A Sustained Legacy: Advancing Science, Students, Farms, the World

By Melea Reicks Licht

The “interconnectivity” of Iowa agriculture is so important to Rich and Nancy Degner it was a key concept in a mural they helped support at the Jeff and Deb Hansen Agricultural Student Learning Center at Iowa State University.

Rich also was integral in garnering support for another mural, funded by the Iowa Pork Producers, to be placed in the Hansen Center.

Nancy has always been interested in art and originally enrolled at Iowa State as an art major. She’s also taken a few courses in stained glass. This was the first work of art they’ve funded personally.

“We were looking for art that would be a timeless representation of agriculture and technology, of all components of the land grant mission, of 4-H and FFA, of different livestock and the value of livestock in the sustainability cycle,’ Nancy says.

Degners agree the mural does all that and more. Detailed inspection of the mural reveals grill marks on a steak, and taking a wider view allows a double helix to emerge from the background of the piece.

“Every time we see it we notice some other detail,” Nancy says.

Created with tens of thousands of pieces of stained glass by Clint Hansen, the mural was installed this spring. Hansen has spent more than a year working on the mural, designing the layout, incorporating suggestions of Degner’s and the entire planning committee, cutting glass and carefully gluing it to the wood base. Hansen expects the second mural, highlighting the Iowa pork industry and funded by the Iowa Pork Producers Association, will be completed in the coming year.

“Glasses have different personality. Some are easy to cut and others are tough," Hansen says. He uses a cutter with a diamond bit. “Many are works of art on their own with swirls of color that play in the light.”