The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa on May 23, 1993 · Page 16
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The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa · Page 16

Des Moines, Iowa
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 23, 1993
Page 16
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4B DesMoinks Sunday Register May 23, 1993 'Inventor facilitated leisure-suit livin A modest Maynard native invented the process of polyester production that : opened the world up to petroleum-based clothing. By DEBORA WILEY Of Th e Register's Cedar Rapids Bweau Waverly, la. His own children dubbed him "The Prince of Polyester." Maynard native Delbert Meyer invented the process that made polyester easier and more economical to produce. He still rivals John Travolta at the height of the disco craze in his devotion to the clammy, petroleum-based fiber that's synonymous with the annual Des Moines leisure suit convention. After all, this is a guy whose 1976 navy polyester jacket hangs in the DuPage County Historical Museum as an artifact both of its creator and Buena Vista offers learning adventure of a By MARK SIEBERT Register Staff Writer Storm Lake, la. Buena Vista College makes at least one sophomore a very decent proposal each spring: Travel anywhere in the world, study any subject, don't worry about a grade and best of all we'll pick up the tab. This unusual educational excursion is called the J. Leslie Rollins Fellowship, named for a distinguished 1926 Buena Vista graduate. The college has been selecting at least one student a year for the honor since the 1977-78 school year. Students have traveled to Austria, Czechoslovakia, Ireland, Taiwan and Shortcuts gain favor COLLEGE Continued from Page IB College Board and taught by local teachers. Students can enroll simply to ready themselves for the next academic level. For $67, they can take the exam. Score high enough on the exam which is uniform throughout the country and colleges and universities will award credit before the student even buys a textbook. Students are enthusiastic about these expanding choices. High schools and colleges are as well for the most part. Prodded School Pals, a senior at Clinton, didn't hear about the law allowing students to enroll in college courses from her school. Her mother found out about it and then prodded the school, she said. "We had to look up the law and give them a copy and they finally decided to act on it," Pals said. "Since I've done it, a number of other people are asking about it." Pals has enough credit to be classified as a junior. She took classes at Clinton Community College and Mount St. Clare College this year. A scholarship covered her Mount St. Clare bill and her school picked up the community college tab. In 1989-90, 731 Iowa students took advantage of the program. That number jumped to 999 in 1990-91 and to 1,410 last year. "The law itself is primarily student choice," said Edward Ranney of the Iowa Department of Education. "It tends to challenge school structure. It blends high school and college for students." Program Expanded Ranney expects another increase this year. For one, eligibility requirements allowing only juniors and seniors were expanded to include ninth- and lOth-graders in talented and gifted programs. Local schools pay up to $250 per hour for the courses. It can get expensive. The Iowa City school district, for example, spent $18,000 this year to enroll 49 students in college courses. But district officials say that is cheaper than hiring additional teachers. The other popular college preparatory program, advanced placement, traditionally has received a cold response in this state. Iowa's participation ranks 48th in the country. That may be changing. University admissions officials are noticing more advanced-placement exams on transcripts of Iowa students. Experts in gifted education see an increased interest, too, especially as the competition for scholarships and admission to elite schools becomes more intense. "AP is not as popular in Iowa as it is in many states," said ISU's Phil Caffery. "However, I think it's growing every year." of the times. "I wore nothing but 100 percent polyester double-knit suits until I couldn't find them anymore. I'd still buy them if they made them," admits Meyer, 66, of Naperville, 111., who spent Saturday in a pair of 100 percent polyester navy slacks and a 45 percent polyester-55 percent cotton plaid shirt. "I miss those," he says of the suits. "Boy, you could pack those suckers in a suitcase. I've traveled all over Europe for two weeks with those. The night before you could hang them up and you didn't look like a prince but you looked presentable anyhow." Meyer, a 1949 graduate of Wartburg College in Waverly, returned to his alma mater this weekend to give the commencement address today and receive his first honorary doctorate degree. He got his doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Iowa in 1953. Straight out of graduate school he went to work for Standard Oil, Zambia, as well as cities across the United States. This year's winner, for several interesting reasons, picked Iceland. "I didn't want to put down England or someplace like that," said James Martin, an English major from Cedar Rapids. "I wanted to do something out of the ordinary . " Out of the Ordinary Iceland, certainly isn't ordinary. Neither is the award. On the Buena Vista campus of 936 full-time students, a Rollins Fellow is definitely a Big Man or Woman on Campus. Martin, who is a member of the wrestling team and assistant drum major of the marching band, . said neither activity resulted in as to college in Iowa Caffery, an assistant