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 Feature Story


Harold Arkoff (B.A. 1949, M.A. 1950)
Homecoming weekend on the UI campus brought another beautiful fall day in Iowa City when alumni from around the country traveled back to visit their alma mater. The sun reflected brightly off the gold dome of the Old Capitol, and despite a noticeably cool chill in the air, students wore shorts and tee shirts despreately holding onto summer. It's the kind of day in Iowa City that UI alum Harold Arkoff (B.A. 1949, M.A. 1950) has not exprienced in over 55 years.

To say that UI and the campus has changed over the last 50 years is an understatement. Since then, tuition at the UI has jumped from $65 in 1948 to $6,293 for Iowa residents today. Enrollment has nearly quadrupled from around 8,000 to the current mark of 30,400, the first year the UI enrollment has exceeded 30,000.

When asked for his comments on what hasn't changed, Arkoff answered simply, "The Old Capitol looked the same, that's about it."

Arkoff has always been a strong supporter of the UI, especially the Journalism and Mass Communication program, despite living in California since the 1950s. He has stayed in contact with the UI through various generous gifts to the UI and has kept in touch with his former college roommate, Sam Becker, for whom the Becker Communication Building gets its name.

"I kept trying to get him to come, he's hard to persuade," Becker said in good humor, looking over at Arkoff's wife Helen as if to try to get her in on the razzing.

Helen and Harold Arkoff (left) reminisce with Sam Becker (right) in the Hall of Fame room at the UI Adler Journalism Building during homecoming weekend.

"I wanted to come back, it's just one of those things, but I wanted to come back while Same could still chauffer us around," Arkoff responded with a chuckle.

Arkoff was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa in 1925. After high school, he enlisted in the Army at 17, where he served as an infantryman. Upon his return from war in 1946, he enrolled at Fort Dodge Junior College and the University of Missouri before transferring to the UI, then known as SUI (State University of Iowa), in the fall of 1947.

During his college career, Arkoff characteristically kept busy, serving first as assistant business manager and then as business manager for The Daily Iowan.

It was his job to organize all the advertising for the paper, so to aid in this process, he created the DI Business Newsletter which outlined reasons a business should advertise their product in the DI. From time to time, he designed the layout and decided how many pages ran on a given day.

During his tenure at the DI, the newspaper was the grand award winner in a competition sponsored by the National Advertising service. the DI was chosen over 1,000 other college newspapers for its overall excellence in management, research and merchandising. Arkoff was recognized for his hard work when he recieved the Des Moines Register and Tribune Advertising Scholarship at the State University of Iowa worth $500.

It was not all hard work though.

"Donnelly's was the journalism hangout back then," Arkoff confided. "We had a lot of good times there," he said.

"That's the one thing that hasn't really changed," Becker quickly added referring to the Iowa City night life.

All of Arkoff's work at UI provided a strong start to a successful career in broadcast journalism and advertising. Right out of college, he landed a job with KMA, a 5,000 watt radio station in Shenandoah, Iowa, or what he referred to as "the Bible Belt."

"It didn't pay too much," Arkoff said, "but you could travel all over."

During his time in Shenandoah, Arkoff met his wife, Helen.

Back then, the town of Shenandoah was dry, so when the townspeople wanted a drink they headed out to the local nine-hole golf club on Saturday night.

"It's funny, because he was a traveling salesman and I was a farmer's daughter, as the joke goes," Helen said with a big smirk on her face.

"We were the original," Arkoff said with an even bigger smirk on his face.

Arkoff and Helen married and decided to move to Califorinia in 1956 when Arkoff bought a stake of KGIL and KHAI radio stations in the San Fernando Valley region.

In 1965, Arkoff had the opportunity to get into the advertising and publishing business with another former UI alum. Arkoff and friend Howard Olansky (B.A. 1950) made Special Publication, Inc. into one of the largest floor covering, installation and tile publishing companies in the country. They controlled four magazines and were in the process of acquiring a fifth when they sold the company in 1997 to Business News Publishing Company in Detroit, Mich., with assurances that all employees would be retained.

Since then, Arkoff has taken up golf, travel and geneology. Harold and Helen both enjoy watching animals feeding from their fruit trees in their back yard. Harold is also a charter member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. Through the VFW, he is involved with the Voice of Democracy, which sets up patriotic programs in schools.

The Arkoffs also take great interest in their son and daughter. Their daughter is a writer for Capitol Records and has worked for such publications as Mad and Sweet 16. She is the mother to the Arkoff's only grandchild. Their son is a CPA with a master's degree in information technology, and he was recently married.

When Arkoff decided it was time to come back to Iowa City, an entire life's worth of work and family separate then and now, not to mention 2,000 miles. But it was a trip he had wanted to make for a long time. For Arkoff, this was a homecoming in the true sense of the word.

"It was pretty then, but it's even prettier now," Arkoff said while looking out the window at the Pentacrest with a glint of nostalgia in his eye. "It's still a perfect place, a nice college town."

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