The Right Decisions

Cyclones Everywhere

Written by Melea Reicks Licht

Verne Harms, 100th birthday party

Verne Harms ('49 chemical engineering), Houston, Texas

It’s been 81 years since Verne Harms (’49 chemical engi­neering) showed up at Iowa State one day in 1941, sight unseen, hoping to attend classes. This was long before entrance exams — and application processes were laxer. All he knew was ISU was the place he wanted to be.

“Iowa State was considered among the best in the nation,” Harms says. “It had a distillation tower and a complete soybean oil extraction plant. Other schools didn’t have that.”

He had to have his high school records special delivered, but Harms got in. Shortly after, he enlisted in the Navy and WWII called. He left ISU to serve as an electronics technician at sea and to teach at Oklahoma A&M, where he met his wife, Clee.

“There wasn’t anything electronic I couldn’t repair,” Harms says. “I relished going to work every day. They sent me to teacher’s training, and I enjoyed training many people.”

After the war, he returned to Iowa State, and completed his degree on the GI Bill.

Harms fondly remembers his Ames apartment—119 North Hyland Ave.— where he and his roommates liked to play football on the lawn. They were pretty good at it too, winning the house football championship, “beating those SAEs” (he was a member of Delta Chi).

“Iowa State opened my life to a greater career than I ever thought pos­sible,” he says.

That career spanned decades working with Standard Oil of Indiana and Amoco Chemical, and allowed Harms and Clee to move around the country, before put­ting down roots in Houston in 1971 — where they have lived ever since. They have two daughters, two grandchildren, and 10-great-grandchildren.

This year, Harms turned 100, and he credits many of the decisions he’s made over the years for his longevity.

“I never smoked in my life. I drank alcohol extremely minorly. I never liked booze. Though we did make our own beer during the depression,” Harms says. “I ran 1,000 steps in place every day before work. I was always biking. I played baseball until I was 39 years old.”

“I married a fabulous wife — we’ve been married 77 years. She’s been an absolute joy to live with. Of all things, that was the best deal I’ve ever made.”