Obama’s helping hand honors ISU alum Dwight Ink

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It was quite a day for LAS alumnus Dwight Ink in December. The 92-year-old retired federal administrator, who held policy-level positions under seven U.S. presidents, was honored by Barack Obama in the nation’s capital.

Dwight dedicated his life to public service and efficient government. He served every president from Eisenhower to Reagan for a variety of federal agencies. He worked on nuclear test bans for the Atomic Energy Commission, helped establish the Department of Housing and Urban Development and also the Environmental Protection Agency. He played a major role in starting the U.S. war on poverty in the 1960s and led the recovery effort after the 1964 Alaska earthquake. The list goes on.

Dwight, who once talked to Eisenhower in the White House about Cyclone football, has never forgotten Iowa State. He has remained active in the affairs of the College of LAS and the Political Science Department. He’s also been a generous donor.

On Dec. 9 he and his wife, Dona Wolf, attended a large meeting of federal government senior executives. The speaker was President Obama, who beforehand met with about 20 people, including Dwight, for photographs. The President gave the ISU grad special attention, according to Dona.

“He walked Dwight away from the reception line because he wanted a picture of Dwight without his walker,” she wrote. “Dwight said he could not stand without his walker, so the President helped hold him as they walked away for the picture.”

The accolades didn’t stop there. During his speech, Obama talked about Dwight’s long list of accomplishments. The President concluded by saying, “Today, Dwight is 92. He’s still at it. He and his wife Dona are here with us today. I’d ask all of you to join me in giving Dwight and all the retired civil servants here a big round of applause. There’s Dwight back there.”

Dona reported all 3,000 in attendance gave Dwight a standing ovation. “A wonderful day for Dwight – I was so proud of him.”

I had a great visit with Dwight in Ames a few years back. We talked about his youth in the Winterset area, Dust Bowl soil blowing into Iowa, and his time as an Iowa State student, interrupted by military service during World War II.

He also told me about the time he batted against fellow Iowan and future Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller in a little exhibition. Dwight didn’t get a hit off Feller, but the rest of his life was a home run in the name of service for the USA.

– Steve Jones

Video of Obama’s remarks including tribute to Dwight Ink See Ink in the list of 20 all-time federal civil service leaders