(March 23, 1921 — July 21, 2009)
Assistant professor, associate professor, and professor of Education, Director of Teacher Education, first Dean of the College of Education at Iowa State University, and Dean Emeritus.
Virgil Seth Lagomarcino was born at Plainfield, Bremer County, Iowa on March 3, 1921, a son of John James Lagomarcino and Cora Alice Scott Lagomarcino. He graduated from Waverly High School in 1939, then attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids where he received a BA in Political Science in 1943. He finished an MS degree at Drake University in 1948 in educational administration, and was awarded a PhD degree from Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in Education in 1955. He also served as a U.S. Army Air Corps cadet in 1942-1943.
Virgil Lagomarcino married Neva Dorothy Baird in a ceremony at the Little Brown Church in Nashua, Iowa on July 29, 1944. They had three children, Mary, Mark, and Martha.
He started his career in education by teaching at Lincoln High School in Vinton, Iowa, in 1944-45 and then served as superintendent of schools in Keystone, Iowa from 1945-1949 and at Anamosa Consolidated Schools from 1949-1951. He then worked as a regional consultant for the Iowa Department of Public Instruction from 1951-1953 and as a research assistant assistant at Iowa State College from 1953-1954. In 1954, while still in graduate school, he was named Director of Curriculum and Supervision and Director of Public Junior Colleges for the Iowa Department of Public Instruction in which he wrote reports documenting education in every county in Iowa.
In 1955, Lagomarcino was hired to be an assistant professor of education at Iowa State. He rose rapidly to associate professor in 1957 and to professor in 1959. In 1961 he was appointed as Director of Teacher Education at Iowa State. In 1968, when the College of Education was formed at Iowa State University, Lagomarcino was named as the first Dean of the College and continued to lead it until his retirement in 1990.
One of his notable achievements was locating the College of Education in the old Veterinary Medicine Quadrangle on campus. This building had been built in 1912 and had housed the College of Veterinary Medicine until 1975. After Veterinary Medicine vacated the building, Dr. Lagomarcino led the effort to secure funds to remodel the building in order to house the administrative offices, classrooms, and laboratories for the College of Education and the Department of Psychology. Remodeling was completed in 1981. It was renamed Virgil S. Lagomarcino Hall in 1986 in honor of Dr. Lagomarcino's work and achievements.
Dr. Lagomarcino authored or co-authored many publications over the years, including An Appraisal of the Public Junior Colleges of Iowa (1955), The Decision-Making Process of School Districts Regarding Vocational Education and Training Programs (1966); Iowa School Bond Issues Data Book (1966); Iowa School Bond Issues Summary Report (1966); Vocational School Bond Issues in Iowa (1967); An Analysis of Factors Associated with School Bond Elections in Iowa (1968); “Getting Out the Vote” in School Bond Elections (no date); The Preparation of Teachers: Some Concerns and Challenges (no date); Education in Iowa—A Statewide Study of Attitudes and Opinions of the General Public (1981); Attitudes and Opinions About Iowa Education—General Frequency Report for a Statewide Study of the General Public (1981); and Attitudes and Opinions About Iowa Education—General Frequency Report for a Statewide Study of Public School Teachers (1981.)
Dr. Lagomarcino was active in many professional activities over the years. At Iowa State, he was Chairman of the University Council of Deans, Chairman of the University Faculty Council, Chairman of the Research Planning Group, Administrative Representative, All University Community Council, and a member of the University Committee on Interdisciplinary Studies and the Semester Steering Committee. He was a member of Phi Alpha Kappa, Phi Delta Kappa, Alpha Kappa Delta, and Gamma Sigma Delta, receiving the Outstanding Educator Award from Phi Delta Kappa in 1967. Aside from professional activities at Iowa State, he was a member of the National Education Association, the Executive Committee of Teacher Education and Professional Standards, the Regent Committee on Educational Relations, the Coordinating Council of College of Education Deans in Regent Institutions, Visitation and Appraisal Committee of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, charter president of the Iowa Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, State Liaison Officer of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and examiner with the North Central Association. He was also the Director of the Research and Development Project in Vocational and Technical Education and an examiner for the North Central Association Commission on Colleges and Universities. In addition, he served on the Advisory Committee for the Joint Council on Economic Education in New York, participated in Comparative Education Seminars in Finland, the U.S.S.R., Czechoslovakia, and Spain, and went on two educational missions to Egypt, in 1964 and again in 1975.
Dr. Lagomarcino was also involved in non-professional activities, including membership on the Ames Commission Advisory Committee, the board of directors of the American Cancer Society of Iowa, the University YMCA, the Board of Education at First Baptist Church of Ames, and on the board of trustees for First Baptist Church, the Ames Public Library, and the Central Iowa Regional Library Board.
Dr. Lagomarcino retired in 1990 and became Emeritus Professor of Education. During his retirement years, he published two books about his early years growing up in Bremer County, A Window on Main Street: Life Above the Corner Drug (1995) and The Owl, the Elephant, and the Other Side of the Mountain (1997). He also published a book of Christmas stories he told his children while they were growing up, Life With Santa and Sarah Claus (1995).
Virgil Seth Lagomarcino died peacefully in his sleep on July 21, 2009 at the age of 88. Interment took place at Ames Municipal Cemetery.
The main source of information on Dr. Virgil Seth Lagomarcino is found in the Virgil Lagomarcino Papers, RS 10/1/11, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library, Ames, Iowa. Biographical information is found in Folder 1, Box 1 of the collection. However, for the interested reader or researcher, the entire collection is extensive, running 18.48 linear feet and filling 44 archival boxes. It is divided into six series; Series 1: Biographical Information, 1959-2009; Series 2: Iowa State University, College of Education, 1920-1990; Series 3: Lagomarcino Hall, 1975-1986; Series 4: State of Iowa, Department of Public Instruction, 1955; Series 5: Task Forces and Committees, 1952-1989; and Series 6: Education Subject Files, 1936-1968. In general terms, the collection includes biographical information, correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, printed materials, and photographs.
Copies of his childhood memoirs and of his Christmas stories can be found in the Parks Library at Iowa State.
Obituaries appeared in the Ames Tribune on July 22, 2009 and in the Iowa State Daily on July 28, 2009.