admissions director, makes his living reviewing transcripts of students applying to ISU. He likes to see students with advanced placement courses and said more students are arriving at ISU with a semester's worth or more of college credits. Nicholas Colangelo, director of the Connie Belin National Center for Gifted Education at the University of Iowa, said more high schools have been calling the center asking about starting advanced placement courses. "I think there's more interest," Colangelo said. "I just don't know how much of that has translated into more AP courses." Some people contend that Iowa should do more to promote the program. At least 20 states give some type of money to support advanced placement programs, the College Board reports. Wisconsin pays the examination fees of disadvantaged students. Indiana pays for science and calculus exam fees of most students. Other Iowans think a new fiber-optics communications system that will connect schools could be the push advanced placement programs need. For Tell, the Lincoln High student, advanced placement has kept high school challenging. He's been taking the courses at Des Moines Central Academy since his sophomore year. And now instead of wondering about the freshman requirements many are having to get out of the way, he's pondering a minor in music. Not surprisingly, he would encourage other students to take the same course to a college education. "I don't think anybody can pass it up if they have the ability to do it," he said. Missing Children's Day is Tuesday "Keep Your Porch Lights On" is the theme of the 10th annual National Missing Children's Day Tuesday. The request, expected to be observed nationwide, honors missing newspaper carrier Johnny Gosch, 12, who was abducted from his West Des Moines newspaper route on Sept. 5, 1982. His parents, Noreen and John Gosch of West Des Moines, have kept their porch light on around the clock since the boy disappeared. Gov. Terry Branstad and mayors in several communities, including Des Moines, West Des Moines, Clive and Johnston, have signed resolutions urging the lights be left on throughout the day and evening. Noreen Gosch, mother of the missing youngster, said the recognition was appreciated. "We are very pleased," she said. "There are so many people who share the pain of missing and exploited children." which later became Amoco Oil Co. He spent the next 38V5 years as a research chemist, research supervisor, director of exploratory research and research consultant. He's still consulting about four hours a month on a secret development project for Amoco. Along with his penchant for a ner-dy wardrobe, Meyer appears to be one of those genuinely humble and incredibly talented people who are proud of their accomplishments but manage to downplay them in a simple way. It shows up in Meyer throughout an hourlong interview. He was asked what he's been doing since he retired in January 1992. "In June I got the U.S. Medal of Technology from President Bush, which was kind of a neat thing," he says. "And I've spent some time cleaning the basement." He holds 29 U.S. and three German research patents, although the most valuable is for the process of purifying terephthalic (pronounced tear- much attention as the Rollins. "It's like a week-long ego trip," he said. The award was the idea of Rollins, a Buena Vista graduate and former assistant dean of the Harvard University business school who died in 1988. Harvard business graduates, out of loyalty to their mentor, donated the money for the program. Rollins was a football star at the school and a graduate who made good. But he didn't officially receive his diploma until shortly before his death. His diploma was originally withheld because he failed to pay a 30-cent fine for missing chapel. Faculty members nominate students for the annual award. Each student writes a proposal. The finalists' proposals are given to college Speech at Central College Happiness is altruism, grads told By MATT KELLEY Register Staff Writer Pella, la. Central College graduates Saturday were told the secret of happiness. It's simple, said the Rev. Arthur Simon, head of the Washington, D.C., office of the Christian DES MOINES Ptlla 0 MIt 200 Children's Fund and spokesman for hungry people around the world. True happiness comes through helping others. Simon was the featured speaker at the college's commencement ceremony Saturday morning. About 335 graduates were present with relatives and friends for the ceremony at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium. "If you're going to have a dream and a goal in life, then I have two questions for you: To what end, and for what purpose?" Simon asked. He urged the graduates to choose a goal that will not only challenge them and make them happy, but also one that will help others who weren't afforded the opportunity of a college education. People who go to college have a responsibility to people who don't, Simon said. "You can reach out with your life and make your life count for them," Simon said. "The choice is up to you." Simon, a Lutheran minister, has devoted most of his life to fighting starvation and hunger throughout the world. He graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and went on to work as a minister on New York's lower east side. He founded Bread for the World, now a 50,000-member organization devoted to fighting hunger. Simon said tens of thousands of children die every day from starvation. The tragedy, he said, is that almost all of those deaths are preventable. "Somalia is only the tip of the iceberg," he said. Simon, the brother of U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., said the United States enjoys