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Tatman reviews 42 years on Iowa Lakes board

By Staff | Oct 17, 2009

Jack Tatman

Jack Tatman, who began and ended his tenure on the Iowa Lakes Community College Board of Trustees as president, recently reviewed his experiences on the board with the Daily News.

Tatman is in a sense an alumnus of Iowa Lakes – or at least its predecessor, Estherville Junior College. He attended EJC for about a year and half.

And then a little thing called World War II happened.

Tatman was drafted and served in the 82nd Airborne. He was slated to go to Japan but the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so he went instead to occupied Germany.

His father-in-law was thinking of retiring from farming and wondered whether Tatman would be interested in taking over the place. However, Jack’s wife, Irene, didn’t think he really had farming in his blood – even though he grew up on a farm.

That wasn’t how Jack saw it though.

“I decided that was too good of an opportunity,” Tatman said.

So Jack and Irene lived on her folks’ place for three years until he bought the place across the road, paying for it in just seven years. Then he bought three more farms. Irene incidentally received a Century Farm award in 2007 for the farm that her grandfather had bought for $15 an acre.

In 1952 the North Superior Consolidated School District president asked Tatman to run for the board. He served on that board until 1958 when he and Berkley Bedell ran for and were elected to the Spirit Lake School District Board of Trustees. Tatman found himself at one time another serving as president of both the North Superior Consolidated and Spirit Lake school boards of trustees.

When Iowa Lakes Community College organized in 1967, Tatman served as its first president. The board’s first job was to hire a superintendent, and since there really wasn’t money to get started, he and the other trustees signed a note to borrow money for travel expenses to interview the college’s first superintendent, as the position was then called. Doyle Carpenter served in that position.

That early board decided to locate academic programs in Estherville and vocational in Emmetsburg, with Emmetsburg later having its own arts and sciences programs.

The early board also found itself moving its boardroom from the initial location in the second floor of a lumberyard building to a bank building and later to the Gardston Hotel. The new college located in the rotunda building, now Demoney Elementary.

Through it all, Tatman has come to a vast perspective of the college and its role and mission to the five counties it serves.

“The community college has been vital to industry,” Tatman observed, noting its training role as vital in attracting Polaris Industries to Spirit Lake.

Tatman sees a continual challenge for all colleges in rural areas in maintaining student numbers. Ironically, though, the recession has sent more students to Iowa Lakes for retraining, giving it record enrollment this year.

As he leaves the board next Tuesday after serving 42 years, Tatman is confident in Iowa Lakes’ future.

“With Val (President Val Newhouse) in charge in my opinion things are much smoother and much more cooperative between the board and the staff and everyone,” Tatman said. “It takes someone who’s in charge who’s aware of it and watches spending.”

Tatman’s contribution to the college was recognized when he was awarded an honorary degree from Iowa Lakes.

One could say that Tatman now stands at a pinnacle. Not only does he have the benefit of an understanding of the past. He can also see what the future holds.

“I’m one of Al Blum’s people that is supposed to get some windmills,” Tatman said.

Three windmills and a substation for the NorthStar wind project are planned on his Buffalo Ridge property that stradles the Iowa-Minnesota border.