Be like Rick Lampe

We are in the throes of commencement season, as the hundreds of photos of prospective high school graduates in this edition testify. That means speeches. The best, bar none, that we ever heard was when Gov. Tom Vilsack, now US Secretary of Agriculture, spoke at Buena Vista University. Vilsack implored graduates to stay in Iowa and help preserve the planet and feed the world with what we are doing right here in our verdant fields.

We could have walked through fire after that address.

Rick Lampe is about to out-do him.

His mere presence at the rostrum in the Siebens Fieldhouse on May 24 is message enough.

If you look for “Beaver” in the Official Unabridged Dictionary of Storm Lake, you should see a picture of the retired biology professor (with a second reference to former math teacher and baseball coach Lanny Grigsby).

Lampe, an Albert City boy, was graduated from Buena Vista College. He went on to earn post-graduate degrees in biology. No doubt he could have landed a tenure-track job somewhere else. Lampe returned to his alma mater, where the motto on its seal is “Education for Service.”

Lampe served as biology professor, dean of the School of Science, academic dean and executive vice president. He served in any way he could, but for directing the band or coaching the football team. (He might have done it if he thought he could help BVU.)

He has worked to promote sound science as president of the Iowa Academy of Science. He has worked to help preserve prairie pothole ecosystems. He is a regional expert on the ways of the badger. He works for his church, for immigrants trying to be citizens, for the county hospital when it campaigns for funding.

Lampe personifies Education for Service.

So the message is in the man and the motto.

We don’t know what points he will make in his address.

We would say this:

Be like Rick Lampe. Work hard. Never forget from whence you came. Never shake the dirt off your boots. Honor the people and places that lifted you up. Help young people find their way here at home. Believe you can leave your mark on a better world from a humble place like Iowa. Build your own future by building your community.

That work starts in Iowa. There is a new future in this state coalescing around renewable energy, life sciences, information technology and finance. It is an easy place to live where honesty and neighborliness are of the highest order. Iowa is becoming more interesting — you would be hard-pressed to find a more diverse place anywhere than Storm Lake.

While listening to Lampe or the class valedictorian, give Iowa a thought. We need you and your aspirations.

Women on boards

We have many miles to go before we reach gender balance on public boards and commissions in Buena Vista County. Just 20% of the board members in Buena Vista County are women, and only 24% of city commissioners are female, according to the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University. Statewide, women hold 28% of county commission seats and 37% of city board seats.  We trail the state average.

The center surveyed all 99 counties and the 200 largest municipalities to see how many are living up to the state law that says local boards must be gender-balanced — as close to 50-50% as possible. There are no penalties under the law, the only one of its kind in the USA. Still, it is worthwhile to keep track.

Spirit Lake, Carroll and Spencer all are close to the state average.

(Note that the study does not break down by city the library board, zoning board of adjustment or planning and zoning commission. Women comprise 58% of library board seats across Iowa. We would suspect that school boards have better gender balance, too, than cities or counties but they are not included in the survey.)

Storm Lake, for one, has tried to recruit more women and minorities to its boards and commissions. We are not trying hard enough. Voters will support female candidates. Our first female mayor, Sandy Madsen, had no problem at the polls. She was a sharp ambassador for The City Beautiful and helped move us forward. We just need more women like Madsen who want to step up and make a difference.

We also would note that women have taken over the elected offices of Auditor, Treasurer and Recorder that used to be held by men. We’ve come a long way, baby, but we have a long way to go.