Iowa Innovations

As a Hawkeye, you join a proud tradition of innovators, leaders, and explorers. Read on to learn about a few Iowa inventions and some of the alumni who've paved the way for you and your classmates.

Iowa firsts

  • 1st  U.S. public university to admit women and men on an equal basis when doors opened in 1855
  • 1st   public university in the country to grant a law degree to a woman (Mary B. Hickey Wilkinson, 1873) and to an African American (G. Alexander Clark, 1870)
  • 1st  U.S. public university to play an African American on a varsity athletic squad (Frank Kinney Holbrook, 1895)
  • Home to the 1st daily campus newspaper west of the Mississippi (1901) and the first female college newspaper editor (1907)
  • 1st tax-supported college to establish a school of religion
  • 1st American university to broadcast television, and a pioneer in developing educational TV (1933)
  • 1st Big Ten institution to appoint an African American to an administrative vice president post (Phillip Hubbard, 1966)
  • 1st state university to officially recognize a gay student organization (1970), offer insurance to employees' domestic partners (1993), and include optional questions about sexual orientation and gender identity on the application for admission
  • Iowa played in the nation’s first collegiate basketball game in 1896.
  • Two UI gymnasts created the first trampoline in 1934.
  • Iowa swimming coach David Armbruster invented the butterfly stroke in 1935.
  • The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the nation’s first university-sponsored program in creative writing, was founded in 1936.
  • The UI granted the first master of fine arts degree in 1940.
  • The UI granted the first Ph.D. in mass communication in 1948.
  • The first and only international writing program in the world was founded at Iowa in 1967.
  • UI alum Lilia Abron became the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 1973.
  • KRUI, the UI’s student-run radio station, became the nation’s first fully digital college radio station in 1995.
  • Iowa was the first university outside of China to arrange for a corps of student volunteers at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Notable alumni

  • Ashton Kutcher: Investor and Actor, That 70's Show and movies
  • Terry Brandstad: Longest-tenured governor (Iowa) in American history and United States Ambassador to China
  • Stacy May-Johnson: All-Big Ten softball player, a former Hawkeye assistant, and member of Team USA
  • John W. Irving: Author, The World According to GarpA Prayer for Owen MeanyThe Cider House Rules
  • W.P. Kinsella: Author of Shoeless Joe, later made into the film Field of Dreams
  • Flannery O’Connor: Novelist and short-story writer
  • Tennessee Williams: Playwright, A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  • Simon Estes: World-famous baritone, formerly of the New York Metropolitan Opera
  • Al Jarreau: Jazz singer, 1982 Grammy Award winner for best male pop performance
  • Bob Gebhard: Executive V.P. and general manager, Colorado Rockies
  • Richard Schultz: Executive director, United States Olympic Committee
  • Keith N. Steva: Director, eBay
  • Mitchell Burgess: Executive producer, The Sopranos
  • Diablo Cody: Academy Award–winning writer of Juno
  • Charles Guggenheim: Documentary filmmaker, has won three Academy Awards and been nominated for eight others
  • Mary Beth Hurt: Actress, The Big Chill and other films
  • Mark Johnson: Producer and Oscar winner for the movie Rain Man
  • Ashton Kutcher: Actor, That ’70s Show and movies
  • Kim E. Rosenblum: V.P. and creative director, Nickelodeon Network
  • Mildred Wirt Benson: Author, creator of Nancy Drew series
  • Gene Wilder: Actor, Silver StreakYoung FrankensteinWilly Wonka and the Chocolate FactoryStir Crazy
  • Terry Branstad: Governor of Iowa
  • Tom Brokaw: Anchorman, NBC News 
  • George Gallup: Founder of the Gallup Poll
  • Paul Conrad: Former editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1964, ’71, and ’84
  • B.J. Armstrong: Professional basketball player, won three NBA titles with Chicago Bulls
  • Don Nelson: Five time NBA champion as a player, and the NBA’s all-time wins leader as a coach
  • Alex Karras: Football player and actor
  • Eddie Robinson: Legendary football coach, Grambling State University
  • Stacy May-Johnson: All-Big Ten softball player, now a Hawkeye assistant and member of Team USA
  • Tangela Smith: Big Ten women’s basketball player of the year, all-time WNBA leader in games played