Barbara Mack

Honored by:Julie Harders, Chris Romans, Holli Hartman and Nicki Saylor
Brick location:F:15  map

Barbara Mack taught Journalism at Iowa State University. She received a B.A. from ISU in 1974 and earned a J.D. from Drake University Law School in 1977. She served as executive assistant to ISU President Martin Jischke and was a reporter and Attorney for the Des Moines Register. She was a Des Moines native. She died on August 23, 2012.


Trying to summarize in fourteen letters what Barbara Mack meant to four of her former students and likely hundreds of others is an impossible task. For so many of us, she was a teacher, a mentor, a counselor, a confidante, a mother, a friend. The four women who are honoring Barbara with this brick settled upon the words "Teacher-Mentor" more to fulfill the project's requirements than to describe fully our feelings about Barbara. In actuality, these words do not begin to capture the ways in which this strong, empowering woman contributed to our educations, our careers, indeed, our lives.

To us she is an institution.

Barbara Mack is the epitome of all we hope to achieve. We credit her for much of our current accomplishments and future success. This brick is a token of our appreciation, affection, and adoration for such an wonderful person. Thank you, Barbara Mack, for touching our lives.

Julie Harders (ISU class of 1992); Holli Hartman (ISU class of 1992); Chris Romans (ISU class of 1993); Nicki Saylor (ISU class of 1992).


Barbara Mack stood like a marine corp. sergeant before my Journalism 101 class that sweaty day in August 1988. She was cool, self-confident; the class was tense, self-conscious. She began her lecture by warning of her tendency to run late in the mornings (this woman can put on pantyhose while doing 80 mph on I-35) and recounting her experiences as a gourmet food critic who visited unsuspecting restaurants incognito wearing a wig, button-up housecoat, and knee-high pantyhose worn at the ankles. Within minutes, she had us laughing. Not one of those nervous, half-laughs that students often give teachers out of courtesy rather than amusement, but deep, gut-burning laughter. It was then that I knew everything was going to be all right. In later, more advanced classes, Barbara would breeze in with boxes of double chocolate donuts, at her expense, and would often invite the class to house parties where her guests included the governor and various state representatives. Barbara was much more than a professor to me. She challenged, encouraged, and inspired me as a student, a journalist, a woman, a leader. Barbara enriched my college years, and continued to influence me as I finished law school and started my career. With her coaching, I am certain I have become a better writer, a better scholar, a better person.

-- Julie Harders ISU class of 1992; B.A. Journalism and Mass Communications Drake University Law School class of 1997


For many of her students, Barbara Mack was more than just a professor of journalism. She was a career counselor, a personal life mentor, and a friend. Barbara had the ability to recognize the most important quality in a journalism student -- the fire in the belly. She stoked it with her inspiring lectures, her sound advice, and dedication to the craft. Thanks to Barbara's spark, my fire is roaring.

-- Holli Hartman, ISU class of 1992 B.A. Journalism and Mass Communication



Barbara Mack was a journalist, lawyer and teacher who shattered glass ceilings, inspired women and gave generously to many people throughout her life.

Born in Des Moines in 1952, she put herself through college in just three years, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree with Phi Beta Kappa academic honors in journalism from Iowa State University in 1974. Long before college, Mack was at home in a newsroom. She started as a copy courier at age 16 with The Des Moines Register and Tribune, then rose to reporter after graduation, blazing a trail for Register women covering court and crime news.

From those earliest days, she was passionate about First Amendment issues. She helped found the Iowa Freedom of Information Council in 1975. Her growing interest in the law drew her to Drake University Law School, where she received her Juris Doctor in general counsel, making her the highest-ranking woman in Register corporate history and its youngest executive.

After overseeing the sales of the company to Gannett interests, she was counsel at the Davis Law Firm briefly before returning to Iowa State University as a profession in journalism and mass communications. While at ISU, she taught classes ranging from basic to advanced and was a teacher, academic advisor, mentor and role model for thousands of students over a 25-year career; but Mack also make it a personal priority to tutor students who needed to pass the fundamental language usage exam required for entry into the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communications.

She died in 2012, mourned by family, friends and those many students who have taken her lessons to heart. Her legacy is a generation of young people, particularly women, poised to have positive impacts on Iowa and on the world beyond.

Inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame, August 24, 2013