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Geoffroy, Gregory L.

Published onJul 30, 2021
Geoffroy, Gregory L.

(July 8, 1946 -)

Quick Facts

Fourteenth president of Iowa State University, serving from July 1, 2001 – January 2012.

Gregory L. Geoffroy, President, Iowa State University, 2001- 2011, 2007 by Istvan Nyikos (Hungarian - Canadian, b. 1942). Oil on canvas. Commissioned by the University Museums with funding from the ISU Foundation. In the Presidential Portrait Collection, Art on Campus, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U2008.563

Location: Iowa State University, Parks Library

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Geoffroy spent the majority of his childhood in Kentucky and attended the University of Louisville where he earned a BS in chemistry in 1968. He served as an officer in the United States Navy for one year (1969-1970) before heading to the California Institute of Technology.

After earning his PhD in chemistry at Caltech in 1974, Geoffroy became a professor and administrator at Pennsylvania State University. He was eventually named dean of Penn State’s Eberly College of Science, a position he held from 1989-1997.

Geoffroy continued to climb the ranks of higher education administration at the University of Maryland. There he served as senior vice president of academic affairs and provost for four years, including a three month stint as interim president in 1998.

In 2001, Geoffroy left the Mid-Atlantic for the Midwest, where he began his tenure July 1st as Iowa State University’s (ISU) fourteenth president.

Just two months into his presidency, the United States was struck by unspeakable tragedy: the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The economic turmoil that occurred in the aftermath of the attacks triggered deep budget cuts that severely impacted Iowa State resulting in, among other things, the merger of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences with the College of Education.

Budget challenges would rear again in the latter part of Geoffroy’s administration brought on by the Great Recession of 2008, resulting in two consecutive mid-year state funding reductions. In response, Geoffroy prescribed drastic cutbacks, with ISU Extension and Outreach taking the hardest hit, and furloughs for university leadership, including him.

Financial woes weren’t the only problem that would test Geoffroy’s leadership. In 2004, Iowa State’s annual VEISHEA celebration erupted in riots in Campustown involving approximately 2,000 people and leading to dozens of arrests. Geoffroy suspended VEISHEA for the following year and commissioned a Task Force to study the causes of the disturbance and potential changes. Following the task force’s recommendations, Geoffroy opted to give students one more chance. VEISHEA resumed in 2006, but most activities were moved from Welch Avenue to Central Campus and the “dry VEISHEA” alcohol policy was repealed in favor of the university’s normal alcohol policy, allowing students of legal drinking age to consume alcohol in their dorm rooms.

Despite these challenges, Geoffroy was lauded for his skilled management and perseverance. During his tenure, Iowa State set new records in enrollment, sponsored funding, and fundraising. He successfully completed Iowa State’s largest capital campaign up to that point, Campaign Iowa State: With Pride and Purpose, which raised more than $800 million and doubled the number of endowed faculty positions to 150.

Recognizing the potential of renewable resources, Geoffroy sanctioned a campus-wide bioeconomy initiative in 2002 which led to the establishment of the Bioeconomy Institute, BioCentury Research Farm, Plant Sciences Institute, and the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals.

A number of major building projects were completed under Geoffroy's leadership, including the Gerdin Business Building, the Bergstrom Indoor Training Facility, Hoover Hall, Hach Hall, the Biorenewables Research Laboratory, the Roy J. Carver Co-Lab, Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center, Hixson-Lied Student Success Center, and the Union Drive Community Center. He also oversaw several major additions and renovations to the Memorial Union, Snedecor Hall, the College of Design building, and State Gymnasium.

Geoffroy is credited with saving Morrill Hall – a symbol of Iowa State’s land grant heritage – from demolition. The century-old building was closed to the public in 1998 after falling into disrepair. In 2002, Geoffroy launched one of the largest grassroots, fundraising efforts in Iowa State history to support major renovations totaling $10.3 million. On April 20, 2007, Morrill Hall was officially rededicated and reopened during the VEISHEA/Iowa State University Sesquicentennial kickoff celebration.

Dr. Geoffroy with the original Morrill Act of 1862 loaned to Iowa State’s University Museums on the occasion of ISU’s 150th anniversary in 2008.

Following his retirement in January 2012, Geoffroy retained the role of Emeritus Professor in the Department of Chemistry for one year, officially retiring July 2013. He was also appointed chairman of the Board of Trustees for Ashford University, a private, for-profit university that now offers only online degrees. He served as a Director of Lincolnway Energy, LLC since March 4, 2013 until March 3, 2016.

In January 2017, Geoffroy returned to campus for the dedication of a new 780-bed residence hall named for him.

Geoffroy, an avid fisherman, has 12 grandchildren and four children: Susan, Janet, David, and Michael with his first wife, Kathleen Carothers. Following their divorce in 2015, Geoffroy married Maria Railton Vryhof in 2015 and lives in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota.

Selected Sources

Gregory Geoffroy Papers, RS 2/14, University Archives, Iowa State University Library.

Sheridan, Allison H. (ed.), The Land Grant Act and the People’s College Iowa State University, University Museums, Iowa State University (2011) - 2014 Veishea Task Force Final Report

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