Iowa State hosted its annual Alumni Days at the end of last week.  It seems only fitting that Melissa and I had just completed removing some wonderful black and white photos from the acidic pages of a photo album kept by Margaret Morgan Hauptmann of the Class of 1942.  Ms. Hauptmann created the album while she was working with Christian Petersen on the Conversations sculpture installed in front of the Oak-Elm Residence Halls.

Section of the Conversations sculpture at Oak-Elm.

Christian Petersen was a Danish-American sculptor who was brought to the campus in 1934 by the Iowan artist Grant Woods to participate in the Great Depression’s Public Works of Art Program. Petersen remained on campus after the initial project first as an artist-in-residence and then as an associate professor.  His legacy includes twelve sculptures around campus.

Christian Petersen in the studio with part of the Conversations sculpture.

His legacy also includes the students he influenced during twenty years of teaching.  Petersen taught applied arts through the Home Economics department.  Enrollment in his courses was limited to female students through 1939 and remained heavily female when enrollment was opened to male students.  Norma “Duffy” Lyons, famous for sculpting the butter cow at the Iowa State Fair, is one of his many former students.  More information about Petersen is available on the ISU Library’s Digital Collection pages.

Student working on the sculpture.

And speaking of alumna, we would like to congratulate our student worker, Hope Mitchell, on her recent graduation.

Congratulations, Hope!


  1. Very interesting to learn more about Christian Petersen and these distinctive sculptures!

    James Dorsett

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