Tag Archives: Hancher Vs Hilton

Hilton Madness, 1954

I like to think that Iowa State president James H. Hilton would have been both honored, and a little amused by the adoption of his surname for “Hilton Magic,” “Hilton South,” etc.

I suspect that he might have gotten a big, big smile at the fact that Hilton Coliseum—the best known feature of the Iowa State Center—is in the 21st century home to something called “Hilton Madness.”

Because most people thought the whole Iowa State Center was madness, when Hilton first proposed the concept.

President Hilton’s suggestion that Iowa State College (as it was then) should build a whole new cultural center with a theater, large auditorium and coliseum was widely called “Hilton’s Dream” in the early years. It was also called some other things that suggested he was just dreaming in many people’s opinion. The whole thing was completely unrealistic, the money would never be available, it was delusional.

It might as well have been Madness.

Hilton took all of the doubts and ribbing in good humor. He was confident he would find a way, and over the course of the next 15 years he did so, largely by building a permanent fundraising program at Iowa State from the ground up.

They called it a dream. Hilton saw the dream turned into concrete reality. Now Iowa State announces every year that this concrete reality is the site of “Hilton Madness.”

I think he would have smiled.

Hilton in front of Hilton Coliseum

James Hilton in front of Hilton Coliseum, early 1970s

For more about President Hilton, the transformation of Iowa State College into a university, and the battles which accompanied it, see Hancher vs. Hilton: Iowa’s Rival University Presidents.

It was just 2016 a month or so ago I swear

Summer has basically been and gone since my last entry here. It feels like autumn already, too. With hurricanes, fire or drought afflicting much of the U.S., I have no complaints at all about an early autumn, itself, certainly.

But honestly, I scarce know where this year went.

Since… I think it was with the real intense push against Trumpcare in the Senate that things “went to 11” and stayed there. Since then, life has just been full, whatever happens. All day, every day of the week, every week.

I have obtained more than 130 signatures for the Fair Districts ballot measure. And that’s like a when-possible activity, that fits into such “gaps” in my schedule as I can identify.

This past week was relatively calm. Yet it included

  • distributing literature for Jeff Johnson’s campaign
  • handing out dog biscuits at the Lakewood Dog Swim
  • Live-tweeting a City Council meeting
  • an interview about Hancher vs. Hilton with Iowa Public Radio
  • Dropping by an open house about the Icebreaker offshore wind power pilot project
  • Visiting Senator Portman’s office (once again) to express my opinion
  • Putting together two extensive e-mail newsletters

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I talk with KWIT about my book

A few weeks ago I had a delightful conversation with Mary Hartnett of Sioux City, Iowa’s public radio station KWIT. She read my book Hancher vs. Hilton and reached out to interview me.

Well yes, of course. And thank you.

Our conversation aired on KWIT at some point, but Ms. Hartnett also kindly provided me with a recording of the interview. The file begins without any preamble, but it probably requires little more than “I’m talking with Matt Kuhns, about his book Hancher vs. Hilton: Iowa’s Rival University Presidents. Matt, tell us a little about Virgil Hancher…”

Five things you may not know about the ISU-Iowa rivalry

As this year’s Cy-Hawk series continues in a string of December games, here are five things you may not have known about the long rivalry between Iowa State and the University of Iowa. It has been about a lot more than sports over the years:

  1. Iowa’s original “State University” was in Iowa City, and remains there today; State University of Iowa informally shortened its name to resolve confusion after Iowa State College became a university.
  2. Iowa president Virgil Hancher not only objected to a university in Ames, he argued vocally against Iowa State introducing a major in English.
  3. During the same period, James Hilton’s Iowa State lobbied the NCAA to shut down local telecasts of Hawkeye football games when they took place at the same time as the Cyclones’ games.
  4. Half a century before the recent controversy over performance-based funding, a split over funding formulas nearly paralyzed the entire Board of Regents system for three years.
  5. The University of Iowa once ran its own extension service, and both it and Iowa State fought to resist proposals that one school take over the other’s program.

Hancher vs. Hilton: Iowa’s Rival University Presidents has plenty more where this came from. Check out an excerpt!

Hancher vs. Hilton: now on sale

The lost chapter in the history of Iowa State and the University of Iowa is complete, and awaiting your discovery. Meet the men behind the campus landmarks, and read about the feud which shaped Iowa’s universities for generations.

Read more about Hancher vs. Hilton, or order a copy and dive in. Available now in hardcover, paperback, and ebook editions.

Sample copies of Hancher vs. Hilton

Please check out this book!

Hancher vs Hilton & life beyond politics?

Lately it feels like my life has been subsumed by overtly political concerns and activity. I look down the front page of this blog, and posting has been a bit more sparse than usual, but more significantly almost everything in recent weeks has been tagged “politics.”

It’s a presidential election year, and I’m reading too much about that. I don’t know if things were different decades ago, or if it’s more my personal feelings changing, but US presidential contests seem like they have become not only all-consuming but invariably near-apocalyptic. Good news, we seem more and more to have real choices; bad news, the nature of those choices combined with the growing power of the office make it difficult for me to say “oh it’s just politics” and turn back to “real life.”

I would probably be getting more actively involved already, if not for having already just about maxed-out my personal energies for Lakewood Hospital. After weeks of dithering, our city council has confirmed the November general election as the date for our referendum on their vote to close our community hospital. So, just under 35 weeks to go. 😐 Then I can (maybe) have my life back! Certainly I could use more in my life than slow, tiring and usually dispiriting campaign hack work. As I’m not sure what else that is at this point, though, I’m doing a little stock-taking.

First, I have completed the manuscript for a third book, and at some point in the next year will present to the reading public Hancher vs. Hilton: Iowa’s Rival University Presidents.

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