University honors Simon Estes during naming celebration

Simon Estes next to the new Music Hall sign bearing his name

Following a program in Tye Recital Hall, Simon Estes and others headed outside to unwrap the new sign for Simon Estes Music Hall. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

For 40 years, it went by the accurate, if bland "Music Hall." That changed Wednesday afternoon, when the university community celebrated Simon Estes Music Hall, named for the native Iowan, opera legend and long-serving artist-in-residence for the music and theatre department.

"Simon has influenced countless lives in Iowa and around the world, and we are truly blessed to have him as part of the Iowa State family," said President Wendy Wintersteen during a Tye Recital Hall program. "By naming Music Hall in his honor, future Cyclones will have the opportunity to know Simon Estes and to draw inspiration and joy from his musical gifts and from his devotion to making the world a better place."

Estes said his singing talent came from God, but he paid tribute to numerous teachers and choral directors in his hometown of Centerville and at the University of Iowa -- where he went initially to study medicine -- for encouraging and inspiring him.

"Music has enabled me to share this talent God gave to me with people all over the world," he said.

Estes called Iowa State one of the greatest universities in the world and reflected on how touched he was 20 years ago when he was invited to join the faculty.

"I'm deeply honored and humbled they've named this building after me, the grandson of a slave," Estes said. "I hope this building will continue to inspire young people to enjoy education, enjoy music, enjoy life."

Impact, locally and internationally

Estes has performed on six continents, including opera houses in Paris and Barcelona, the Olympic Games in Munich and the World Cup in South Africa. Despite his performance schedule, he makes it a priority every semester to sing at Iowa State’s commencement ceremonies.

He has helped attract world-class students to the department and mentored many of them for admission to prestigious music schools following their undergraduate years.

He established the Simon and Ovida Estes Scholarship in Music at ISU in 2010 and is a regular performer at the department's annual Musicale to raise additional support for scholarships.

Hope Metts, vocal performance junior who has studied with Estes for three years, including time at Des Moines Area Community College, said her teacher is "kind and caring with every student, no matter who they are or what their skill level is."

She said Estes taught her to sing from the heart and to stay true to herself and her own voice.

"Your wisdom has touched so many lives, and I will be forever grateful that mine is one of them," she added.

Wintersteen thanked vice president for diversity and inclusion Reg Stewart and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences leaders for developing the proposal to name Music Hall for Estes. She also lauded the university naming committee for recommending it to the state Board of Regents, who gave final approval last month.


Related story

Regents suspend university-sponsored international travel

Updated: 12:15 p.m.

University-sponsored international travel is canceled for at least the next 30 days due to concerns about the impact of COVID-19 outbreaks, under a prohibition announced March 5 by the state Board of Regents.

"We understand this decision may be disappointing and disruptive, but our top priority is the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff," President Wendy Wintersteen said in a March 5 email announcing the board's decision.

The temporary restriction applies to all faculty and staff travel and spring break study abroad trips, which affects roughly 300 ISU students, said Frank Peters, director of the Study Abroad Center and C.G. "Turk" and Joyce A. Therkildsen Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering. It comes one day after Iowa State officials announced the cancellation of university-sponsored spring break trips to Asia, Europe and Africa because of the potential travel disruptions caused by outbreaks of the 2019 novel coronavirus. Spring break is March 16-20.

The board's decision is based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and applies to all three regent universities. The 30-day international travel ban could be extended or adjusted as conditions warrant and will be evaluated regularly with university leaders, board president Mike Richards said in a statement.

Faculty, staff and students already outside of the U.S. will be required to return only if they are in countries for which the CDC has issued a level 3 warning, which is a recommendation to avoid nonessential travel. Countries with level 3 warnings include China, South Korea and Italy, and ISU students studying in those nations previously were directed to return.

Wintersteen urged the ISU community to reconsider upcoming personal travel plans to regions impacted by COVID-19. The university strongly recommends avoiding personal  trips to countries with a level 4 risk assessment from the U.S. Department of State or a level 3 assessment from the CDC. What constitutes “university-sponsored international travel” is defined in the policy that requires ISU international travel to be registered with the risk management office.

Italy decision

The new travel restrictions this week follow a decision Feb. 28 to extend to Italy and South Korea a prohibition on university travel for students and employees previously in effect for China.

The 135 students across six study abroad programs who were spending the spring semester in Italy were notified that they were required to return to the U.S. by the end of this week. Iowa State is covering the additional cost students may incur to take an immediate flight home, such as an airline change fee. Six students studying in South Korea also were directed to return. Three students studying in China  returned from their programs when ISU restricted travel there in January. In total, about 400 ISU students were enrolled in study abroad programs this spring, Peters said.

