The University of Iowa

Ida Beam
Ida Cordelia Beam was born to Sarah Margaret Bassett Beam and Charles Emery Beam on October 24, 1883, in Linn County, Iowa. Sarah, one of thirteen children, was born in Linn County, and her parents in Indiana. Charles was born in Jones County, Iowa, and his parents in Virginia. In the year of Ida's birth, the family moved across the county line to Benton County. Two years later the Benton County Atlas listed the 120-acre Beam farm in Eden Township. In those times it was a day's trip by horse-drawn vehicle southeast to Iowa City. The Beam family lived in a two-story frame house with a screened porch. The farm buildings included two hog houses, for Charles Beam was a hog farmer. The rolling fields stretch out in all directions from the buildings. A nineteenth-century writer might call the landscape undulating. Around those prairie fields there must have been dirt roads subject to dust, wind, rain, mud, ruts, snow, ice. Ida might have walked such a road two-thirds of a mile north to the Eden Township #4 School. Perhaps she walked alone; she was an only child. Her parents could read and write - they had completed eight years of grammar school - and her father served as president of Eden #4 at least from 1898 to 1899.

In all likelihood Ida attended Eden #4 and then began high school at Tilford Academy in Vinton, the county seat. She graduated from the college preparatory course on June 5, 1902. The Vinton Semi- Weekly Eagle reported the order of exercises: all graduates gave orations and Ida spoke on "France's Greatest Heroine." Her likeness on this page comes from a photograph of the graduating class of six young women, seven young men, and three Tilford professors. Ida, of the delicate features and the naturally curly hair, is seated at the right hand of Professor T. F. Tobin, the head of the academy.

Tilford Academy, a private high school, was established in 1871and by the 1900s had begun attracting students from as far away as New Mexico and New York. In 1895 it was called the most prosperous school of its kind in Iowa. The few records that remain include a letter from The State University of Iowa (The University of Iowa) acknowledging that Tilford had met standards for full accreditation.

In 1902 Ida enrolled as a mathematics major in the class of 1906 at Grinnell College (Grinnell, Iowa). The record shows that she left after one year, planning to enroll at Iowa State Normal School, then the teacher training institution and now the University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls). Instead, she first taught school for eight terms - perhaps in a rural school - according to the Normal School's record. She enrolled in 1906-07, registering for the three terms in the mathematics sequence and working toward a B.A. in mathematics. As it turned out, she attended the Normal School only one year.

Where Ida taught between 1903 and 1906 and what shaped her life after 1907 may be recorded only in the lives of others. The 1910 federal census and the 1915 state census records do not list Ida in the Beam home. By 1915 Mr. and Mrs. Beam had retired from the farm and moved to Vinton. Around 1920 Ida and her parents, moved to Portland, Oregon, probably because her mother's brother Robert lived there. One cousin thinks Ida taught in Portland. It is known that Ida worked for a brokerage firm there, apparently for many years. She remained single and she and her parents lived out their lives in Portland.

Ida traveled. "She traveled all over the world. When she was over 80, she and a cousin set out for Egypt." Another cousin recalled that the Beam family came back by train for reunions. Once about 1930 Ida visited the Beam farm then managed by Swedish immigrant Ivar Skoog, who came to the United States in 1902 and worked on the Beam farm. Eventually he married a Swedish woman and they lived with the Beam family. When Mr. and Mrs. Beam left the farm, the Skoog family made it their home. The daughters recall that their father "had us write letters about the farm" to the Reams. One recalls the visit. "Ida was wearing a pretty, navy blue suit and a little fur piece. She wanted to go out to the fields, and my father offered a ride. She said she would just as soon walk." Ida is remembered for being well-educated, for keeping her young spirits, for her enjoyment of talking, knitting, wildflowers, photography, and family activities.

Ida Cordelia Beam died on March 16 1976, at the age of 92, leaving 291 acres to The University of Iowa for educational purposes. The sale of the farm yielded $637,071.72. The substantial, unrestricted gift allowed the University the freedom to develop a program of visiting professorships that would year after year enhance the learning possibilities for faculty and students. President Willard L. Boyd and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties May Brodbeck were instrumental in creating the program. The Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships will keep her quiet gift ringing with eloquence through the voices of others.