Iowa State University Alumni Association

Lancelot and Elaine


Lancelot and Elaine

It was the climax of VEISHEA, 1935. A large float, shaped like a swan and carrying flower-bedecked and white-robed Iowa State maidens, emerged from a smoke screen and glided its way to the middle of Lake LaVerne. And then the plaster swan unloosed its feathered passengers: four swans.

Two of the swans were named Lancelot and Elaine by student Jean Nesinwanger, who won $10.00.  Since that time, there have been numerous Lancelots and Elaines (including a pair of trumpeter swans reintroduced to their original Iowa habitat) and in 1944, 1970, and 1971 cygnets (baby swans) were born.  Swans take a mate for life unless one of the pair dies or is moved away.

Lake LaVerne, the home of Lancelot and Elaine, was created with a $10,000 donation in 1916 by LaVerne W. Noyes.  Noyes, a wealthy Chicago philanthropist and member of the first graduating class of 1872, funded a lake in what had been a three-acre marsh area, fed by College Creek.  Another Iowa State tradition: If you walk around the Lake LaVerne three times with your beloved, you are destined to be together.

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