Medallion honoring campus landscape goes missing


A medallion honoring Iowa State's campus awarded by the American Society of Landscape Architects (top photo) is missing. It had been displayed since 1999 on a rock just west of Curtiss Hall. Submitted photos.

A little piece of Iowa State's beautiful central campus is missing -- a piece that honors it for being so beautiful.

In 1999, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) commemorated its 100th anniversary by honoring 362 sites across the nation, including some of the country's best-known landscapes, such as Central Park in New York City and the U.S. Capitol grounds.

Just 13 of those awards went to campus landscapes, and only three were for a university's central campus -- Yale University, the University of Virginia and Iowa State. The other Iowa recipients of the award feature more natural settings: Backbone State Park in Delaware County, Eagle Point Park in Dubuque, the Neal Smith National Wildlife Reserve in Prairie City and the Loess Hills in western Iowa.

It doesn't take a prestigious award to know Iowa State's campus is a grand sight to behold, but those who work to keep it that way have been proud of the recognition nonetheless.

"It's a pretty special thing for us," said Rhonda Martin, landscape architect in facilities planning and management (FPM).  

For 18 years, the medallion awarded by the ASLA was affixed to a rock just west of Curtiss Hall on the path to Beardshear Hall, a spot selected for its high visibility and proximity to the park-like open grounds and campanile at the center of campus.

In early August, Bob Currie, director of facilities services, noticed the medallion was missing. A theft report was filed with university police, but the award hasn't been recovered, said Les Lawson, FPM campus services manager. 

Lawson hopes the medallion theft will turn out like another recent case of stolen campus commemoration. A plaque on the south side of MacKay Hall went missing in 2015 but was returned after university police tweeted about it. A few years earlier, a small statue of a bird taken from its perch near Morrill Hall also was returned, he said.

If the brass medallion doesn't turn up, the university could make a replica, Martin said. But it wouldn't be the same.

"Yeah, we could buy another one. I'm not sure if we'd ever be able to cast it exactly like the one we had," she said. "But we'd like the one we had back."

Martin figures whoever took the award probably loves campus. But that's also why they should return it, she said.

"It belongs on campus and not in somebody's closet," she said.