Anne Willemssen McKeown

Honored by:Betty Willemssen and Ted R. Wesenberg
Brick location:D:2  map

Anne graduated ISU in Journalsim and Mass Communication in Nov. 1974. English and Education were her minors. Her main interests: Sports Journalism, especially for the wrestling team, golf and track. She was the first woman on the Athletic Council. Good use of her talents: one to volunteer and help many ways.


It was a subtle envelope. Ivory. Standard size. Easy to overlook in the day's stack of colorful birthday cards, computerized bills, and credit-card-new-account-solicitation-of-the-day. Besides, I was used to getting envelopes from Iowa State University usually bearing requests for funding some project or program. I didn't anticipate the words which greeted me when I lifted the cover of the tent card: "Iowa State University and Ted R. Wesenberg" -- now there was a string of words I never expected to appear together -- are pleased to announce Anne Willemssen McKeown will be honored in The Plaza of Heroines . . Thus I was informed of the most distinctive gift honoring this or any of my previous 41 birthdays.

I knew full well of the brick plaza to be constructed in front of Carrie Chapman Catt Hall on campus. Of course the beautiful but dilapidated brick building was known as Old Botany during my years on campus. I had sat in crowded rooms there for psychology experiments had woven my way through its dingy maze of hallways on frigid days on my way to lectures in McKay or Kildee Hall. The smell of dead cats -- preserved in formaldehyde? -- used in kinesiology labs commonly permeated the air of Old Botany. The shelter from bitter winds was worth the acrid tradeoff but then I didn't love kitties in those days.

As a student I recognized Old Botany as one of the few familiar structures which had graced campus during my grandparents' era at Iowa State in this century's teens. Built in 1892 the imposing four-story red-brick and limestone fortress was first known as Agricultural Hall. It had a fresher face and fewer trees around it back then but I always found this tie to my grandparents' -- as well as my parents' and brother's -- times on campus a comforting link.

Because I knew the sad condition of the building even 20 years ago I had been heartened in recent months to read of plans to rescue and resuscitate Old Botany in part using funds raised through a brick plaza to honor women at the base of the immense well-worn front steps. I endorsed plans to rename the hall in honor of Carrie Lane Chapman Catt thinking how nicely this tied to my freshman year at Iowa State when I had lived in (Susan B.) Anthony House. Despite its reputation as the most conservative of Iowa’s Regents universities Iowa State never once erected a roadblock because I was a female wanting to participate in some class or activity thought to be a male bastion.

The first opportunity came my sophomore year when I "auditioned" for the position of wrestling reporter for the campus newspaper the Iowa State Daily. I don't believe the Daily had any female sportswriters at the time and none had ever covered wrestling. This was a plum assignment: from 1969-74 ISU won four NCAA team wrestling titles. We aspiring reporters -- four guys and I -- were assigned to each prepare a pre-season story on the wrestling team.

Mine is selected and printed and I had myself a "beat" that would weave itself through both the men's and women's intercollegiate athletic programs for more than two years. All for the payment of $0.25 per published column inch. In the spring of 1972 while still a sophomore I was selected through interview and presidential (Robert W. Parks not Richard M. Nixon) recommendation to become the first female on the ISU Athletic Council a 15-member board of faculty alumni and students overseeing the men's intercollegiate athletic program.

I served two years through controversy over a new football stadium mandatory "donation" of student fees to athletics and even whether I had the right to sit on the Council because I attended summer school two years rather than winter quarter one year. From the summer of 1972 on I worked in the ISU Sports Information Office as a student assistant. I was believed to be the first female student to work consistently with the men's athletic program.

At the start of my junior year in September 1972 I was named Sports Editor of the Daily -- the first female ever I was told. Due to the perceived conflict of interest created by my membership on Athletic Council -- and aided in no small part by my clashes with the Daily’s editor over reporting philosophy -- I surrendered the sports editorship winter quarter (continuing as a reporter). In March of 1973 on the recommendation of the ISU Sports Information staff the Des -Moines Register selected me as its Iowa State sports correspondent. I fed them day-to-day ISU sports news usually published with a "By a Special Correspondent" byline. But I had several bylines by then.

I later went on to be the sports editor of the Daily, a sports correspondant for the Des Moines Register, with a successful career, and now the nameing of the Plaza of Heroines.