Agronomy auditorium named in honor of Webster County couple

November 27, 2018

AMES, Iowa — The Agronomy Hall auditorium at Iowa State University has been named in honor of a Webster County couple who farmed near Duncombe for many years.

The W. Kiley and Marie Powers Auditorium is located in the southwest corner of Agronomy Hall on the Iowa State campus. The auditorium, which was built as part of an addition to Agronomy Hall in 1986, is used for classes of 120 students, accommodating courses taught across the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the university.

A reception for the naming of the Powers Auditorium was recently held in Agronomy Hall with ISU President Wendy Wintersteen and relatives and friends of the Powers family.

W. Kiley and Marie Powers were Iowa farmers who believed in hard work, agricultural innovation and education. Married in 1943, the couple farmed land that was in the Powers family for more than 100 years. Kiley Powers’ grandfather, Patrick Powers, acquired land making up the farm in 1864 and 1869.

Kiley Powers was widely known as a farmer, plant breeder and seed producer. In the 1940s, he founded Powers Proven Hybrids, a small independent seed company selling certified seed corn, oats and soybeans. In a local newspaper article from the early 1950s, Kiley claimed to be the “smallest producer of hybrid seed in the world.”

Kiley had close ties to Iowa State University’s Department of Agronomy and served on the board of directors of the Iowa Crop Improvement Association, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Iowa State that serves as the official seed certifying agency in Iowa.

A plaque installed in the newly named Powers Auditorium states: “This dedication is not only for Kiley and Marie, but also serves as a tribute to many Iowa family farmers who took the lead in the evolution and expansion of hybrid seed production, primarily using foundation seed originating at Iowa State as the original genetics for their hybrids.”

Kiley Powers was a strong supporter and practitioner of soil conservation and crop rotation. He served on the Webster County Soil Conservation District, including serving as chairman. He also was a veteran, who enlisted in World War I and served overseas with the U.S. Army Air Force.

Marie (Brungard) Powers was a native of Farmington, Ill., and attended Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. She taught English and drama in Iowa schools for 45 years. She moved to Lehigh, Iowa, in 1921 to begin teaching. She taught at Duncombe High School from 1929 to 1958, and then Webster City Junior High School until her retirement in 1966.

Kiley Powers died in 1962 at the age of 67. Marie Powers died in 1995 at the age of 93.

Proceeds from the Powers estate established two scholarship programs for Iowa State students studying agronomy, plant sciences and related agricultural subjects.

The Kiley and Marie Powers Scholarship Program in the Plant Sciences, established in 2003, has been available to sophomores, juniors and seniors enrolled in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who have interests in plant sciences. Students must demonstrate high scholastic achievement and a strong record of participation in school and community activities. Since 2003, 220 students have received the scholarships, including 16 students in the current 2018-19 academic year.

The Kiley Powers Farm Endowed Scholarships, established in 1998, are awarded annually by Iowa State’s Department of Agronomy. They are awarded to both new incoming agronomy students and upperclassmen studying agronomy or seed science. Since the first year, 121 students have received the scholarships, including four students in the current 2018-19 academic year.

Besides the scholarship programs, Iowa State’s financial aid office also has a W. Kiley Powers Memorial Loan Fund. Established by Marie Powers after the death of her husband, the fund is a loan option to assist agronomy students when a gap exists between all other available financial aid and what’s still needed to pay university charges.

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