Shaun Jamieson, ISU international risk analyst, said many students and their parents were relieved by the university's decision to halt the Italian study abroad programs. But for those frustrated, Peters said he can relate, both as the father of an ISU student planning to study abroad next spring and a former student.  

"Putting myself in the shoes of a 20-year-old, I'd probably be in a similar situation," Peters said.


Iowa State's decisions, like the regents', are rooted in guidance from the CDC and the IDPH, said Erin Baldwin, assistant vice president for student health and wellness and director of the Thielen Student Health Center (TSHC). For students who were in regions where COVID-19 outbreaks occurred, that guidance calls for 14 days of self-isolation upon returning to the U.S. Most students will go home during that time, but isolated campus housing is available for those who need it, Baldwin said. By March 4, two students who have returned were on campus, she said.

Baldwin said no students or employees have had known contact with COVID-19 or shown any symptoms. Isolated students are asked to take their temperature every day and check in with TSHC staff regularly. Recommended procedures don't call for proactive testing in the absence of symptoms.

It's critical to avoid stigmatizing students who were forced to cut their study abroad programs short, Baldwin said. If their isolation period passes without showing symptoms, they stand no greater risk of contracting the virus than the general public.

"Please show care and support to our community, including students and colleagues who have traveled to, or who are from, impacted regions and may be feeling particularly vulnerable," Wintersteen said in her email.

Courses continue

Some semester-length study abroad programs remain active in areas where spring break trips were canceled because there are different factors at play. Preventing trips that haven't begun makes sense in part because travel itself poses a threat for transmitting the virus, Jamieson said, and new travel restrictions could disrupt itineraries in unforeseen ways that could easily eliminate the benefit of a relatively short trip, typically 10 days long or less.

ISU officials are working on a program-by-program basis to provide continued coursework for students whose study abroad programs were interrupted, often in cooperation with the respective partner institutions. Peters said the academic impact is another reason to be more patient with longer programs, though safety remains the utmost concern.

"Three credits or one credit during spring break is a lot different than a whole semester's worth of credits," he said.

University officials will continue to monitor COVID-19 outbreaks. Updates and an FAQ are posted online. Additional travel restrictions may be needed, but it's too soon to tell how summer programs will be affected, Jamieson said. Peters said Iowa State remains committed to the value of studying abroad.

"It's one of the best ways for our students to develop a global perspective," he said.

Campus visits scheduled for vice president for research finalists

Four finalists have been identified in the search for the next vice president for research. They will visit campus in the coming weeks:

  • Candidate 1, March 9-10
  • Candidate 2, March 23-24
  • Candidate 3, March 26-27
  • Candidate 4, April 2-3

Each candidate will be announced one business day before their visit. During the interview, candidates will meet with faculty and staff and hold an open forum. The forums will be held on the first day of each visit (3-4 p.m.) in the Howe Hall auditorium:

  • Monday, March 9
  • Monday, March 23
  • Thursday, March 26
  • Thursday, April 2

The forums will be recorded and the archived recordings made available after the campus visits have concluded, for those unable to attend.

The next vice president will succeed Sarah Nusser, who in September announced her plans to step down at the end of the fiscal year. Dan Grooms, the Dr. Stephen G. Juelsgaard Dean of Veterinary Medicine, and Shauna Hallmark, professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering and director of the Institute for Transportation, are co-chairing an 18-member search committee. The Buffkin/Baker search firm, Nashville, is assisting.

Check the provost's office search page for more details as they become available, including curricula vitae and interview itineraries for the candidates.

Innovation tangibles head to state capitol

Martin Gross and Zhiyou Wen

(l-r) Martin Gross and Zhiyou Wen cofounded Gross-Wen Technologies, one of the innovation success stories legislators will hear about March 5 during ISU Day at the Capitol. Submitted image.

University leaders will take the new "Innovate at Iowa State" theme to the statehouse March 5 for the annual ISU Day at the Capitol. Joining them will be students, alumni, partners and Iowa business owners whose entrepreneurial visions were shaped, assisted or jump-started at Iowa State. They will share with legislators their stories of breakthrough research, "eureka moment" ideas and community engagement. ISU Day at the Capitol runs from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the building's rotunda.

"We're demonstrating to a key audience -- our legislators -- how the culture of innovation at Iowa State benefits the people of Iowa," said Jacy Johnson, interim executive director of strategic relations and communications. "They'll interact and get firsthand experience with 20 projects or initiatives that represent the foundation of Iowa State's $3.4 billion annual impact to the state's economy. That foundation is innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking."

