This is the story of a largely forgotten chapter in the rivalry between Iowa’s two largest universities, the U of Iowa and (my alma mater) Iowa State U. The stars are Iowa president Virgil Hancher, and Iowa State president James Hilton; the plot is their struggle for prestige, resources and influence on the shape of higher education in Iowa during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The interest, I hope, is a combination of
- alumni & fans’ curiosity about a very different era in what is today mostly an athletics-based rivalry
- meeting the real individuals behind the iconic “Hancher” arts center and “Hilton” college basketball phenomenon
- the intrigue of an administrative political war that made many headlines in its day, but got even more heated in never-before-published memos and other discoveries during my research.
One letter turned up in that research, from University of Rochester president C.W. DeKiewiet to Hancher, summarizes the nature of Hancher vs. Hilton quite well: “Academic men quarrel as readily as men in other sectors of society. Since they persuade themselves more easily that they are standing up for a principle, they can be vigorous and sometimes cruel combatants.”
Read more at mattkuhns.com/hancher-vs-hilton