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Zumbach, Steven E.

Published onNov 09, 2021
Zumbach, Steven E.

(January 12, 1950 — )

Quick Facts

Alumnus Steven Zumbach helped establish Drake University’s nationally-known Agricultural Law Center.


Now a prominent, civic-minded Des Moines attorney, former Manchester dairy farm boy Steven E. Zumbach had shown glimpses of potential early in life. Like thousands of others, young Zumbach was a a member and leader in 4-H Club work as well as in the FFA when he began his studies at West Delaware High School. His family’s farming enterprise was anchored by a herd of 60 Holstein milk cows with crops of corn and soybeans. Market hogs were also a part of their farming operation.

As a 4-Her, Zumbach helal club offices and wound up a member of the Delaware County 4-H Council. But it was as a member of FFA that Zumbach began to excel. First the won a gold medal in the state freshman creed-speaking contest. That was followed by gold awards in public speaking and extemporaneous speaking in later years. He was local FFA chapter president in 1966, a state vice president the following year, and Iowa state president in 1968. Then in Kansas City in 1969 at the 42nd annual National FFA convention – Zumbach became the first Iowan to be elected a national vice president.

In high school, Zumbach had been student body president. At Iowa State University, where he earned two of his three degrees [BS 1973 PhD economics 1980 from ISU], Zumbach wore two hats: president of the student body, 1971-72, and student representative on the State Board of Regents, 1973-77.

Two weeks before starting school at Iowa State, Steven Zumbach got to meet the iconic Dr. Neil Harl. Harl sat him down and asked what he wanted to do with his life. Zumbach answered, telling him about ideas to expand the family farm operations, or maybe become secretary of agriculture, or maybe be the governor of Iowa or maybe run a large company. And after telling him those major aspirations, Harl simply replied: “Steven, you’re not thinking big enough.”

Harl told him to study economics and accounting, get his CPA, go to law school, get a doctorate in economics. He told Zumbach, “There’s only one person that’s done it. I’ve done it, and you could be No. 2.”

 And that’s what Zumbach did…[1] 

After receiving his law degree from the University of Iowa, Zumbach joined the Belin Law Firm. However, he also became an adjunct professor at Drake University for several years, obtained a doctorate in economics from ISU, and helped establish Drake’s nationally-known Agricultural Law Center.

As an attorney, Zumbach borrowed heavily up on his agricultural background and his academic training for professional seminars and papers published in both the popular press and professional journals. Common legal subjects for Zumbach were estate planning, estate tax consequences, and related matters involving property.

Zumbach has a wide range of civic and professional activities. In addition to those noted above, he is a past member of ISU strategic planning committee as well as the ISU Foundation Board of Directors. His fund-raising talent was put to use with the ISU Partnership for Prominence capital campaign which raised $212 million in 1993 and as a national chair for the ISU President’s Scholarship Campaign which raised $26 million.

Zumbach, who retired in December 2020 from the Belin McCormick Law firm in Des Moines, has left his mark on Iowa State, Des Moines and Central Iowa.

“Steve has created an extraordinary legacy at Iowa State University, beginning when he was an undergraduate student serving as student body president and then as a member of the Iowa Board of Regents,” Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen said. “Now he, along with his wife, Kathy, are two of Iowa State University’s most dedicated supporters and distinguished volunteer leaders. Steve has served on nearly every Iowa State presidential search committee since 1986, including my own in 2017, and every capital fundraising campaign for the past four decades. ... Steve is a wonderful champion of Iowa State, helping advance our university in numerous ways that are true to our land-grant ideals of putting science, technology, innovation and human creativity to work.”
Reprinted with permission from the Business Record

Selections of text republished with permission from Iowans who made a difference: 150 years of agricultural progress by Don Muhm and Virginia Wadsley, published by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, 1996.

Selected Sources

“Zumbach retires from Des Moines firm; recalls Delaware County roots” By Mike Putz, Manchester Press, Jan 27, 2021.

ISU Dept. of Economics profile:

“Zumbach to retire from Belin McCormick” BY BUSINESS RECORD STAFF. Tuesday, December 15, 2020.

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