Corn monument tradition lives on through effort by engineering students and volunteers

The corn monument, a Homecoming tradition spanning over 100 years, is a community project led by a group of Iowa engineering students.


Emily Wangen for The Daily Iowan

The corn monument sits on the Pentacrest lawn on Monday, Oct. 15, 2019. The monument has been a yearly tradition that is believed to have been started in 1919. (Emily Wangen/The Daily Iowan)

Cory Tays, News Reporter

The corn monument tradition lives on through the efforts of student engineers and volunteers who worked on building this year’s two corn-kernel covered number 24s — Nile Kinnick’s jersey number.

The corn monument has been a staple of the University of Iowa Homecoming Week for over a century. Though the monument experienced a decline in support during the 1960s and 1970s, the excitement and dedication toward this project is now stronger than ever. 

The Iowa chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers led the five-week group effort to build the monument. The project was aided by several other student organizations, including the Iowa chapter of the Female Alliance of Civil Engineers, the NEXUS Program, and IIHR – Hydroscience and Engineering. 

The project also hosted many volunteers from around the community. Brian Shanahan, co-director of the UI chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, said the annual corn monument is a great representation of the university and state’s identity. 

“It symbolizes Iowa,” Shanahan said. “Not many other universities have a monument for homecoming, and ours really represents Iowa as a whole — farming, football, and community.”

Construction of the monument was completed in the UI Hydroscience and Engineering Hydraulics Annex. The monument was transported to the Pentacrest in a nine-hour process on Sunday.

RELATED: UI celebrates corn for Homecoming Week

The 2019 corn monument honors the 80th anniversary of Nile Kinnick’s Heisman Trophy season in 1939. Both sides of the monument feature Kinnick’s jersey number, 24, crafted out of 400 pounds of corn kernels. 

UI student Collin Furlong was in charge of the monument’s structural design and said that he’s proud of the monument and the result of the long, difficult hours he put into the project.

“I worked on the … 3D designs of the monument, so seeing it standing and completed was awesome,” Furlong said. “There were some imperfections and hiccups that needed to be worked out, but that was part of the building process.” 

Cade McNeill, president of the UI chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, said community support is vital to keep the tradition going. The project utilized the UI crowdfunding site GOLDRush for supplies and other materials required for completion of the monument.  

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“It wouldn’t have been possible without the community, the fundraising on GOLDRush, and the student involvement,” McNeill said. “We’ve had a lot of help and we couldn’t have done it ourselves. Having a bunch of people involved in the project will keep the tradition going.”

Community support, whether it be from donations or volunteer help, is the driving force behind the project, and this year’s pool of volunteers was the largest the project has seen so far, McNeill said. 

“We had so many people show up that had never held a drill before, and that’s great,” said McNeill. “We are open to everybody and we want this to make a big splash in the community and continue for years to come.”