Update on “Endless Innovation: An R1 Research Institution (1948-1997)”

Last night’s webinar on Uncovering Hawkeye History, “Endless Innovation: An R1 Research Institution (1948-1997) was fascinating for us.

Dr. Bruce Gantz kicked off the first presentation about his work in cochlear implant surgery. Business picked up for him as far as these procedures in the last year and a half partly because of the pandemic. We were stunned to learn that the demand was driven because so many people were wearing masks—which prevented the deaf from lip-reading.

Kevin Washburn was next up and highlighted the great performance of the UI Law school’s stunning list of 4 student-led law review journals. They rank extremely high in the country, up there in the company of Yale and Harvard. I’m off on a tangent here, but Washburn’s status as a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation (which is based in Oklahoma; there are no Chickasaw tribal members in Iowa despite there being a Chickasaw County, by the way) reminded me of a guy who was a year behind my class in medical school. His name is Orrenzo Snyder and he’s a urologist in Oklahoma. Orrenzo and several other fellow students founded the American Indian Student Association (AISA) in 1989, which was later renamed the Native American Student Association (NASA). The University of Iowa Pow Wow was established in 1990. The 26th Annual Pow Wow is scheduled for April 2, 2022. Give it up for Orrenzo!

Anyway, Washburn mentioned one of the many stars in the UI Boyd Law school: Willard (Sandy) Boyd (for whom the college is named) who became one of the youngest University of Iowa presidents to take office and did so during a rowdy time of student unrest—in 1969. He raised a lot of money for the institution and was an advocate of human rights. He was appointed first chair of the University of Iowa’s Human Rights Committee.

You can also discover other facts, such as in 1839 the Iowa Territorial Supreme Court ruled that Ralph, a slave brought into free territory, must be released from slavery, in 1846; Iowa was admitted to the Union as a “Free State;” and in 1868 In Clark v. Board of Directors the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the Iowa Constitution guarantees the right to public education to all citizens. The plaintiff parent was Alexander Clark, Sr., who later graduated from the Iowa Law School (possibly the first African American to do so at UI). Justice Chester C. Cole wrote the opinion for the case.

University Archivist David McCartney also mentioned 1969 as a noteworthy year because that was the year of the Apollo 11 moon landing. There’s an Iowa connection to the Apollo 11 mission and that is State University of Iowa professor James A. van Allen in the Department of Physics, who warned of the danger to astronauts of the radiation belts encircling the earth (these were later renamed the Van Allen belts).

And I would add that African American women helped put astronauts on the moon in 1969.

Ed Wasserman expounded on his scientific work with pigeons and humans, comparing them on how they use their brains to solve problems. Are we better than pigeons? Maybe. Wasserman also gave many examples of how trial and error led to some surprising advances and innovations: the Ponseti method for treating clubfoot, the butterfly stroke in swimming, and Field of Dreams. His point is that the 3 Cs: consequence, context, and coincidence, play the larger role in many great achievements.

In other words, just keep pecking away at it.

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