Legislators will hear about an entrepreneurial network at Iowa State involving dozens of support programs, innovation experts and collaborators.

For example, ag engineering senior Justin Wright will share the story of WashWright, his company which produces robotic power washing machines for livestock farms. A major part of his story is the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Pappajohn Center's CyStarters summer accelerator program for students, which Wright completed last summer. He's also participating in the 52-week Startup Factory program in the ISU Research Park, which kicked off in January.

Here are a few other Iowa State-driven innovations ISU Day at the Capitol will showcase:

Data at work

Assistant professor of human development and family studies Cassandra Dorius serves as project leader for ISU's multicollege project to help Iowa communities access and analyze their own data to resolve local challenges. She'll share outcomes from the pilot project in Marshalltown, where a July 2018 tornado increased demand on already underperforming public transportation. Collaborating with ISU Extension and Outreach and the Iowa League of Cities, by this summer "Data Sciences for Public Good" will expand to four more communities. Each community identifies its problem; an ISU team of researchers helps them address it.

Soil quality

Back in 2013, classmates in the biorenewable resources and technology graduate program (affiliated with the Bioeconomy Institute) founded Advanced Renewable Technology International – or ARTi for short – to develop technologies that turn Iowa biomass waste (corn stalks, wood chips) into biochar. This carbon material is engineered to improve soil quality. In addition to domestic clients, the Prairie City-based company has clients in Canada, China and Ireland. President and graduate student Bernardo del Campo will share ARTi's story.

Bio-based replacement products

Shining light on another use for agricultural biomass, a group of scientists who represent both the Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites and the chemical and biological engineering (CBE) department will share samples of the products they develop from the renewable resource. These include fiber board and plywood made from bioglycerin, biopolymer asphalt and biopolymer tensile bars for strength tests. Center director and CBE professor Eric Cochran will talk about using manufacturing systems available in rural communities to create products the state and country need.

Locally competitive retailers

Iowa Retail Initiative co-directors Linda Niehm and Jessica Hurst, faculty members in apparel, events and hospitality management, will share the initiative's track record with small businesses in more than 40 Iowa communities. Connecting through ISU Extension's community and economic development division, ISU students provide independent retailers with fresh marketing, promotion and display strategies to compete successfully with national chain stores.

New-gen solder technology

Materials research at Iowa State on supercooled metal particles as a next-generation lead-free solder created a startup company, SAFI-Tech, which licensed the patented technology from the ISU Research Foundation. Ian Tevis, co-founder of SAFI-Tech and former Iowa State post-doc, will demonstrate this technology for legislators. Demand for no-heat solder is especially strong in the electronics manufacturing industry because removing heat from the manufacturing process allows for smaller, flexible designs. SAFI-Tech is an affiliate company in the ISU Research Park.

Algae at work on wastewater

Gross-Wen Technologies, a 2014 startup company of Iowa State researchers, is making a name for itself in algae-based, environmentally friendly municipal water treatment. In its process, algae extracts nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater, and the resulting biomass can be repurposed as fertilizer or bioplastic. Gross-Wen is working with cities as large as Chicago, as small as Slater, Iowa, to demonstrate the effectiveness of the process.

Five questions with the retirement consultant

ann doty

Ann Doty has been educating Iowa State employees about retirement since 1999. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

  • Name: Ann Doty
  • Position: Retirement consultant, university human resources
  • Years at ISU: 21
  • Retirement reception: March 10, 2-4 p.m., 3150 Beardshear
  • Successor: Ryan Stuart now handles UHR retirement education and services. He can be reached at 294-4800,

Ann Doty started her career as a social worker before migrating to financial advising, work she's done for the last 21 years at Iowa State as a retirement consultant in university human resources (UHR). Along the way, she's met with 300 to 400 faculty and staff per year for voluntary discussions about their retirement plans, more than 6,000 one-to-one meetings -- an entire generation of employees. On March 12, she's retiring herself. While overseeing her final session of Ready, Set, Retire -- a comprehensive workshop UHR hosts for potential retirees -- Doty took time last week to look back on two decades of preparing ISU employees for the new chapter in life she soon will enter.


Is helping people the connection you see between the start of your career and the end of it?

