Hubbell Foundation donates $125,000

by Kate Hayden

The Hubbell Foundation recently announced a $125,000 donation to the Iowa History Center, based at Simpson College.

The family foundation’s gift will help the center, founded in 2006 by Professor William Friedricks, accomplish more with the center’s Speaker Series, which brings in speakers to Simpson to cover topics detailing the history of Iowa.

“They’ve been donors for a long, long time,” Friedricks said. “They think highly of our history center.”

The Iowa History Center was founded after Friedricks went to Simpson College’s President John Byrd with the idea, feeling that Iowa history was not being adequately preserved and taught.

“I thought there was a need for such a program,” Friedricks said. “When John Byrd came we set it up.”

“We thought it was a great idea, so we went about the process of developing the appropriate internal documents in terms of what the purposes of this center would be, and it just took off,” Byrd said.

Program events, which include speakers, photography exhibits and more, are open to the general public as well as students at Simpson.

Byrd hopes that the events will help engage and educate the public on the state’s history. Donations and contributions like the Hubbell Foundation’s have largely helped to accomplish the goals of the center and sponsored many programs.

“We can have bigger speakers and bigger events,” Friedricks said.

A future photography exhibit, called “David Plowden’s Iowa,” will feature a collection of Iowa photography from Plowden and will be shown on Simpson’s campus from February to May of 2013.

The Iowa History Center has held a photography exhibit in the past titled “Shattered Dreams: Iowa’s Rural Crisis,” after Pulitzer Prize-winner David Peterson donated his photographs documenting the Iowa Farm Crisis of the mid-1980’s. The crisis was at the time called the worst farm economy since the Great Depression and the exhibit was open to the public from January to February last year.

Wayne Wiegand, the author of Main Street Public Library, will be the next visitor to participate in the Speaker Series, discussing the role of Midwestern libraries on March 26 in Lekberg Hall. According to the Iowa History Center website, past speakers have included authors Mark Grey and Michele Devlin, editorial cartoonist Brian Duffy and actor Tom Milligan.

The Speaker Series was part of the original concept of the program, Byrd said, along with awards for outstanding master’s theses that look at Iowa history and an internship program for students.

Internships include time at Terrace Hill, the Fort Des Moines Museum, and Living History Farms. The center’s website,, lists opportunities for any students interested in getting involved with an internship.

“Students will have more opportunities to be more and more a part of gathering and telling the story of that history,” Byrd said. “I think at the heart of celebrating, we want to make sure that we don’t lose it, and that’s the important part of the center.”