many advantages but seldom takes advantage of them to solve problems. "The good ol' U.S.A. is a rich nation ... but we are also a deeply troubled nation because we cannot come together to solve basic problems," Simon said. "We will either help people come together across racial and ethnic lines or we will tear the nation apart." He compared people who worry about nothing except their own happiness to a dog chasing its tail. Happiness, he said, comes to people who do what is right, not what is right for them. "If we make the pursuit of happiness our highest goal, it will almost always elude us," Simon said. "You can chase your tail or you can go about your business in life." f In June I got the U.S. Medal of Technology from President Bush, which was kind of a neat thing, f f Delbert Meyer "The Prince of Polyester" af-thalic) acid, the major building block in making polyester. Amoco Chemical annually produces about 13 billion pounds of terephthalic acid per year, generating about $1 billion in revenues. Meyer doesn't receive royalties from the patent, although he says the company paid him a good salary. In 1989, Amoco gave him $150,000 and the first William Burton Award for a major technical contribution that also makes a major profit for the company, "which I thought was kind of nice." Kind of a neat thing. Kind of nice. President Keith Briscoe, who picks the winner or winners. The winners keep a diary but have no other requirements. Proposals are often written without preliminary approval of the host country or organization. Sometimes that means a change in plans. Tunisia Caravan Last year's Rollins winner, Stephanie Pratt, will spend this summer as a volunteer on a caravan across Tunisia conducting health-care, literacy and family planning programs. Pratt had intended to go to Rwanda, but had to choose a different destination when violence broke out in the tiny Central African nation. Martin became the 30th Rollins Author tracks down colorful origins of Iowa towns' names NAMES Continued from Page IB a book. They chose place names as a subject and the book became a family project. His daughters eventually lost interest, but Dilts was hooked. "It's like eating peanuts," he said. "I can't quit." The first edition, in 1975, was published by a local vanity press. Dilts' wife, Joan, became the chief marketer, traveling to bookstores to get it on the shelf. The 6,000 copies sold out by 1980. Dilts continued to get requests for the book and letters from people with new origins or corrections to some entries. So, he began thinking about a second edition. Bill Silag, editor-in-chief at the Iowa State University Press, was coming to the same conclusion. ISU Press had been getting calls from people seeking copies of the Spite the Swedes How Madrid and Persia came to be Iowa towns From The Register's Ames Bureau Ames, la. How Madrid came to be named for a despised Spaniard is one of the stranger stories, many of them apocryphal, behind Iowa town names. According to the book, "From Ackley to Zwingle: The Origins of Iowa Place Names," Madrid originally was called Swede Point. But in platting the town, an argument arose between the sons of Anna Dalander and her son-in-law, Charles Gaston. "Gaston employed a Spaniard who often talked of Madrid, the capital of his native country," author Harold Dilts writes. "Gaston, who disliked the Spaniard, the capital and the country, changed the name of the town from Swede Point to Madrid to spite the Swedish brothers-in-law." Pretty odd, but no less unusual than one explanation for the name of the Harrison County town of Persia: "A Persian peddler was so taken with the view, which reminded him of his homeland, that he implored the citizens to name the place Persia," Dilts wrote. Railroad officials more likely chose the name arbitrarily, he adds. Town founders could get pretty creative when choosing a name. Primghar and Le Mars are made up of the first initials of promi To complete the picture, Meyer and his older sister, Evelyn Wedek-ing of Waverly, grew up on a farm near Maynard without electricity and without running water. His father farmed with horses. Meyer remembers getting the first family radio when he was about 12. Next week, Meyer will return to Maynard for his 50-year reunion. He was in a class of 32 people. Since he was only 16 when he graduated and his parents considered him too young to go into the Navy right away, he started at Wartburg as an electrical engineering major but switched to chemistry after he returned later from two years in the Navy during World War II. He met his wife of 43 years, Bunny Mathiesen, at Wartburg "when the English lit teacher made a mistake in alphabetizing and sat us next to each other." They have five children and eight grandchildren. He says he will be a bit uncomfortable on the commencement podium Fellow earlier this month. While his friends were impressed, many asked the same question about his proposed trip to Iceland: "What the heck are you going there for?" Sure, many knew that Iceland was really greener than its North Atlantic neighbor, Greenland. And some remembered it as the site of summit talks between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986. Risky Reason But Martin had other reasons for going to this small country with a population not much greater than that of Des Moines. As a child, Martin was an avid player of the board game Risk. He re "From Ackley to Zwingle" is available in bookstores, or it can be purchased with a credit card by calling the Iowa State University Press at: 1-800-862-6657 For mail orders, send $14.95 plus sales tax and $2 for shipping to: Iowa State University Press 2121 S. State Ave. Ames, la. 