Cow-calf sculptures pay homage to famous Iowa State alumna

Maynard Hogberg, professor emeritus of animal science, stands next to the cow-calf sculpture outside the John Deere Farm Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Hogberg was instrumental in reproducing this sculpture, along with two others like it, in honor of sculptor Norma “Duffy” Lyon.

By Whitney Baxter

A decade-long project successfully honored a famous Iowa State University alumnus and the dairy industry she supported.

Earlier this summer, three bronze cow-calf sculptures were installed at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, the Iowa State Fair and in Toledo, Iowa. The sculptures are replicas of the original, created by Norma “Duffy” Lyon, which has been on display since 1991 atop a hill overlooking the intersection of Highway 63 and Commercial Highway 30 in Toledo.

Lyon earned a degree in animal science from Iowa State in 1951. She and her husband, Joe, were well known in the dairy industry, particularly for their Jersey cows. Many also know Lyon as the “butter cow lady,” a name she earned after years of sculpting life-size cows out of butter to display at the Iowa State Fair each year.

The cow-calf sculpture replacement project in Toledo began about 10 years ago when the fiberglass sculpture began to show signs of natural weathering. Maynard Hogberg, professor emeritus of animal science, played a key role in the replication process, using experience gained from Lyon’s first artwork installed at Iowa State.

In the mid-2000s, when plans were underway to build and open ISU’s new dairy farm south of campus, Lyon and his grandson carved out of clay what is known as the ” Jersey Jewell”, a life-size Jersey cow that sits outside. the entrance to the dairy.

Plaques were installed by each of the three cow-calf sculptures, recounting the artist, Norma “Duffy” Lyon, who created them.

At the time, Hogberg was director of the Department of Animal Science and knew Lyon quite well. Together with Lynette Pohlman, Director of University Museums, they had the Jersey Jewell cast in bronze by a New York institution to preserve Lyon’s work of art.

“She studied with artist Christian Petersen while she was a student at Iowa State, and we wanted to have one of her pieces on campus,” Hogberg said of Lyon. “His art is very precise and precise. She had a great eye for detail in everything she created.

For the reproduction of the cow-calf sculpture to become a reality, a mold of the original sculpture had to be made, and then three copies of that mold had to be cast in bronze by a company in Kalona, ​​Iowa. Hogberg, the Lyon family, the city of Toledo, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and other donors have raised the necessary funds over the past two years to make this process possible.

Now that the new sculptures have been installed, landscaping will be done and plaques will be displayed that will talk about the sculpture and its artist. A dedication of the Iowa State sculpture was held on August 10.

When asked how he would think Lyon would react if she could see the new sculptures on display, Hogberg said she would be “radiant”.

“She was a major force in the dairy industry and her recognition at Iowa State and the Iowa State Fair with these sculptures is fitting,” he said.

Where to see the sculptures:

  • Outside the Veterinary Services building on the grounds of Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, 1712 S. Riverside Dr., Ames
  • On the west side of the John Deere Farm Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, 3000 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines
  • At the northwest corner of the intersection of Highway 63 and Commercial Highway 30 in Toledo, Iowa