ISU Professor Earns Lifetime Achievement Award

For immediate release May 10, 2005



Jeff Morgan, (515) 281-3858,

Des Moines, Iowa—One of the first things former students who studied under Iowa State University professor David M. Gradwohl remember about him is his dedication to the study of anthropology, and the ability to inspire that in his students.

“David has taught his students so much: to love research; to appreciate local historical resources; to respect other cultures and traditions; and to stand up for our beliefs,” said Kathy Gourley, Field Historian with the State Historical Society of Iowa.

Gradwohl, a well-regarded anthropologist and archaeologist in Iowa, Monday was awarded the Historical Society’s Petersen/Harlan Award, presented to an individual, group or organization that has made significant long-term or continuing contributions to Iowa history.

While Gradwohl’s accomplishments are far-reaching, one of his most significant was his work to establish the Iowa State University Department of Anthropology. Under its guise, Gradwohl was able to hold “legendary” summer archaeological field schools, which he ran from 1964 to 1994. His hands-on tutelage resulted in the training of many future archaeologists and anthropologists – some of whom went on to become state archaeologists, assistant state archaeologists, public highway archaeologists and university professors.

One particular student remembers Gradwohl’s teaching techniques well.

“David was interested in museum practice and gave us hands-on work in collections management and exhibit techniques,” said Jerome Thompson, State Historical Society of Iowa State Curator. “David put his practice to work as a guest curator for “Unpacking on the Prairie: Jewish Women in the Upper Midwest, the Iowa Story” at the State Historical Museum in 1998. It was great fun working with him first as a student and then as a professional colleague.”

Gradwohl was a pioneer in his professional field in documenting where and how Native Iowans lived and how they made their living in “the land between two rivers” over the last several centuries. He continues to work tirelessly as an advocate and friend to today’s Native American Iowans, founding the American Indian Symposium, held every year on the Iowa State University campus since 1972. Gradwohl’s colleague, Nancy Osborn Johnsen, stated in his nomination that one of Gradwohl’s proudest moments was when he and his wife were formally adopted into the Turtle Clan of the Lakota Nation.

Gradwohl continues to educate Iowans about their past, speaking often to audiences of all ages across the state. The value of his research, his teaching and his service are immeasurable.

“David has devoted most of his adult life to showing Iowans that they have a most interesting and important history and that their lives, and even their futures, can be enriched by treasuring their past,” Osborn Johnsen said.


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