Monumental Homecoming Tradition Returns to UI Campus

A University of Iowa Homecoming tradition dating back more than 100 years has returned to the Pentacrest this week.

A group of students from the University of Iowa College of Engineering erected a 24-by-16-foot corn monument in the shape of a capital “I” on the west side of the Pentacrest Monday.

Nearly 2,100 ears of corn were cut in half, lengthwise, and glued to a wood structure that features cross-bracing on all sides to ensure it withstands wind gusts from any angle, says Matt Schleusner, 22, a senior civil engineering major from Stillwater, Minnesota, and chairman of the college’s corn monument group.

UI’s corn monument tradition dates back to 1919, when the first structure was built. According to archives, designs over the years featured a variety of construction materials and even lighting in addition to corn. In some years, the monument was burned in a bonfire ceremony at the week’s end.

In the wake of World War II in 1947, UI didn’t use any corn on the monument in order to comply with President Harry Truman’s food conservation program to aid the starving in Europe, according to a published news report.

The tradition continued annually until the 1960s, when interest waned. It was revived in 1981 and made sporadic appearances since—until 2014, when the UI student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers took up the project and built a 25-foot monument using about 1,100 ears of corn.

Schleusner was part of the group that built last year’s structure, and says this year there was no question whether the tradition would continue.

“It’s a lot bigger and heavier than last year’s design, and it’s exciting,” he said.

The monument will remain on the Pentacrest until Oct. 12.