Tag Archives: Hilton Madness

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.