“Your Beautiful Adventure” is the theme of this year’s Iowa State exhibit at the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 11-21, in the Varied Industries Building. Iowa artist Rose Frantzen will paint 20 portraits at the ISU exhibit during the course of the fair. CALS is sponsoring four of the 20 portraits:
Grace Obata Amemiya, who has kept alive the story of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II (and wife of the late Min Amemiya, an ISU agronomy professor, extension agronomist and USDA soil scientist)
Joe Lyon, a state and national leader in the dairy industry from Toledo, Iowa
Paxton Williams, an ISU alumnus well-known for his one-man play about George Washington Carver that he wrote and has performed countless times
Marcia Borel, an ISU alumnus who with her husband, James, provided funds for a painting of Carver and Henry Wallace
Read full biographies of each of the four portrait subjects below.
The portrait schedule during the fair is:
Grace Obata Amemiya, morning of Aug. 19
Joe Lyon, morning of Aug. 12
Paxton Williams, afternoon of Aug. 12
Marcia Borel, afternoon of Aug. 21
Also, the ISU Vice President for Research is sponsoring portraits of Stephanie Hansen, associate professor of animal science and a leading cattle nutrition researcher, and Wayne Fuller, distinguished professor emeritus of statistics and economics, an internationally recognized scholar and beloved mentor for more than 50 years. Hansen’s portrait is scheduled the afternoon of Aug. 18. Fuller’s portrait is scheduled the morning of Aug. 15.
Grace Obata Amemiya
For more than 70 years, Grace Obata Amemiya has kept alive the story of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Countless times she has shared her firsthand experience of the impact of this controversial chapter of American wartime history — always told without a trace of bitterness, but instead with a spirit of advocacy for peace and justice. Now 96 years old, she is a living testament to persistence and courage — and fittingly, grace — in the face of daunting hardship and discrimination.
In 1942, Grace was a 21-year-old nursing student in San Francisco when President Roosevelt authorized the detainment of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Japanese Americans were removed from their homes and relocated to internment camps where they endured extremely hard living conditions. Grace spent a year in a camp in a remote part of Arizona, using her nursing skills to care for the elderly and ailing.
After her release, Grace wished to complete her degree. She repeatedly was rejected by schools that didn’t want any of “her kind.” Eventually a nursing school in Minnesota accepted her. She spent her final months of training in the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps working at an Army hospital in Clinton, Iowa.
After the war, she married Minoru (Min) Amemiya, a long-lost friend who also spent time in an internment camp. In 1960, they moved to Ames, Iowa, where they raised two sons. Min worked as a USDA research soil scientist and as an Iowa State University agronomy professor and extension agronomist. He contributed greatly to soil management practices that protect Iowa soils and was a leader in soil conservation and conservation education. He retired in 1988.
For years, Grace and Min told their stories together, educating many school children and adults about the internment camps. After Min died in 2000, Grace continued to speak about her experiences. In 2016, she was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2015, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs honored her with the Foreign Minister’s Commendation in Honor of the 70th Anniversary of the End of the War, for her contributions to promote mutual understanding and friendship. In 2009, she received an honorary degree from the University of California at San Francisco — 67 years after her studies were cut short as a result of her internment.
Paxton Williams is well-known for his portrayal of one of nation’s greatest agricultural scientists and one of Iowa State University’s most famous and distinguished alumni — George Washington Carver.
As an Iowa State honors student, Williams wrote a one-man play, Listening to a Still Small Voice: The Story of George Washington Carver. He embodied the character of Carver in numerous performances across the United States and in other countries, and has contributed to keeping Carver’s story and legacy alive and relevant for new generations.
Williams wrote the play with the belief that the arts can promote justice and empathy in society. He was inspired after learning more about Carver’s life in an honors seminar —how Carver was born into slavery, earned two degrees at Iowa State, joined Iowa State’s faculty and then went on to the Tuskegee Institute to become a renowned agricultural innovator, educator and humanitarian. Williams admired Carver for his service to others, his imagination and his dedication to creating a sustainable environment. His favorite Carver quote is:
“How far you go in this life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will be all these things.”
Listening to a Still Small Voice premiered in 2000, the year Williams earned a bachelor’s degree in communications studies from Iowa State. From 2005 to 2009, Williams served as executive director of the George Washington Carver Birthplace Association, which encourages scientific, educational, historical and interpretive activities at the National Park Service’s George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, Mo.
Williams currently works as an assistant attorney general with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. Besides his Iowa State degree, Williams is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and earned master’s degrees in public policy from the University of Michigan and in health care management and policy from the University of Birmingham, England. In 2008, ISU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences honored Williams as Outstanding Young Alumnus.
Marcia Borel graduated from Iowa State with a bachelor's degree in family environment in 1978. She worked as a social worker in various roles, for the welfare system and then with private agencies. That all changed when Marcia and her husband, Jim, who earned an ISU bachelor's degree in agricultural business in 1978, set off on an odyssey around the world with Jim's company, DuPont. Moving nine times in 20 years, raising two children and creating a life for the family — including three international assignments — shaped Marcia's life and beautiful adventure.
One of Marcia's favorite memories of the Iowa State Fair came in the 1970s, when President Gerald Ford visited the fairgrounds. She was one of two 4-Hers who were asked to host him during his visit, with the help of state 4-H leader C.J. Gauger (ISU bachelor's and master's degrees in agricultural education, '39 and '55). "That was one of many wonderful days spent at the fair, learning, growing and feeling pride in Iowa," Marcia says.
Marcia and Jim now live in West Chester, Pennsylvania and Johnston, Iowa. The Borels are active supporters of ISU.
They have a great love of art and recently funded the creation of the painting, Do you Know What’s Inside This Flower? George Washington Carver Mentors a Young Henry A. Wallace, which hangs in Curtiss Hall on the Iowa State campus. Marcia's portrait will be painted by the same artist, Rose Frantzen.
“We are art lovers," Marcia says. "We are Iowa children. We love Iowa State. Jim’s career has been in agriculture around the world. Both of our families are multigenerational farmers, or involved somehow in agriculture.
“This gift is meant to honor the magic of that connection between teacher and student, academia and application, discovery and development, seeds and growth – and potential. All wrapped up in it is the love for our fathers, and all farmers, whose lives’ work feeds the world.”
The Borels agree the painting represents the important role of mentors and achievement made possible through education.
“This painting opened my eyes to the story of these two extraordinary people,” Marcia says. “One was a young man, one a child, when their paths crossed at Iowa State. One born to slave parents, one a son of privilege. Both were loners with a curiosity about nature. It is a story about learning – on many levels. It is a story about a teacher and a little tag-along student, and how the light of education can transcend all and lift the world to a better place.”