Attending State University

When I arrived at the University of Iowa campus in fall 1970, the university president was Willard Boyd who officed in Old Capitol. The previous term, the president’s office had been occupied by protesters and the academic year ended abruptly. During my freshman year, Boyd held meetings with students and I attended one in Quadrangle dormitory where I lived. He seemed approachable and that surprised me. It proved to be an enduring character trait.

I last spoke to Boyd for an article I wrote for the Iowa City Press Citizen on Oct. 22, 2014. He was much as I remembered him. Following is the piece about the anniversary of the legal name of the State University of Iowa.

50th Anniversary of UI name change — or not

Fifty years ago today, the university in town decided to keep its legal name, “State University of Iowa,” but replaced it with the familiar nickname now in everyday usage. It was not the “Hawkeyes.”

Willard “Sandy” Boyd, currently Rawlings/Miller professor of law and president emeritus, was university provost at the time.

“Virgil Hancher (university president from 1940 until 1964) was a lawyer and said, ‘It is named in the constitution, therefore it shall be ever thus,’ ” Boyd explained. “Howard Bowen (who succeeded Hancher as president) said he ‘wasn’t a lawyer, so we’ll leave it,’ suggesting a nickname, ‘University of Iowa.’ ”

On Oct. 22, 1964, the Iowa state Board of Regents passed a resolution approving the usage of “University of Iowa” to describe the constitutionally named State University of Iowa, keeping the original name for legal purposes.

“I believe the change was intended to reduce confusion between Iowa and Iowa State,” said Mark Schantz, who received his bachelor’s degree from Iowa in 1963 and retired from the College of Law in 2013.

There is less confusion and almost no controversy now, but it wasn’t always so.

Early on, university officials attempted to change the naming convention for the State University of Iowa in practical usage.

In a letter dated Jan. 18, 1918 (available in the University of Iowa Special Collections), C.H. Weller, the university editor, requested permission from University President Walter Jessup to use “University of Iowa” on printed invitations.

“I have been trying for several years to accustom people to the name ‘University of Iowa,’ in harmony with the nomenclature of practically all other great state universities,” he wrote. “The legal name, of course, is ‘State University of Iowa’ (not ‘The State University of Iowa’), but the general use of a shorter term in informal usage is nothing unusual.”

In a Nov. 21, 1963, editorial, the Press-Citizen wrote, “The problem in the names of Iowa’s three state-supported institutions of higher education is that there is a law — the one that says the State University of Iowa is at Iowa City, Iowa State University is at Ames and the State College of Iowa is at Cedar Falls. This may be clear to Iowans, although it’s doubtful, but the plethora of ‘states,’ ‘Iowas’ and ‘universities’ seems to be just too much for those who don’t deal with it frequently.”

The newspaper called for the name to be changed to the University of Iowa.

Has the confusion continued?

The answer is yes, according to University Archivist David McCartney.

“It’s correct to say that our esteemed institution has always been named the State University of Iowa,” he wrote in a December 2010 article for the University of Iowa Spectator. “It’s complicated, as they say. To this day, people still occasionally (and understandably) confuse the names of Iowa’s public universities.”

That’s something today’s Hawkeyes, Cyclones and Panthers will be certain to clarify.

~ First published by the Iowa City Press Citizen on Oct. 21, 2014