(Sept. 11, 1911 – April 17, 2001)
Alumnus Goeppinger organized one of the nation’s premier commodity groups, the National Corn Growers Association and was an agricultural ambassador to the world.
Walter Goeppinger was born in Boone, Iowa, on September 11, 1911. He studied Industrial Science at Iowa State College (University) and received a B.S. (1933).
After graduating from Iowa State with a degree in agricultural economics in 1933, Walter Goeppinger returned to farming the family land in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota and Minnesota. He was the second generation to farm family-owned land since his grandfather emigrated from Germany to Iowa in 1865.
Irked that no one really spoke for or represented the nation’s corn growers at a time when fledgling organizations were emerging for both wheat and soybeans, Goeppinger organized one of the nation’s premier commodity groups, the National Corn Growers Association. He served as president and chairman from its creation in 1957 to 1977. In those 20 years, he never received any pay or collected a cent in expense money – and often dug into his own pockets to support the organization in its fledgling years.
Goeppinger was independently wealthy, and smart. He organized Greater Iowa Corp. in 1960, which sold $10 million worth of stock to investors in six weeks. Although operating only a few years, it had subsidiaries involved in agribusiness, meat packing, and other ventures.
He was one of the small group of special advisors to John F. Kennedy on the eve of his presidential inauguration. Through the association he was on several federal studies and committees to lobby for corn farmers and those who sell, market, process or handled corn. Dues were five dollars a year in 1961, and a periodic “Corn Letter” was distributed, along with a national corn yield contest.
Goeppinger’s work led to the discovery of perennial corn seed, and he was part of a 1980 trip to China, one of the first Americans to go. A manuscript written after the trip is a collection of what he saw in behavior, dress, culture, agriculture and urban practices while there. It was a glimpse into a newly-opened country the nation was curious about.
Goeppinger boasted a “one-world” philosophy. He was chair for the Iowa Hoglift to Japan in 1959 when hogs and corn to feed them were brought from Iowa to the Yamanashi Prefecture, a fertile farming area, after a destructive typhoon. This led to a “sister state” relationship between Iowa and Yamanashi that continued to this day. He was a representative to the World Food Conference in 1974, and often traveled to Mexico and authored a book on feeding growing population in Central America.
In addition to serving as President of the Iowa State College (University) Alumni Association in 1940 and Vice President of the Memorial Union Board of Directors, Goeppinger also served on the committee that gathered funding for the establishment of the Special Collections Department of Parks Library at Iowa State University.
He received Iowa State University’s Distinguished Achievement Citation in 1992 and Alumni Merit Award in 1994.
Goeppinger married Margaret E. Woods in 1935 and fathered two sons, Hans and Neil. He died on April 17, 2001.
Walter W. Goeppinger Papers, RS 21/7/34, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.
“The Corn Visionary” Farm Progress, online. https://www.farmprogress.com/corn/corn-visionary