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Huepenbecker Burnet, Agatha Louise

Published onJul 30, 2021
Huepenbecker Burnet, Agatha Louise

(November 23, 1930 — August 23, 2012)

 Quick Facts

Agatha Huepenbecker Burnet was the Head of Textiles and Clothing, in the College of Home Economics, for twenty years.


Agatha was the daughter of Arthur Walter and Margaret (Soest) Huepenbecker, and was raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, along with her sister, Margaret, and her brother, Herbert. She graduated from Southside High School in 1948, and achieved a BS in Textiles and Clothing from Indiana University, Bloomington, in 1952.  Thus was launched a career that spanned 41 years in Agatha’s chosen specialty.

Her first professional post was in Valparaiso Indiana, where she taught vocational Home Economics, 1952-1955.  From there, Agatha enrolled at Iowa State University, taking an MS degree in Textiles and Clothing (T & C), while teaching courses in history of textiles, draping, clothing selection, and a graduate seminar. Except for the years 1966-69 at Ohio State University, as she completed her doctorate, Agatha made Iowa State and Ames her long-term home. Her love of textiles led to a dissertation on Pre-contact Peruvian costume, specifically the poncho-shirt. Over many years, Dr. Huepenbecker traveled extensively to further her knowledge of world textiles, and she shared that information with many campus and community groups, lecturing on Paisley shawls and U.S. and European stitchery samplers. Her 1988 sabbatical was spent as a Fellow of the Textiles Division of the National Museum of American History (the Smithsonian Institution).


Rising through the ranks, Dr. Huepenbecker achieved full Professor in 1972, and became the Head of Textiles and Clothing, in the College of Home Economics, in 1973, a position she held until her retirement in 1993.  Agatha was a dedicated administrator, though she managed to keep her hand in teaching when that opportunity presented. Her research interests diverged from Peruvian textiles to those produced in the United States, as she guided master’s students who were researching appropriate costume for interpreters employed by the National Park Service.

Agatha Huepenbecker Burnet showing items from Iowa State University’s Textiles and Clothing Department collection to a visiting faculty member, 1980s. Source: Special Collections Department/Iowa State University Library.

Agatha’s impact on the Department of Textiles and Clothing was substantial.  She recruited faculty members in the 1970s and 1980s to strengthen the research component of the program, leading to an enhanced reputation both nationally and internationally. Individual faculty members benefited as well, because Agatha worked with them to achieve tenure and to make the most of research opportunities. She also lent her helping hand to those struggling with various problems. Her mentoring continued during retirement, to include colleagues, friends, and family members.

Dr. Huepenbecker led the effort to certify the Department to offer the PhD, a lengthy and involved process. Undergraduate programs were not neglected: under Agatha’s aegis the curriculum evolved from an emphasis on personal sewing to an apparel production focus.  This opened many opportunities for T & C students in business and industry around the United States and in other countries. The Department continues to place its graduates in varied employment in business and industry.

Agatha Huepenbecker Burnet, with fashion designer Charles Kleibacker, n.d. Source: Special Collections Department/Iowa State University Library.

Agatha also led in the establishment of a development fund for the (former) College of Family and Consumer Sciences.  She was a founding member and first chair of the College Alumni Constituent Committee, formed in 1990 by the ISU Alumni Association.

Not only at Iowa State, but in the wider profession, Agatha gave strong leadership.  During her tenure as President of the American Home Economics Association (AHEA), she chaired the committee to revise accreditation standards.  She held Vice-Presidential posts in the Phi Kappa Phi honorary society and the Association of College Professors of Textiles and Clothing. Over the years Agatha accrued many recognitions including: the Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of Family and Consumer Science (the former AHEA), the Distinguished Alumnus (sic) Award from The Ohio State University, and the Hall of Fame designation from the Iowa Home Economics Association. From Iowa State University, she received a Faculty Citation, an Alumni Medal, and an Order of the Knoll Faculty and Staff Award. She belonged to the Campanile Society and the W.M. Beardshear Society. Agatha exemplified a truly loyal and generous “Cyclone.”

Retirement in 1993 brought further opportunities for community service and personal fulfillment. She served on the governing boards of the Iowa State University Foundation and as president of the Mary Greeley Medical Center Foundation. Agatha married Dr. George Burnet, a retired Anson Marston Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, in 1995, drawing her into many family activities and further overseas travel. Together they served various roles in the governance of Green Hills Retirement Community. She remained in touch with colleagues throughout her years of retirement, through Christmas and other holiday greetings and social gatherings.     

Agatha passed away in 2012 and is interred at the Iowa State University Cemetery.

Selected Sources

Agatha Louise Huepenbecker Papers, RS 12/10/16, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives. This collection contains biographical information, correspondence with professional organizations, files related to her work at Iowa State, honors and awards information, and news clippings.

ISU Foundation donor profile,

Iowa State University, Plaza of Heroines profile

 Textile and Clothing Museum, Iowa State University blog post

Faculty Senate Memorial Resolution, Iowa State University

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