Definitely. I went into financial advising because I realized as a counselor that one of the reasons women would get trapped in bad relationships was because they didn’t have the money to get out. If you can’t support yourself, you can’t get out, no matter how bad it is. I went into financial counseling largely to reach out to women. When I came to Iowa State, the university was concerned that, like most places, 25% of our male employees were saving extra for retirement and only 10% of the women were. Now we have the same percentage of women saving extra for retirement as we do men. I’m proud of that.

Do you mostly work with employees who are about to retire?

It’s always been a combination of education and sitting down with folks to talk about their specific situation. I encourage employees of all ages to save more money for their retirement and help hook them up with the right services to help their retirement be successful. Iowa State has an incredibly generous retirement program. But we’re living so much longer. My mama just passed away two years ago, and she was 18 days short of her 104th birthday. For many of us, we have parents who expected to work until 62 or 65, and they expected to be gone within 10 years. Well, that’s a pretty easy thing to save for. Retirement now lasts, for most people, anywhere between 15 and 40 years. Without a little nudge, younger people aren’t thinking that far ahead. Part of my job is to make sure that nudge is out there. We encourage new employees to go talk to the free TIAA financial planners every five years, or when you have a life change. Doing something for your future self every four or five years isn’t that much to ask.

Is there a busy season for retirements?

May 15, end of semester. Second busiest time is June 30, end of the fiscal year. Third is calendar year. People go out in December. The university schedule is so set, and we encourage people to prepare beforehand. Don't wait until May 1 to retire on May 15. This is a life change, a life event. You should give it at least as much planning as deciding what car to buy. If you wait until the year before and they tell you that you need to save this much more before you go out the door, you don’t have any time. If you start five years early, you might very well be able to change your lifestyle and say, "Yeah, I can put away additional money." Or you can change your retirement date. The other thing that's very common here at Iowa State is going part time. Before my mom passed, I was driving to Bettendorf every other weekend. I went to 80 percent. No problem. There's a flexibility that a lot of times you don't find with a for-profit employer.

What are some of the memorable retirement plans people have shared with you?

So many people have the same ideas, when you get right down to it. Grandkids are a big one. I’ve had people go back to school to get degrees. Volunteering always comes forward. Many people move in to second careers, things they would have loved to do but didn’t afford them a living wage. Now, they don’t have to be worried about being paid a living wage. They just go out and do it.

I assume you have a unique perspective on your own retirement. Tell me about it.

I expect to spend the first three to four months sleeping. Taking all my energy to do only what’s important to me, that’s an exciting thought. I’m pumped for that. I never anticipated working until I was 71, but I have had a very good time at Iowa State. This is an incredibly rewarding place to work. It allowed me to -- for 34 years, I was a part-time roadie for my husband’s weekend bands. But I would suggest that people take retirement planning more seriously than I did. I'm very embarrassed. All the advice I gave to other people, I didn't follow. It's much easier to share book learning with other people than it is to implement book learning into your own life.

Good habits are key to remaining healthy year-round

The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is dominating headlines, but good health practices are important all year long. To help stop the spread of disease, students, faculty and staff can do several things to maintain health.

To limit risk, practice good infection control strategies, including:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with tissues when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash after use.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers also are effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Improve your immune system by getting enough rest (eight hours is ideal), exercising regularly, and eating healthy.

When sick, stay home to avoid spreading disease to others. If faculty or staff need to miss work because of illness, they are encouraged to notify their department chair or supervisor as soon as possible so arrangements can be made to cover classes or work.

"We encourage faculty and managers to be flexible with students and staff," said assistant vice president for student health and wellness and director of Thielen Student Heath Center Erin Baldwin.

The health center saw more than 12,500 students from November through January. That's up from 8,350 during the same time a year ago.


As of March 4, no patient at Thielen Student Health Center (TSHC) had symptoms that would call for testing for the coronavirus.

"We are following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) guidance for testing," Baldwin said. "There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Iowa State students, faculty or staff, and no known contact between infected persons and the university community."

The risk of the coronavirus reaching Iowa remains low, Baldwin said.

Health providers will take protective measures when treating a patient who may have COVID-19 or may have come in contact with someone who has. Currently, all coronavirus testing takes place at the State Hygienic Laboratory in Iowa City.

"Before you go to a doctor's office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel or exposure and your symptoms," Baldwin said.

Travel restricted

Faculty and staff traveling on university business are prohibited from going to locations where the CDC has issued a level 3 warning against nonessential travel.

Faculty, staff and students are urged to stay informed through IDPH, CDC and World Health Organization websites. Students have access to medical advice 24/7 through TSHC at 294-5801.

The latest updates on how Iowa State is dealing with coronavirus are posted online. This site includes answers to frequently asked questions.