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Palmer, Barbara Raeder & James R.

Published onJul 30, 2021
Palmer, Barbara Raeder & James R.

(Barbara: March 30, 1925 - January 20, 2019)

(James: Dec. 13, 1923 - Oct. 12, 2001)

Quick Facts

The Palmers are part of the highest level of Iowa State’s most prestigious donor recognition program, funding numerous public works of art and scholarships, chairs and buildings.

Portrait of James R. and Barbara R. Palmer, 1983 by Jerome Paul Witkin

James R. Palmer was born December 13, 1923, in Elmcreek, Nebraska. Barbara Raeder was born March 30, 1925 in Baltimore to the late Florence and Irving Raeder. Barbara and James R. Palmer met at Iowa State University and married in 1948.

Barbara Palmer and her husband James both graduated from Iowa State. She is a 1946 family and consumer sciences graduate, and he was a 1944 graduate in electrical engineering. In 1955, the couple settled in State College, Pennsylvania, where James took a position with a small research and development company Haller, Raymond, and Brown (HRB Systems, Inc.). Barbara believed in investing in the human capital that is needed for society’s social and economic growth and stability. Barbara Palmer is quoted saying, “Education is the answer to many of our worldwide problems.” She continued to support and advance the teaching, research and facilities to make her vision happen, even in her estate gift to Penn State.

While James was still at HRB in 1954, he became president and chief executive officer of C-COR Electronics, an early manufacturer of cable television equipment. From 1956 through 1972, he was also the president of Centre Video, a cable system operator. James Palmer is an honorary alumnus of Penn State, was the founding president of Pennsylvania Centre Stage, and a member and past president of the Palmer Museum of Art Advisory Board. In 1986, the Palmers donated the lead gift for the museum that bears their name, The Palmer Art Museum, and were co-chairs of the museums’ expansion campaign. 

Over the years, the Palmers have supported numerous of Iowa State projects and programs, especially in the College of Engineering, College of Human Sciences and the University Museums. “Barbara was the first major donor to build a bridge between our two former colleges,” says Dean Cheryl Achterberg of the College of Human Sciences, speaking on the merger of the Colleges of Education and Family and Consumer Sciences. “More broadly, she helped the entire university community understand the role of women in philanthropy. We are truly grateful for her support and leadership.”

In 1996, Barbara and James contributed the $1 million lead gift toward the construction of a new building for ISU’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences now known as the Palmer Human Development and Family Studies Building.

A love of art and preservation of the past inspired the Palmers to support the renovation of Morrill Hall with a sizable gift to benefit the Christian Petersen Art Museum — The James R. and Barbara R. Palmer Small Objects Classroom in Morrill Hall supports the Christian Petersen Art Museum facilitates classes in visual literacy. The Palmers have also supported major public art acquisitions for the Art on Campus Collection including William King’s Forward. Palmer and her husband were members of the Order of the Knoll’s W.M. Beardshear Society, and lifelong members of the University Museums’ Curators Associates.

Barbara and Jim raised three children: Janet, David, and Chuck. Together, Barbara and Jim became serious students and collectors of American Art, most of which was contributed to the Palmer Museum.

Selected Sources

Iowa State Foundation True and Valiant Award:

James R. Palmer papers, PSUA 1099, Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University.

Penn State News: “Penn State Mourns Passing of Philanthropist and Arts Patron Barbara Palmer”

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