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Pride, Harold E.

Published onOct 11, 2021
Pride, Harold E.

(May 8, 1894 - April 13, 1988)

Quick Facts

The Pride Veterans’ Lounge in the Memorial Union at Iowa State University is named for Colonel Harold E. Pride - also known as “Mr. Memorial Union”.

Harold Pride was born on May 8, 1894 and following his beginnings in Hopkinton and Manchester, Iowa, came to Iowa State in 1913 to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering. During his college career, he was active in a number of organizations including a literary society and theater group, student government, and publications such as the student newspaper, yearbook and Iowa Engineer magazine. In 1917, he graduated with honors, was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Coast Artillery and married Mary Elizabeth Montgomery of Goldfield, IA. Harold and Mary Ann had two children, a son Richard and daughter, Mary Frances “Polly”.

In 1919, after his service during World War I, Pride returned to Iowa State to work at the engineering experiment station. About this time, fundraising had begun to construct a “Memorial Union” at Iowa State. Supporters envisioned it as a campus center and living memorial to Iowa State students who had lost their lives in the war.

At the time, the Iowa Legislature was not interested in allocating money to construct the building, so students, faculty, staff and alumni who were passionate about the project formed a private corporation and proceeded to raise the money themselves. The effort needed someone’s full-time attention, so in 1921 the engineering experiment station “loaned” Pride to the Memorial Union project so that he could serve as the organizing secretary. Little did they know his value to the Union would be too great to ever allow for his departure!

As secretary, Pride helped select the location for the building of the Memorial Union and took on the daunting task of raising money. Fortunately, the Memorial Union project was dear to the hearts of many Iowa Staters and Pride was successful in gathering the goal of $1 million in cash and pledges. Unfortunately, the stock market crash in 1929 left many people unable to pay those pledges. Pride scrambled for investors as the loaning bank handed the debt over to an insurance company that was ready to foreclose. Pride, with his network of alumni and friends, pulled through and the project moved onward.

It was fitting that after all of his hard work, Pride would become the first Managing Director of the Memorial Union in 1927. The building opened in September 1928 and with the aid of a student, faculty and alumni Board of Directors, he guided the staff through the early years of inventing procedures and policies for the new enterprise.

He returned to active duty during World War II, achieving the rank of Colonel with the Military Intelligence Service stationed in the Middle East and China theaters. During his absence, J.C. Schilletter, head of the department of residence, stepped in to run the Union until Pride returned.

Pride went on to serve 36 years in the Army Reserves, retiring as Assistant Division Commander of the 103rd Army Reserve Infantry “Cactus” Division.

In 1940, he served as President of the Association of College Unions - International, and later he was awarded the organization’s highest honor, the Butts-Whiting Award.

Throughout his tenure as director, he oversaw four major additions to the 1928 structure that completed the original vision for the building. Each addition expanded the functions of the Union; Pride understood the responsibility of keeping up with the growing college.

Pride “retired” in 1959, but was promptly named Managing Director Emeritus and remained available to provide counsel and advice to staff. He was awarded the Iowa State Memorial Union Service Medallion that year.

He donated $10,000 for a student assistance fund that still awards loans and grants to MU student employees. Pride maintained an active interest in the Memorial Union until he passed away at age 93 in 1988.

Colonel Pride lived a life of honor, serving his family, the Memorial Union, Iowa State, the Ames community and his country.

Military honors included Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf clusters, European-African-Middle East Theater ribbon, American Theater ribbon, World War I and II victory medals, Armed Forces Reserve medal with two oak leaf clusters, Royal Order of Yugoslav Crown-3rd degree, Observer’s Wings of Royal Yugoslav Air Force, Cross of Brigadier of George I with swords. He was a lifetime member of the American Legion.

He was Alumni Association Secretary from 1923-1936 and a class agent. In 1934, he organized the 25 Year Club. He was a member of the 25 Year Club, Order of the Knoll, Mars­­­ton Club and SAGES and was a Life Member of the Alumni Association and the Memorial Union. . In 1972, Pride wrote the definitive history of the Memorial Union in a book titled, “The First Fifty Years.”

His community service was exemplified by his presidency of the Ames Rotary Club and his position as Director of the Ames United Way. He was an early supporter of Northcrest Retirement Community.

The impact of Harold Pride’s leadership and enthusiasm on the Iowa State campus is still felt today. His passionate spirit lives on in the halls of the Memorial Union. He is buried in the ISU cemetery.

Selected Sources

Harold E. Pride papers, 1924-1981, RS 21/5/11, University Archives, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library.

Oral History, Pride, Harold, 1959, RS 0/17/3 Box: 1, Folder: 24, University Archives, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library.

Memorial Union records, RS 21/5, University Archives, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library.

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