for her research in the 1980s that resulted in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approving the use of DHA and arachidonic acid in infant formula. Today, 90 percent of products on the market contain these nutritional enhancements, which have been shown to have a positive impact on brain and eye development.

“It is always wonderful when you are appreciated,” Carlson said about being recognized with the ISU Distinguished Alumni Award, “but it is especially validating to receive recognition for a body of work that you have pursued with passion for many years from an institution that gave you your start. I love the feeling of ‘coming full circle.’”


Most people don’t have the good fortune of living to age 100. Even fewer hit that milestone with a healthy, energetic body and a sharp, inquisitive mind. Nels Gerrard Glesne ('40 forestry) has all that, plus a sense of adventure that rivals most people a third his age. Glesne celebrated the century mark in 2016 with a capital C. He went kitesurfing, paragliding, and ziplining in Hawaii, the state in which he now resides. The former World War II bomber pilot was also honored at a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field in September – he thinks he gave them good luck at the World Series – and played tennis with one of the top-ranking tennis players in the world, John Isner, who also happens to be 6’10” tall.

Glesne’s adventures were captured by the Tennis Channel; PR Web; IKSURF, the international kitesurfing magazine; Maui Now; Tennis World magazine; Surfer Today, and other media outlets. This photo, shared on GoPro camera’s Instagram account, was taken during his ziplining experience at Skyline Eco-Adventures’ Haleakala location. Glesne completed all five lines of the zipline course. “My favorite part of the zipline is jumping off and accelerating,” he told PR Web. Somehow, we do not find that surprising. Happy birthday, Mr. Glesne!


Lee Ann McCue (’86 microbiology and biophysics), a computational biology scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., hates photos and videos of herself. But when she was approached about being part of a Women’s History Month campaign called #SitWithMe to encourage women to enter STEM fields, she didn’t hesitate to participate. McCue has never been one to listen to noise suggesting that women should shy away from science. “I chose the people I listened to,” she says. “There were critical individuals, but I just walked away.”

McCue loved science and mathematics way too much to listen to those critics. “I was interested in too many things. At Iowa State I took biology, I took differential equations, I took physics – I took everything,” she says. “Finally I just had to stop. But when I did a post doc as a statistician I saw the relationships between computing and math and biology – that’s when sequencing really took off. So that was a good marriage of all my interests. And now [after 11 ½ years in her current position] I’ve learned to communicate in a variety of different science languages.”

And she loves them all. Her first love, biology, had a healthy mix of men and women – but she says statistics proved different, with women in a significant minority. For McCue, encouraging women to enter STEM – whether it’s biology, statistics, anything, or everything in between – may boil down to simply helping the world see women scientists. That’s where the #SitWithMe campaign comes in. “They did all these video interviews separately, and none of us knew what the others said,” she says. “Yet well all had the same message: Don’t listen to the critics.”

“I just thought it was important for people to see that there are women scientists.”


Reagan Hoefler (S), an ISU junior in dietetics, is currently working with $7,000 in research and scholarship funding from the Iowa Space Grant Consortium to figure out just how to make the movie “The Martian” into reality and plant a garden on Mars. Her main emphasis is on testing the effects of radiation on maize, using a linear accelerator at Ames’ Mary Greeley Medical Center.

The work is relevant not just around future designs on colonizing Mars, Hoefler says: “Our own ozone is depleting, so Earth may one day become more Martian-like,” she explained. “We’ll all have to eat, so we’re seeing if this plant growth under these conditions is possible.”


Trent Preszler (L)(’98 interdisciplinary studies) has experienced success as CEO of Bedell Cellars on Long Island, but making great wine isn’t the only way he displays a passion for craftsmanship. Inspired and motivated by the grief he experienced following the death of his father, he opened Preszler Woodshop with the purpose of building canoes. He didn’t know the first thing about boatbuilding when he started, Preszler admits, but the slow process of becoming a boatbuilder was educational, therapeutic, and, in the end, cathartic. Newsday recently created a beautiful video about Preszler’s dual career as a winemaker and boatbuilder. Watch it here.


Iowa State University has a strong tradition of launching pioneering female students – from Carrie Chapman Catt’s (class of 1880) founding of the League of Women Voters to Jane Armstrong-Byrne ’57 becoming one of the first female vice presidents of a Fortune 500 Company to women like Mumbi Mwangi (PhD ’02 education) and Ellyn Bartges (L)(’85 history), colleagues at St. Cloud State University who took a bus to march on Washington in January to exercise their rights and their belief in the power of women. March is Women’s History Month, so we’re following Mumbi’s and Ellyn’s lead and celebrating women’s history in Cardinal & Gold. Here is some of the latest news about Cyclone women who are shattering the glass ceiling:

  • Nawal El Moutawakel (’88 phys ed), who in 1988 was the first Arab woman, first African woman, and first Muslim woman to win Olympic gold, broke even more new Olympic ground last summer when she became the first woman ever to chair the Olympics Coordination Commission. She was recently honored for her work as the 2016 coordination commission chair, which featured the Games’ first-ever refugee Olympic team.
  • The state of Iowa long held the dubious distinction of having no women in Congress or the governor’s mansion. Shattering that glass ceiling in the Senate in 2014 was one Iowa State alum, Joni Ernst (L)(’92 psychology), and soon to become the first female governor of Iowa is Kim Reynolds, who in December completed her ISU degree in liberal studies. Reynolds has been serving as lieutenant governor to Terry Branstad but will replace him in the post when he becomes U.S. Ambassador to China later this year.


When Christina Moffatt (’02 liberal studies) left a stable job with RDG Planning & Design to start the now-thriving Des Moines bakery and dessert lounge Crème Cupcake + Dessert in 2010, she leaned on the Iowa Small Business Development Center. Three weeks after starting work to open a storefront on Ingersoll Ave., she learned she was three months pregnant. Shortly thereafter, her mother suffered a massive stroke. It was mostly “because of good guidance and mentors,” Moffatt recently told Clay &, “that Crème survived.”

Today, the 2015 Iowa Woman Business Owner of the Year and Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” alum is paying her success forward in a new role: director of small business resources for The Greater Des Moines Partnership. In her new position, Moffatt will help other entrepreneurs navigate the “are we going to make it” phase but will also serve as a resource for existing businesses. Her new role will place special emphasis on promoting and growing businesses owned by minorities, women, and veterans.

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