Iowa State University
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Celebrating 150 Years of Excellence in Agriculture at Iowa State

150 Points of Pride

The Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has a proud and distinguished history. As part of Iowa State's sesquicentennial celebration, 150 points of pride related to the College - accomplishments, discoveries, contributions, highlights, famous and interesting people - will be posted here. These postings will coincide with 150 days of the 2007-2008 academic year, beginning Aug. 20, 2007 and ending May 2, 2008, with time off for the Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks. Check back each Monday for five new items.


Finest blue cheese

Iowa State is home to the process that produces the world’s finest blue cheese. The Maytag Dairy Farms started in the early 1900s. Fred and Robert Maytag inherited the farm from their father and looked for ways to produce more than milk from their herd of Holsteins. Fred approached Iowa State’s dairy science department, where food chemists were working on a recipe for Roquefort cheese made from cow milk, rather than sheep milk. Fred offered to build the cheese plant and pay royalties to Iowa State in return for the opportunity to create an American blue cheese. In 1937, Experiment Station dairy microbiologists Clarence Lane and Bernard Hammer developed the process for making blue cheese using homogenized milk. The Lane and Hammer process became the standard for the blue cheese industry, and was first used by Maytag for its Maytag Blue Cheese.

Fast fact: The patent for the blue cheese process developed by Lane and Hammer netted $201,366 for the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station.

Martin Mortensen
Earl Heady
Martin Mortensen

Martin Mortensen was born in Denmark in 1872 and came to the United States at the age of twenty-one. After managing an Iowa creamery for several years, he entered Iowa State College in 1897 and took the course in dairy industry. After eight years in commercial work, he returned to the College in 1909 to become head of the Department of Dairy Industry, a position he held until 1938, when he reached the compulsory retirement age. As professor and emeritus professor, he continued his teaching and writing up to just a few months before his death. His special interests were in butter and ice cream making and in dairy plant management. Many honors came to Mortensen for his leadership in the dairy industry. He was an honorary member of the American Dairy Science Association, which he had served as secretary-treasurer, vice-president and president. In 1950 he was awarded the Commanders Cross of the Order of Danneborg by the Danish government. The award came in recognition of a lifetime of outstanding achievement in the dairy industry and especially as a teacher of dairy subjects at Iowa State.

Fast fact: Mortensen Road/Parkway that runs along the south side of Ames is named in honor of Martin Mortensen, as is Mortensen House in Helser Hall.

Verner Nielsen

Verner Nielsen

Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Verner Nielsen began a career in the dairy industry by helping his father deliver milk to homes in Copenhagen as a young boy. When he was 15, he began apprentice training in dairy manufacturing. When he was in his early 20s, he was invited to Iowa State University by Martin Mortensen, a fellow Dane, to help develop the Department of Dairy Industry’s cheese department. Nielsen held this job as cheesemaker for 11 years, and was part of the team that developed the process used to produce blue cheese. While working in the cheese department, he also attended classes and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1943 with majors in dairy industry and chemistry. After graduation, he spent one year as production manager at the Falfurrias Creamery Company in Falfurrias, Texas, before returning to Iowa State as an instructor in the dairy industry department. While performing his teaching duties, he also attended graduate school and earned his doctorate in dairy chemistry in 1953. He worked for a few years as extension specialist in the dairy industry. In 1958, he was named head of the dairy industry department, a position he held until 1974. He continued to work in the department, performing extension duties and teaching classes, until he retired in 1980. Nielsen died in 1998 at the age of 88.

Fast fact: When Nielsen earned his bachelor’s degree in 1943, he had the distinction of having the highest grade point average in his College of Agriculture graduating class. 


Clifford Y. Stephens
Bruce Babcock
C.Y. Stephens

Clifford Y. Stephens, originally from Cherokee County, Georgia, graduated from Iowa State College in 1925 with a degree in Dairy Science. His first job was as manager of the Farmers Co-Operative Milk Plant in Marshalltown. He founded High’s Dairy Product Corporation in 1933 in the District of Columbia area, and later pioneered jug milk distribution in Washington and Baltimore. Stephens established a scholarship foundation at Iowa State, and also chaired the university’s national campaign for the construction of the Iowa State Center. He personally donated $1 million to the campaign and raised $4.2 million. Stephens was killed in an automobile accident in 1963. Construction on C.Y. Stephens Auditorium began in 1966. As stated on a plaque in the building that bears his name, Stephens said, “I would have liked to write a fine poem or a great book, or possibly made a worthy discovery in science, but since all these accomplishments have been denied me, I shall use my ability to accumulate money in such a manner as to make it possible to train many others to do the things I would have done."

Fast fact: In 2004, C.Y. Stephens Auditorium was named “Building of the Century” by the Iowa Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The buildings in the competition were judged on their original criteria and societal and social impact.


James H. Hilton

James H. Hilton

James H. Hilton was the first Iowa State graduate to serve as its president. Hilton grew up on a farm near Hickory, N.C., attended North Carolina State College one year, completed his bachelor’s in animal husbandry at Iowa State in 1923, his master’s at the University of Wisconsin in 1937 and his doctorate at Purdue University in 1945. He was a county extension agent for Greene County, Iowa, for three years before joining the Purdue staff. He returned to North Carolina State as head of animal husbandry in 1945. Three years later he was named dean of agriculture there until becoming Iowa State’s president in 1953. When he retired in 1965 after 12 years as its 10th president, it was a vast educational complex with an international reputation. Hilton presided over the school’s major growth years, marked by expanding educational programs, rising enrollments and spreading physical facilities. He pushed for strong programs in the humanities to augment the school’s scientific, technological and professional courses. And he was the driving force behind development of the Iowa State Center, which includes the coliseum named in his honor. At age 65, he gave up the presidency and for two years served as the university’s director of development.

Fast fact: During Hilton’s presidency, the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts became the Iowa State University of Science and Technology. In his memoirs, Hilton said Virgil Hancher, president of the University of Iowa, was opposed to the change and at one time, 26 senators said they would oppose it, as well. But Hamilton wrote that with the help of a number of senators and intensive personal conferences with every member, the name change finally came out of the Iowa Senate with unanimous approval.

*Some historic photographs courtesy of the University Archives.

150 Points of Pride Archives