Our Iowa Heritage: The Iowa Award – 1951 to Today.

As a result of the 1946 Iowa Centennial Celebration, a new award, called The Iowa Award, was developed. The plan was to celebrate every five years or so by honoring one significant Iowan, giving them this award – our state’s highest honor.

In 1951, the first Iowa Award was given to President Herbert Hoover of West Branch, Iowa. Click here to read more about President Hoover.

Four years later, in 1955, the award went to Jay N. (Ding) Darling, political cartoonist for The Des Moines Register from 1906-1949. Darling, during his career, won two Pulitzer Prizes for his work (1924 and 1943). Click here to read more about Ding Darling.

How The Iowa Award Came About.

1946 Centennial Celebration – Old Capitol Silver Round, a Silver Spoon, and Commemorative Half-Dollar. Click here to read more about the 1946 Iowa Centennial Celebration.

The Iowa Award – 1951 – 2018 – Twenty-Five Honored Iowans.

Since it’s inception (1948), The Iowa Award has been given out 25 times, with the latest being 2018. Below, you will find all 25 winners – and when we’ve written more on that person, you’ll find a link to our post as well. Enjoy!


1951President Herbert Hoover – engineer, humanitarian, author, and U.S. President. Click here for more.
1955Jay N. “Ding” Darling – cartoonist, conservationist, Pulitzer Prize winner. Click here for more.
1961 – Dr. Frank Spedding – educator , chemist, worked on the first atomic bomb.
1961 – Dr. James Van Allen – educator, physicist, rocket space exploration. Click here for more.
1966 – Henry A. Wallace – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Vice President of the United States.
1970 – Mamie Eisenhower – First Lady, wife of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
1975 – Dr. Karl King – composer, bandmaster. Click here for more.
1978 – Dr. Norman Borlaug – crop geneticist, worked to end world hunger, Nobel Peace Prize winner.
1980 – Monsignor Luigi Liguitti – director, National Catholic Rural Life Conference.
1984 – George Gallup – founder of the Gallup Poll. Click here for more.
1988 – Meredith Willson – composer, musician. Click here for more.
1992 – Carrie Chapman Catt – leader in suffrage movement and for world peace. Click here for more.
1996 – Simon Estes – international opera singer. Click here for more.
1999 – Maurice Lasansky – artist, educator.
1999 – John Astanasoff – physicist, mathematician, educator , inventor of the first electronic digital computer.
2001 – John Ruan – innovative entrepreneur , philanthropist, World Food Prize sponsor.
2002 – George Washington Carver – internationally renowned scientist and humanitarian. Click here for more.
2005 – Robert D. Ray – Governor, statesman, mayor, university president, lawyer, and insurance executive.
2006 – Harry Hopkins – founder of WPA programs under Presidents Roosevelt and Truman.
2009 – Grant Wood – artist. Click here for more.
2010 – William C. “Bill” Knapp – philanthropist, business and community leader.
2012 – Richard “Dick” O. Jacobson – transportation pioneer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.
2014 – Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn – diplomat and humanitarian.
2016 – John Pappajohn – entrepreneur, business leader, and philanthropist.
2018 – Robert N. Noyce – physicist, entrepreneur, and inventor.

The first two winners – Herbert Hoover (1951) and Ding Darling (1955).

Ding Darling drew this sketch (above), sending it to Herbert Hoover to commemorate Darling’s award in 1955, becoming only the second recipient since the award was created in 1948. His good friend, Herbert Hoover, received the first Iowa Award in 1951. Click here to read more.

Brian Duffy’s 2000 Iowa Millennium Poster.

(M-0094) The Des Moines Register’s Brian Duffy – Iowa Millennium Poster – In 2000, Brian Duffy, political cartoonist with the Des Moines Register from 1983-2008, put together a magnificent artistic overview of Iowa icons with 58 subjects – one colorful poster. On that poster are ten of the winners of The Iowa Award – Herbert Hoover, Jay (Ding) Darling, Henry Wallace, Mamie Eisenhower, George Gallup, Meredith Willson, Carrie Chapman Catt, Simon Estes, George Washington Carver, and Grant Wood. Click here to read more!
Click here to visit the website and listen to the audio. Click here to read more about Simon Estes.

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

The Iowa Award, Iowa Profile, State of Iowa

The Iowa Awards, Ding Darling, University of Iowa Digital Library, 1955

The Iowa Awards, Iowa Profile, Chapter 8, The Iowa Legislature, pp 446-447

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Click here for a complete INDEX of Our Iowa Heritage stories…

Click here for a complete INDEX of PEOPLE-PLACES-THINGS…

Click here for a complete INDEX of stories listed CHRONOLOGICALLY…

Click here for a numerical INDEX to all of the U.S. postage stamps, postal cards, and coins in our collection…