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Sande McNabb, Emeritus University Professor of Plant Pathology and Forestry, (515) 294-3120
Steve Sullivan, News Service, (515) 294-3720


AMES, Iowa -- George Washington Carver, the son of slaves who became one of the world's most revered scientists, will receive the Iowa Award at a ceremony at Iowa State University on Wednesday, Feb. 13.

The Iowa Award is the state's highest citizen award. Carver was Iowa State's first African American student and faculty member.

The ceremony, part of a series of campus events, will be at 11 a.m. in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack will present the Iowa Award medal to Ronke Lattemore Tapp, an ISU Carver Scholar who earned a Ph.D. from Iowa State in December. Tapp will then present the medal to William Jackson, superintendent of the Carver National Monument in Diamond, Mo. The medal will be on display at the monument. The ceremony and other events are open to the public.

Speaking at the ceremony will be Vilsack; Gregory Geoffroy, president of Iowa State; Jerry Schwertfeger, mayor of Winterset; Kevin LaGree, president of Simpson College; and Dondra Bailey, a graduate of Tuskegee University and a graduate student at Iowa State. The Simpson College Madrigal Singers will perform at the ceremony. A reception will follow in the South Ballroom, where several exhibits about Carver will be on display.

Iowa State graduate Paxton Williams will perform his one-person play, "Listening to the Still Small Voice: The Story of George Washington Carver," at 2 p.m. in the Sun Room. A panel discussion about Carver's legacy will follow at 3:20 p.m.

Carver was born in about 1864 (the exact year is unknown) in Diamond Grove, Mo. Sickly as a child, Carver spent much of his childhood studying plants, though he also developed skills in the arts. Carver came to Winterset in 1888. In 1890, he enrolled at Simpson College in Indianola to study piano and painting. Art instructor Etta Budd, whose father Joseph Budd was head of the Iowa State College Department of Horticulture, recognized Carver's horticultural talents. She convinced him to pursue a career in scientific agriculture and, in 1891, he became the first African American to enroll at Iowa State.

At Iowa State, Carver was a leader in the YMCA and the debate club. He was a trainer for the athletic teams. He was captain, the highest student rank, of the campus military regiment. His poetry was published in the student newspaper and two of his paintings were exhibited at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago.

Carver's excellence in botany and horticulture prompted professors Budd and Louis Pammel to encourage him to stay on as a graduate student after he completed his bachelor's degree in 1894. Because of his proficiency in plant breeding, Carver was appointed to the faculty.

In 1896, he completed his master's degree and was invited by Booker T. Washington to join the faculty of Alabama's Tuskegee Institute. Carver's work resulted in the creation of 325 products from peanuts, more than 100 products from sweet potatoes and hundreds more from a dozen other plants native to the South. He also carried the Iowa State extension concept to the South and created "movable schools," bringing practical agricultural knowledge to farmers, thereby promoting health, sound nutrition and self-sufficiency.

He died in 1943. Carver received many honors during his life, and after his death. He was elected to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in 1977 and inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990. In 1994, Iowa State awarded him the degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.

Carver is one of many people connected to Iowa State who have received the Iowa Award. In the last 10 years, the award has been conferred upon Carrie Chapman Catt, suffragist and Iowa State alum, and John Vincent Atanasoff, who invented the first electronic digital computer while on the faculty at Iowa State.


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Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations, online@iastate.edu
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