Roy (May 16, 1934 - )
Alumnus Roy Reiman founded Reiman Publications, which eventually grew to be the largest subscription-supported publishing firm in the United States with over 16 million paid subscribers. Bobbie and Roy are the benefactors of ISU’s Reiman Gardens.
Roy Reiman grew up on a rented farm near Auburn, Iowa, where he attended a small rural high school with just 63 students and only 11 in his class.
His high school English teacher spotted his talent for writing, and was determined to have him become her first college journalism student. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Iowa State, but couldn’t begin until the January quarter, first needing to earn enough to cover the tuition.
Banking on the work ethic he’d developed on the farm, he paid all of his college expenses through various summer jobs—including operating a bulldozer on a road construction crew—as well as jobs on campus. He worked at the college print shop, sold advertising, wrote news releases, reported market news on Radio WOI, and served as a spotter for the play-by-play announcer at Iowa State University football games.
He also waited tables at a sorority house and sold cookware, once tallying the highest sales in the Midwest for a one-week period. Still struggling to cover costs as a sophomore, he was encouraged by his counselor to take a senior course in “Magazine Freelance Writing”. The goal set for the class was to sell three articles to receive 3 hours of “A” credit.
But once Roy found he could make good money with his mind instead of his back, it wasn’t the grade but the payments that motivated him. By the end of the quarter he’d sold 27 articles to various publications and set a record that still stands today.
He graduated from Iowa State University in 1957 with a degree in Agricultural Journalism. Having completed the ROTC program while in college, he went directly into military service as Second Lieutenant at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
After service his first job was with an ad agency in Kansas City. After a short term there, he was pursued by Capper’s Farmer magazine in Topeka, Kansas. That publication had bought a number of his freelance articles and liked his writing style. Just 2 years after joining the staff, he became the Managing Editor at age 23.
Roy says the best part of his job in Topeka is that’s where he met Bobbi, who was the executive secretary to the Editor. Even before they married, he took her for a tour of the Iowa State campus, and to this day she refers to Iowa State as “Roy’s Rome”.
After moving on to Milwaukee and working several years for a publishing firm there, he left to start his own publishing company, setting up a small office in the basement of his home. That was the beginning of Reiman Publications, which eventually grew to be the largest subscription-supported publishing firm in the United States with over 16 million paid subscribers.
It led to the launch of 14 national magazines—Country, Reminisce, Farm & Ranch Living, etc. Among them was Taste of Home magazine, which soon became the country’s leading food magazine with over 5.3 million paid subscribers, making it the sixth largest magazine in America..
What made all 14 of these magazines particularly unique in that none of them accepted advertising. All of them were supported solely by subscriptions. Experts in the publishing industry said that could never be done, but Roy proved the naysayers wrong, big-time.
By 2004, more than 16.3 million people subscribed to his magazines. And by 2008, one out of every 8 homes in America received at least one of the Reiman magazines.
Roy sold the company in 1998 but stayed on board as CEO to continue directing its growth. In 2008 he retired, took a sabbatical during which he wrote a book about his life’s experiences, traveled around the world, became involved in various non-profit boards, and worked on his golf handicap.
But as he puts it, “I totally flunked retirement”, and eventually started two new magazines--one for his home state, named Our Iowa, in 2008, and the second in January of 2013, named Our Wisconsin, for his adopted state.
Along the way, and his wife Bobbie (ISU Honorary Degree 2006) started “giving back” to Iowa State, and is best known for providing funds to establish Reiman Gardens, a 17-acre botanical garden located at the south entrance to the campus.
The Reimans have also supported business and journalism programs and scholarships, including entrepreneurship lectures in the College of Business, and they were the main donors for the ISU Alumni Center. In December of 2013, they were lead donors in the project that will enclose the south end of Jack Trice Stadium.
The family’s foundation has actively funded programs in other areas of the country dealing with health, education, and community improvements, particularly emphasizing the later in their hometowns—Auburn, Iowa and Netawaka, Kansas.
They regularly return to the Iowa State campus, since Roy says it’s still like “coming home”. Bobbi enjoys those trips just as much, and was presented an Honorary Alumna Award from Iowa State in 2006. “I was thrilled!” she says.
The campus is so meaningful to them, she says, because, “It’s where Roy discovered talents he didn’t know he had. Everything he’s done keeps coming back to Iowa State. I found when I married him I’d married Iowa State, too, and have learned to love the place just as much as he does.”
The Reimans live in Greendale, Wisconsin, and have six children: Joni, Lori, Cindi, Scott, Juli and Terrin. They are members of the Order of the Knoll True and Valiant Society and Campanile Society, and are lifetime members of the Iowa State University Alumni Association.
ISU Foundation profile: https://www.foundation.iastate.edu/s/1463/giving/interior.aspx?sid=1463&gid=1&pgid=252&cid=7014&ecid=7014&crid=0&calpgid=398&calcid=6469
Reiman Gardens “A Note from our Benefactors” https://www.reimangardens.com/about-us/a-note-from-our-benefactor/
K-State profile: https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/news/stories/2018/11/Kansas-Profile-Netawaka-Reiman.html