(June 30, 1894 - 1975)
William H. Stacy was Iowa State University’s first extension rural sociologist and remained in the position for thirty years developing deep ties with local organizations and churches throughout rural Iowa.
Stacy was born on June 30, 1894 on a farm in Mitchell County, Iowa, one of Asa and Mary Fonda Stacy’s six children. The family farmed on region settled by William’s grandfather Homer in the mid 19th century. He was married to Florence Eva Brown. Stacy attended Iowa State College (now University) graduating with a BS in agronomy in 1917. During World War I he was hired by Iowa State College Cooperative Extension program as an Assistant Emergency Demonstration Agent to promote the national Emergency Food Production and Conservation campaign and at the end of the war served as Assistant County Agent Leader.
Stacy briefly left Iowa to get an MS from Cornell University in agricultural economics. He then returned to ISU Extension and was appointed to work in a new section called Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology. Stacy was one of the first rural sociologists hired by a land-grant university.
Stacy’s career was deeply influenced by the passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914. The Act was a culmination of Progressive Era reform efforts to develop community programs at land grant universities that would provide help train populations in how to effectively use technology. Various social movements helped build momentum for the Smith-Lever act including the country life movement. The American Country Life Association (ACLA) advocated for the establishment of “country towns” that would be sustainable rural communities. The ACLA organized rural communities around issues including rural landscaping, rural religious organizations, adult education and rural schools and rural youth programs. There was a great deal of complexity within the organization, but it’s core tenet was for agricultural life to remain sustainable and efficient within a rapidly changing industrial society. Stacy was very active in the ACLA organizing regional and national conferences and traveling to Europe for a six weeks study tour to six European countries to examine the ways they were retaining rural traditions amidst technological. He was the program committee secretary for the National Country Life conferences in 1929 and 1930 and that same year took a year leave of absence from his position at Iowa State University to serve as field secretary for the ACLA. He continued to be active in ACLA throughout the rest of his career. His work in ACLA laid the groundwork for his PhD in adult education from Columbia University in 1935.
Stacy’s interests in rural life extended from adult education to community development and local and county planning as well as sociological issues encompassing faith and youth development. Over the course of his career he established three organizations based in Iowa – the Iowa Rural Religious Work Council and the Iowa Christian Rural Fellowship in 1935, the Iowa Association for Adult Education in 1945 and the Iowa Council for Community Improvement in 1950. The Iowa Christian Rural Fellowship came out of years of advocacy with individual faith organizations and networks throughout the state. Between 1933 and 1967 state conferences were held at Iowa State that brought together clergy, laymen from Iowa churches with national leaders to discuss the intersectionality between religion and rural life.
Stacy was involved with local outreach in the form of radio talks on WOI Radio. Iowa State’s college radio station. He worked on the WOI Sixty Plus program giving presentations on adult education. He authored Our Christian Responsibilities for International Relations in the Post-War World in 1943. This missionary ethos inspired Stacy to investigate advisory work in rural communities. After he retired in 1959, Stacy worked in Pusan, Korea for two years as an adviser for the Near East Foundation focusing on rural community development. He also continued to work with the United Nations Association at the local, state and national level.
Stacy passed away in 1975.
Danbom, David B. "Rural Education Reform and the Country Life Movement, 1900-1920." Agricultural History 53, no. 2 (1979): 462-474.
Schwieder, Dorothy. 75 Years of Service: Cooperative Extension in Iowa. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1993.
Stacy, W. H., and John L. Tait. "Adult Education Programs with Church Leaders." (1968).
Stacy, W. H. "Lifelong Challenge." Adult Education 16, no. 3 (1966): 175-180.
Swanson, Merwin, “The ‘Country Life Movement’ and the American Churches, Church History, 46:3 (September 1977) 358-373.
Tremmel, Robert Country Life and the teaching of English, Researchi n the Teaching of English, 29:1, p. 5-36 (February 1995)
William H. Stacy Papers, RS 16/3/57, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.