A Joyful Gardener

Cyclones Everywhere: Greetings

"If we can begin to think of ourselves as gardeners, as shapers of environments rather than makers of people, perhaps we can allow each separate seed to grow and develop and maybe even flower without demanding that all the seeds do everything at the same time and in the same order. Perhaps, as we grow in our self-understanding and self-confidence, we can begin to perceive that each seed is different and we can seek to enable each to become what it is and not try to force it to become something else. Perhaps we can even come to trust that the seed of strength and creativity, the source of life and health and flowering, does indeed lie deep within each person, and by so trusting we will help provide the nurturing that will call forth the seed. Who knows, in time (its own time, not necessarily ours) it may push itself upward, come into its own, and bear much fruit. What greater joy can a gardener have than to witness the variety and splendor of the living plants that responded to such careful attention?" 

– Unknown

Dear Members:

My wife Peggy and I had the honor of attending a celebration of life service for Iowa State alumna, former Ames resident, and friend Neala Law­rence Benson (’59 jour­nalism) in September at Prairie Moon Winery. While Neala died in 2020, this beautiful service brought us together to support her husband Chuck (’58 sociology) and their family.

During the service, one of Neala’s grandchildren shared the above quote that illustrated Neala’s love for gar­dening and her views on parenting and relationships.

This quote resonated with me in two ways—my love for gardening, and the role of education and educators.

Just look at the fresh faces of the Iowa Staters featured in our cover story. Each of them is making their own future, shaped by the people, programs, and places they experience thanks to Iowa State.

My journey started here in 1999. Over this time, I’ve come to know Iowa Staters as many things. The research shows, and I’ve come to agree, that at our core we are innovative, collaborative, and inclusive— that’s surely true for the Iowa Staters in this, our premiere issue, and for most all Iowa Staters I encounter.

As Iowa State has shaped our envi­ronments and experiences, we’ve each borne our own unique fruit. It’s with great joy that we bring to you Iowa Stater magazine as a way to celebrate the impressive efforts and meaningful stories of Cyclones everywhere growing, devel­oping, and blooming. I encourage you to keep nurturing our values of innovation, collaboration, and inclusivity.

Indeed, what greater joy?

Yours for Iowa State,

Jeff Johnson, Ph.D. '14, Talbot Endowed President and CEO