University Museums

Title: Dr. James H. Hilton, B.S. in animal husbandry, 1923; President, Iowa State University, 1953-1965
Name: Portrait
Date: 1965
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 39 x 31 in. (99.1 x 78.7 cm)
Classification: Paintings
Credit Line: Gift of the Classes of 1965 and 1966. In the Presidential Portrait Collection, Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, Parks Library
Object Number: U82.131
More Information
James H. Hilton was the first Iowa State graduate to serve as its president. Hilton grew up on a farm near Hickory, N.C., attended North Carolina State College one year, completed his bachelor’s in animal husbandry at Iowa State in 1923, his master’s at the University of Wisconsin in 1937 and his doctorate at Purdue University in 1945. He was a county extension agent for Greene County, Iowa, for three years before joining the Purdue staff. He returned to North Carolina State as head of animal husbandry in 1945. Three years later he was named dean of agriculture there until becoming Iowa State’s president in 1953. When he retired in 1965 after 12 years as its 10th president, it was a vast educational complex with an international reputation. Hilton presided over the school’s major growth years, marked by expanding educational programs, rising enrollments and spreading physical facilities. He pushed for strong programs in the humanities to augment the school’s scientific, technological and professional courses. And he was the driving force behind development of the Iowa State Center, which includes the coliseum named in his honor. At age 65, he gave up the presidency and for two years served as the university’s director of development.

Fast fact: During Hilton’s presidency, the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts became the Iowa State University of Science and Technology. In his memoirs, Hilton said Virgil Hancher, president of the University of Iowa, was opposed to the change and at one time, 26 senators said they would oppose it, as well. But Hamilton wrote that with the help of a number of senators and intensive personal conferences with every member, the name change finally came out of the Iowa Senate with unanimous approval.