In the time of soda fountains
and polio, Iowa nabbed Willard Boyd
|Willard “Sandy” Boyd
served as UI president from 1969 to 1981 and
as interim president from 2002 to 2003. Boyd
currently is the Rawlings-Miller Professor
of Law in the College of Law and interim director
of the UI Museum of Natural History. Photo
by the Office of Public Information Photo
a century ago this fall, the College of Law hired
a young man named Willard “Sandy” Boyd
to join its faculty—and thus began a long, enriching
association between Boyd and the University. In 1969,
after five years as provost, Boyd became one of the
University’s youngest presidents at age 42. Although
he left Iowa City in 1981 to take the helm of the Field
Museum in Chicago, he was drawn back to campus in 1996
to teach law, and was convinced to reprise his role
as UI president on an interim basis after Mary Sue
Coleman’s resignation in 2002.
A lot has changed since Boyd first stepped foot in
Iowa City in 1954. Here are some things the law professor
and others would have noticed on campus back then:
• The University was known as the State University
of Iowa, or SUI.
• Virgil Melvin Hancher was the University’s
president. The Iowa native and UI graduate served in
the office from 1940 to 1964.
• Students welcomed several new facilities:
the Communications Center and Danforth Chapel had just
opened the year before, followed by the Children’s
Hospital of Iowa and Halsey Hall. Blueprints for Parklawn
showed 53 new apartments geared toward married UI students.
• Forest Evashevski was the relatively new Hawkeye
football coach. In the opening game of the 1954 season,
Iowa defeated the defending Rose Bowl champions, Michigan
State University, 14-10, and jumped to No. 3 in national
polls. The team ended up having a less-than-stellar
season that year but went on to win the Rose Bowl in
1957 and 1959. Frank “Bucky” O’Connor,
meanwhile, coached the men’s basketball team
to the Big Ten Conference title.
• Whetstone’s soda fountain, across from
the Pentacrest on the northeast corner of Clinton and
Washington streets, was a popular gathering spot for
UI students. Dances held in the IMU Main Lounge as
well as in the residence halls were another favorite
• Hillcrest was the preferred residence hall
among men. Additions in 1949 and 1956 made it the largest
of the residence halls (until Burge opened in 1959),
and it even had its own newspaper. Many UI athletes
called Hillcrest home in 1954, including all-American
football player Calvin Jones and basketball star Milton “Sharm” Scheuerman.
• The Coralville Dam wouldn’t be constructed
for four more years, so flooding on campus was frequent
and sometimes severe.
• With Jonas Salk’s discovery of a polio
vaccine still a year away, the polio ward at UI Hospitals
and Clinics was bursting at the seams. Rooms designed
for two patients often held four adults or six children.
• The civil rights and women’s rights
movements had yet to step into high gear, and Iowa
City and the University campus were not immune to the
racial and sexual discrimination that plagued the country.
Women were only a small minority on the UI faculty
and only one college dean (nursing) was a woman. Potential
students were asked about race, color, and creed on
their UI applications.
• An undergraduate named Jerry Silberman of
Milwaukee was honing his acting skills as John Proctor
in a campus production of Arthur Miller’s The
Crucible. He also had recently portrayed Biff in Miller’s
Death of a Salesman. Years later, he would rise to
fame as a comedic film star in such hits as Blazing
Saddles and Young Frankenstein. The 1955 UI graduate
is better known today as Gene Wilder.
• The first computer center would not be established
for four more years, when a room in East Hall (now
known as Seashore Hall) became home to an IBM 650.
• Some young Hawkeye fans these days learn the
words to the “Iowa Fight Song” by Meredith
Willson before they’re fully toilet-trained.
But in 1954, the rousing school anthem was a toddler
itself, having debuted just a few years earlier.
by Sara Epstein Moninger
Sources: A Pictorial History of the University
of Iowa by John C. Gerber, the 1955 Hawkeye yearbook,
and Calm and Secure on thy Hill by Larry Perl