50010 book, Silag said. He checked out a. copy and noted the copyright date. "I thought, 'Holy cow!' " he said. With more than 15 years since the book's publication, the time was right for an update. He called Dilts. "It's the kind of thing that has -such a general appeal," Silag said. "It shows us that the people who chose these names weren't some great historical figures." Dilts doesn't claim to be a historian. He found most of the origins in other sources, all cited in an exten- nent local citizens. There even was a poem explaining Prim-ghar's name: Pumphrey, the treasurer, drives the first nail, Roberts, the donor, is quick on the trail, Inman dips slyly the third letter in, McCormack adds M which gives the full Prim, Green, thinking of groceries, gives them the G, Hayes drops them an H without asking a fee, Albright the joker with his jokes all at par, Rerick brings up the rear and crowns all Primghar. The author, understandably, is unknown. On the other hand, city fathers sometimes found themselves snubbed. Ornbaum in Mahaska County was named for the man who owned the land on which the town was located. But railroad and postal officials called it Rose Hill. Townspeople apparently liked being called Rose Hillites more than Ornbaumians. A glance through the list of town names makes one wistful for the days when you could visit Big Bottom, Dead Man's Grove, Cut Nose Village, Bulltown, Buttermilk Hollow, Squash Bend, Rattletrap, Tip Top or Putsy. But that's progress. partly because he doesn't relish public speaking and partly because he doesn't like to wear a tie. Score another point for the polyester leisure suit. "One of the things I detest is weari ing a tie," says Meyer. "They gave me an excuse not to wear one." His speech to Wartburg graduates' will be short and unrehearsed. When it came to topics, he knew about two things: "Chemistry and life." Chemistry being apt to lose some of the audience, he's decided to talk from the heart. "I think it's very important toi have a strong spiritual base," Meyer says. "I believe it gives you a posi-' tive attitude and leads to commitment, leads to thankfulness and leads to being generous." , Grads also might want to check the fiber content tags on those black robes. Chances are, there's polyester in them. "People think polyester is gone, but it's still 25 percent of the world's fiber supply," says Meyer. lifetime members Iceland as a strategic spot, from which a player's armies could easily attack North America or Eng land. The proposal that won him the award was more sophisticated. . " Martin proposed an internship' with Icelandic Prime Minister David Oddsson next summer. Martin, who; plans a career in international law,' said the internship would give him firsthand law experience and a chance to immerse himself in a for- : eign culture. Iceland is a pioneer of individual rights and welfare, Martin said. It ' also has a great literary reputation" and the world's largest per capita publication of books something of interest to an English major. ? sive bibliography. The number of ' place origins went from about 1,000 in the first book to nearly 1,300, he said. I Now that the new edition is out," Dilts is hoping to hear from readers ' who can help him learn the origins of about 70 towns he's been unable to trace. He hasn't ruled out a third edition. Most of the profits from the first; edition went to college tuition. "I can say with complete confidence we did not get rich," Dilts said. ' Maybe if he had followed the marketing techniques of another highly" successful Iowa author. "I should have called it 'The Bridges of Story County," Dilts mused. s Author seeks readers' help Author Harold Dilts is still searching for information about the origins of the names of some 70 Iowa towns. I Those with information can write to him at: 1213 24th St., Ames, la.1 50010. Here are the towns and the coun-;; ties where they are located: ;j Abingdon Jefferson County Anderson Fremont County . ' Asbury Dubuque County ' Badger Webster County '.' Balltown Dubuque County ! Beloit Lyon County Benton Ringgold County Berkley Boone County Buckeye Hardin County , Cambria Wayne County Canton Jackson County 1 Carmel Sioux County Columbus City Louisa County Coppock Henry County Cranston Muscatine County Cromwell Union County , Defiance Shelby County Elk Run Heights Black Hawk County . Fernald Story County Folletts Clinton County Fredonia Louisa County ! Fulton Jackson County Galesburg Jasper County Garden City Hardin County ,j Graf Dubuque County Harper Keokuk County Haven Tama County Hazleton Buchanan County Hills Johnson County Hutchins Hancock County Imogene Fremont County Jacksonville Shelby County " Jericho Chickasaw County Killduff Jasper County Laurel Marshall County Lester Lyon County Maple Hill Emmet County Martinsburg Keokuk County Melvin Osceola County Miller Hancock County Morse Johnson County Mount Carmel Carroll County Mount Etna Adams County Newberg Jasper County Oakdale Johnson County Oakland Acres Jasper County Oyens Plymouth County Panorama Park Scott County Pans (Bunch) Davis County Park View Scott County ' 1 Pekin Keokuk County .' Pershing Marion County i Petersburg Delaware County Plain View Scott County " Portsmouth Shelby County Randolph Fremont County Redding Ringgold County - ' Rickardsville Dubuque County , 'j Riverdale Scott County Rosell Carroll County St. Catherine Dubuque County . . Schley Howard County n Sewal Wayne County ' '! Sexton Kossuth County Springdale Cedar County Ulmer Sac County " Walford Benton and Linn County -"v Webster Keokuk County Westwood Henry County "' Woodburn Clark County Wyman Louisa County "

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