What to call Wintersteen's husband? The president's spouse


President Wendy Wintersteen with her husband, Robert Waggoner, after Wintersteen was selected as Iowa State's 16th president on Oct. 23. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Wintersteen begins

Other coverage of new President Wendy Wintersteen in this week's edition of Inside Iowa State:

As Wendy Wintersteen transitions from college dean to Iowa State president, a major adjustment also is afoot for her husband, Robert Waggoner.

"There is no traditional role for the dean’s spouse, but historically there has been for the president’s spouse. For Robert, the last month has been a steep learning curve in understanding those expectations.” Wintersteen said in an interview with Inside this week.

A university president's spouse typically has a role in ceremonial settings and fundraising, and some wives of previous Iowa State presidents formally and informally have been called first lady. As the first female president in Iowa State history, Wintersteen said she put some thought into what her husband's title would be.

"While that may seem a small deal, it also serves to set a precedent for the university and deserves some extra attention," she said.

Wintersteen said she consulted with a friend who is the chancellor at North Carolina State University.

"He said, 'Wendy, all you have to do is this. At formal events, they'll introduce you as President Wintersteen, and she's joined by her husband, Robert Waggoner.' And that's how we’re going to think about Robert," she said. "He will join me in many events at the Knoll and help host them. He will join me in fundraising trips. He'll join me at student events, at athletic events. He'll be a part of what I do for the university, and likely develop his own special areas of focus as time goes on."

Waggoner's title, imprinted on his ISU Card, is "President's Spouse."

"At the same time, he has his own interests that he'll remain deeply engaged in, as well," Wintersteen said.

Wintersteen and Waggoner both hail from Kansas. They began dating when Wintersteen was working for Iowa State Extension and Waggoner was working toward the psychology degree he earned from Drake University in 1981. They've been married since 1984.

Waggoner worked for a small manufacturing business in sales and marketing for 26 years before switching careers a decade ago to write books on lucid dreaming -- the scientifically validated ability to realize you are dreaming while in a dream state. His two books have multiple printings and translations in French, German, Korean, Czech, Finnish and, soon, Chinese. He gives presentations at universities and conferences around the world and is the past president and current treasurer of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, which publishes the scientific-refereed journal, Dreaming.


President Wendy Wintersteen and Robert Waggoner, the president's spouse, were introduced to the crowd at Jack Trice Stadium at the homecoming football game Oct. 28, five days after she was selected to be Iowa State's 16th president. Photo courtesy of athletics communication.