Presidential installation: Gordon Eaton

President, 1986-1990

Gordon P. Eaton was installed as president of Iowa State University on a cold, blustery day, March 29, 1987. The previous day, a large snowstorm had dropped five inches of snow on Ames and up to 12 inches in other parts of Iowa. Treacherous travel to the pre-installation luncheon prevent about half the invitees from attending.

Eaton's installation coincided with several significant anniversaries for a land-grant university:

  • the 125th anniversary of the Morrill Land-Grant College Act
  • the Centennial of the Hatch Act
  • the Centennial of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, which is the oldest higher education association in the country

The installation, in Hilton Coliseum, began with a processional, featuring honored guests in their academic regalia. Representatives of the faculty, students, alumni and the State Board of Regents and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad greeted President Eaton. A special musical presentation, "Brave Dancing," composed by music professor Gary White, was dedicated to the new president.

President Eaton got a unique piece of hardware at his installation -- the Presidential Medallion. The medallion representing Beardshear Hall was designed by installation committee to symbolized "the venerable tradition as well as a dramatic and dynamic new perspective of Iowa State University … a doorway to academic adventure and opportunity." Five hundred additional commemorative medals were created to mark the event.

In his installation address, "The Challenges and Necessity of Change," Eaton talked about his plans to help the university continue its tradition of research and education as well as serve the greater state and national communities.

A performance of The Bells of Iowa State by the ISU Symphony and the Iowa State Singers capped the ceremony.

President Eaton resigned in 1990 to become director of Columbia University's Lamont -Doherty Geological Observatory. In 1994, Eaton was appointed by President Clinton as director of the U.S. Geological Survey. He retired in 1997.