Iowa Board of Regents

The Presidents: Stanley Redeker

The 8th President of the Board of Regents, Stanley Redeker guided the Regents enterprise through a period of unprecedented growth and served as a unifying figure during one of the most challenging eras in its history. Redeker served on the Board from 1961 to 1973, was elected president in 1965 and served in that capacity for the remainder of his appointment. 

Born in Lincoln, Neb. on August 4, 1926, Redeker and his parents, Fred and Fern Frances Redeker, moved to Boone in 1930. He graduated from Boone High School and Boone Junior College before earning a Bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University in 1949. Redeker returned to Boone to work in his father’s successful furniture store and married Maxine Erickson in 1952. They had two children, Ellen Jane and Joel

Governor Norman Erbe appointed Redeker to the Board in 1961. He was reappointed in 1967 by Governor Harold Hughes. He was elected president of the Board of Regents July 9, 1965. 

Just three months into Redeker’s term as president, UI student Steve Smith burned his selective service draft card in the Iowa Memorial Union, earning national headlines and escalating debate over U.S. involvement in Vietnam. 

Smith’s protest was the first of many such controversies during Redeker’s tenure as Board president. In 1967, UNI English Instructor Edward Hoffmans published an anti-war and anti-draft editorial in the Northern Iowan, prompting eight Iowa lawmakers to petition the Board for his job. Redeker refused these calls and responded to the lawmakers during the November 1967 meeting:

"The Board of Regents has historically followed a policy which not only permits but encourages the universities' administration to select academic personnel on the basis of professional qualifications… On the basis of all the information provided us, we can see no cause to alter our present policy which through the years has served the best interests of the state's system of higher education."

Unrest at the three campuses came to a head in May 1970 when protests against the US bombing of Cambodia turned to protests against the shootings at Kent State University. A week of protests led to hundreds of arrests and a National Guard presence in Iowa City. Eager to avoid further escalation, UI President Willard “Sandy” Boyd, in consultation with Redeker, allowed students to end their semesters early and leave campus if they felt unsafe. Thousands did so. 

It is perhaps a testament to Redeker’s leadership that the universities expanded at the rate they did during these tumultuous years. The Board approved the State College of Iowa’s transformation into the University of Northern Iowa in 1966. With the name change came a dramatic expansion of campus facilities, including the Towers Complex, Physical Education Center, McCollum Science Hall, Schindler Education Center and Maucker Union – all of which opened during Redeker’s presidency. Further, the December 1972 meeting featured Redeker’s Board enthusiastically supporting a UNI capital campaign that would build the UNI-Dome, the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, and the Strayer-Wood Theater. 

Expansion was not limited to UNI. Iowa State’s campus expanded dramatically during Redeker’s tenure. Of note, Redeker’s Boards were instrumental in constructing the Iowa State Center, including Stephens Auditorium, Hilton Coliseum, Fisher Theater, Jack Trice Stadium and the Scheman Building. In Iowa City, Redeker-led Boards guided UI Health Care through its first-ever facilities expansion, culminating in the construction of Boyd Tower. 

In addition to campus expansion, Redeker was tasked with hiring two university presidents; UI President Boyd in 1969 and UNI President John Kamerick in 1970. These hires, and the appointment of W. Robert Parks as ISU President in 1965, ushered in a new era of stability in leadership at Iowa’s public universities. Another presidential search would not occur until 1981. This stability in the presence of rapid change is arguably the best endorsement of Redeker’s presidency. 

He retired from the Board in 1973 and continued his life in Boone as a community leader, holding roles with the Boone Chamber of Commerce and Industrial Development Corporation, among many other posts. In March 1974, UNI renamed the centerpiece of its Regents Complex – the Regents Dining Hall – in his honor. The Redeker Dining Center remains a fixture on UNI’s campus to this day. Additional honors are highlighted by an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from UI in 2012. 

Redeker died November 22, 2020. He was 94.  

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