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Mahlstede, John P.

Published onOct 01, 2021
Mahlstede, John P.

(June 5, 1923 – June 2, 2002)

Quick Facts

John Mahlstede was a respected and productive faculty member, administrator, and ambassador for Iowa State University.

Mahlstede, 1978. Source: University Archives, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library.

John Peter Mahlstede, horticulturist, researcher, administrator, and staunch supporter of Iowa State athletics, was born on June 2, 1923 in Cleveland, Ohio. He enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in 1943 and served as a B-26 Squadron bombardier-navigator during World War II. For his service, John received the Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

John received his BS in botany from Miami University (Ohio) in 1947 and both MS and PhD degrees in ornamental horticulture from Michigan State University in 1948 and 1951, respectively.

Dr. Mahlstede joined the Iowa State University Department of Horticulture as an Assistant Professor in 1951 and in rather short order was promoted to Associate Professor in 1955 and to the rank of Professor in 1957. He also served as Head of the Department of Horticulture from 1961 to 1965. Never one to shy away from a new challenge, Dr. Mahlstede served as Assistant Director (1965-1967) and then Associate Director (1967-1975) of the Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station. When John retired from Iowa State University in 1987, he held the title of Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Horticulture.

During his tenure in ISU’s Department of Horticulture, Dr. Mahlstede taught courses and conducted field research in the areas of nursery crop production and plant propagation. John was always very proud of his roots in the nursery business and this industry experience helped him become an effective and popular teacher and respected researcher. One of Dr. Mahlstede’s crowning achievements came when he and E.S. Haber collaborated in writing and publishing one of the classic horticultural texts of its day, Plant Propagation (1957).

Dr. Mahlstede served as President of the International Plant Propagators’ Society in 1965 and received the IPPS Eastern Region Award of Merit in 1967. In 1969 Dr. Mahlstede was elected Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science and then went on to serve as their President (1971-1972). He received the Merit Award (1965) and Honor Award (1970) from the Iowa State Horticultural Society, was named Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1977, and served as Chairman of the Experiment Station Section of the National Association of State Universities and Land-grant Colleges (1978-1979).

One of Dr. Mahlstede’s favorite duties was representing Iowa State University as Faculty Representative to the Big Eight Athletic Conference (1971 to 1987). In 1992, Dr. Mahlstede reaffirmed his support of Cyclone Athletics by advocating for, planning, and finally helping implement the All-American Grove and Walk of Honor. The grove (approximately 300 trees) completely encircles Jack Trice Stadium and honors Iowa State University’s First-team All-Americans. Finally, the Mahlstede Horticulture Learning Center at ISU’s Reiman Gardens was named in honor of Dr. Mahlstede.

Naturally gregarious with a quick smile and ready handshake, and an office door that was always open, Dr. Mahlstede was a respected and productive faculty member, responsible and capable administrator, and an outstanding ambassador for Iowa State University.

Selected Sources

John P. Mahlstede Papers, RS 9/2/17, Special Collections Department, Parks Library, Iowa State University

Chronology of Important Events 1958-1962, University Library, Ames, IA

Personal communication Dwight Hughes Jr., Cedar Rapids, IA.

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