"My only memories of Iowa State University are from when I lived near campus as a child," said Sue Birkinshaw. "Our family lived in Pammel Court at the time. I remember taking art classes near the university and walking around campus. It was a good year."
And thus ended Birkinshaw's personal interaction with Iowa State, until she established a planned gift in 2013.
"I remember my parents talking about Iowa State all the time," said Birkinshaw. Their time in Ames, Iowa, served as a jumping-off point for the rest of their lives.
James Warner, Birkinshaw's father, competed in both the 1933 and 1935 Student's National Contest in Judging Dairy Products as an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska. A $600 research scholarship he received made possible a year of graduate school at Iowa State College, where he studied dairy bacteriology.
From Iowa State to India
During his time as a student, Warner spotted a notice on a college bulletin board promoting a position at the Allahabad Agricultural Institute in India. There was a need to provide a practical education in agriculture in India. Warner applied, was accepted, and soon traveled more than 13,000 miles — through six countries by way of boats and trains — to arrive in Allahabad. "We are one of two institutions in India providing a diploma in dairying and the only one providing a bachelor's degree," wrote Warner in a letter to his then fiancé, Cleone, in 1937.
When Warner started teaching in India's dairy education program, there was a lot of work to be done. "First of all, the creamery here is in no shape to make a fair quality product even though the supply of milk is fairly good," Warner continued in his letter. "We've no refrigeration in the plant and therefore use ice, which is purchased in the bazaar. To cool cream for churning, the chipped ice is added to the cream — a very bad practice, since we know not what bacteria or dirt the ice may harbor."
Over the years, Warner brought Iowa State knowledge to the people of India. He rose to head of the department of animal husbandry and dairying, eventually became the head of the department of dairy technology and added a master's level program in the field of dairy technology. He represented India as an official delegate to the International Dairy Congress and even visited Maharajas to advise them on cattle and milk.
Out of all of these new and prestigious contacts, some of Warner's favorite people were the locals. He loved judging cattle in village fairs and meeting the farmers — learning from them and sharing useful techniques.
During Warner's appointment at the Allahabad Agricultural Institute, the quality of education and facilities grew. Through the years, students came from not only India but surrounding countries, graduating from the institute to become leaders in agriculture with positions in education and government in their home countries. Warner's students called him the father of dairy in India, and the title stuck throughout his life.
Honoring Her Parents
Years later, his daughter stated, "After my parents died, I was looking for an appropriate and lasting way to honor them." Remembering how Iowa State allowed her parents to impact many lives abroad, she wanted to preserve that memory by making similar experiences accessible for generations to come. In 2013, Birkinshaw established the James N. and Cleone B. Warner International Agriculture Development Fund to support agriculture students who are studying abroad and are interested in the development of agriculture in foreign regions.
Birkinshaw lost her husband 20 years prior to establishing her gift and had tucked away his life insurance, allowing it to grow with time. "I remember my father's view on material possessions. He would always say, 'You can't take it with you!'" Birkinshaw followed that advice and discussed her plans with her financial advisor, eventually gifting from her husband's life insurance policy to support her scholarship fund. Through the planned gift, she has secured a tradition of impact for far beyond her lifetime without significant changes to her life today.
Traveling abroad in college is something nearly all students have on their to-do list — not to mention preferred by future employers — yet not all can manage the expenses that accompany the journey. "I want to give today's students a taste of what my parents experienced," said Birkinshaw. By preserving her parents' legacy, Iowa State has yet another valuable tool in creating tomorrow's global leaders in agriculture.
Make a Difference
Your support brings students of all backgrounds to Iowa State and opens the doors to life-changing opportunities. Explore how simple it can be to make a lasting gift to Iowa State by contacting the Office of Gift Planning at the office of gift planning or email@example.com.
"There are so many different and specific areas to give to at Iowa State," said Birkinshaw. "I looked into the various programs and scholarships available until I found the one that was the perfect fit — Iowa State's global agriculture program. Plus it was so easy to set up —working with the development officers at the Iowa State University Foundation helped me pinpoint exactly what I needed. I am very pleased with the result."
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