Cleo Rustad Kolpin

Honored by:The Iowa State Memorial Union
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Cleo Rustad Kolpin retired from her position as Assistant Director of Food Service at the Iowa State Memorial Union on July 15, 1995, after 37 years of service.

Cleo was raised on a farm in northern Iowa near St. Ansgar. While working part time in the lunchroom of St. Ansgar High School, she heard her brother's constant complaining about the poor quality of the food. It was then that she decided to pursue her career as a dietitian to improve the school lunch program.

Cleo came to Iowa State in 1950 and started working at the Memorial Union part-time, balancing work in the Commons and Grill with her studies for a B.S. in Institution Management/Dietetics. After graduation in 1953, she took the Dining Room Manager's position at the Story Hotel in Nevada, leaving there in 1958 to return to the Memorial Union. In her 37 years at the Union, she was a foundation builder, teacher, and innovator. She was a girl from the country with a big idea of how she could be of service, and she took advantage of all the opportunities that were available to women at that time.

Her first position was in the Catering Department, working for Food Service Manager Grace Olsen. Pursuing her interest in providing good food and service to patrons, she was allowed to develop a table service restaurant in the Oak Room with supporting kitchen facilities on first floor. This popular service, an addition to the cafeteria and grill operations on ground floor, was moved into the Cardinal Room when the northwest addition was completed in the mid 1960’s, and the concept continued in the development of the Campanile Room Restaurant in the 1980's. Cleo designed the kitchen support areas for both these operations.

Always in touch with the Institution Management Department at ISU, she helped to develop the 486 course, the final practical experience course prior to graduation.

When the Scheman Continuing Education Building at Iowa State Center was being designed in the mid-70's, Cleo was involved in the development of the kitchens there and was behind the scenes for the opening food event - service for 2000 at the Pig Vet gathering. The Scheman food service operation continues to be managed as an extension of the Memorial Union food service.

Responding to changes in customer needs, she initiated the application for a liquor license so that alcoholic beverages could be served at receptions and events. When the opportunity to provide food service expertise to the 4H Camp and Boy and Girl Scout Camps arose, Cleo orchestrated those arrangements, again examining the kitchens and updating facilities in those locations.

For many years during ISU President Parks' term, she coordinated entertaining needs at The Knoll as well as the President's Annual Reception for faculty, famous for hot cocoa. Though the staff grew over the years, Cleo was always involved somehow and behind-the scenes most events had her touch. Among the many unique banquet experiences she was instrumental in organizing over the years were 4H gatherings, both in the Memorial Union and at the 4H Camp, Madrigal Dinners, International Food Fairs, the 1977 Iceberg Conference, 1990 & 94 World Finals for Odyssey of the Mind.

An ever faithful and loyal employee, a nourisher and sustainer, an innovator and risk-taker, Cleo always served and gave well beyond what was required. A planter of the seeds of ideas and a believer in the rewards of hard work, Cleo never failed to lead by example.


From 1950 - 1953 - While taking classes at Iowa State, Cleo was hired by Nelson Wagaman to work part-time in The Grill and in The Commons clearing tables.

In 1953 - Cleo graduated from Iowa State College with a B.S. degree in Institution Management.

In 1958 - The year Cleo Rustad started working at the Union full-time as Catering Manager, James Hilton was College President. Harold Pride was Director of the Memorial and Grace Olsen was Food Service Director. The Union celebrated 30 years of service to Iowa State. To the original building by this time have been added the South Ballroom, dish plant, south terrace with 8 more bowling lanes below, the N.W. wing and terraces on the west side and the Book Store.

In 1959 - Harold Pride steps down as Director and Don Stevens fills his shoes. The name changed from Iowa State College Memorial Union to Iowa State Memorial Union.

In 1961 - By this time, Cleo is running the Oak Room operation as well as catering. JFK is inaugurated, Alan Shepard goes into space in the first manned effort, beehive hairdos are the rage.

In 1964 - Construction again - this time the N.E. wing, adding the Pioneer Room, Cardinal Room and student offices. When completed, the dining operation in the Oak Room moved to the Cardinal Room under Cleo’s direction.

In 1965 - Robert Parks becomes President of Iowa State. Cleo is to become instrumental in Knoll entertaining.

In 1966- Construction began on the Parking Ramp.

In 1967- The first heart transplant is performed, Twiggy the model shows off short skirts and psychedelic colors, Bonnie & Clyde and The Graduate are the top-grossing films, and The Doors and the hit song, "Light my Fire."

In 1968- The Union celebrates its 40th anniversary; Cleo notes 10 years of service to the MU.

In 1978- The Union celebrates its 50th anniversary; Cleo is honored for 20 years of service.

In 1980- Cleo is moved from catering to the main kitchen as she became assistant food director/production. She was responsible for updating/transforming the kitchen's system for delivery to meet the growing needs of all food operations in the building.

In 1988- Cleo receives her 30 year service pin, and continues oversight of production, revising, improvising and changing systems to meet new demands.

In 1995- Cleo announces her retirement, completing 37 years of faithful service to the Memorial Union.