Every year the Ames Tribune picks people in the community to profile for a series called “Unsung Heroes.” It’s meant to highlight those who maybe haven’t been recognized for their contributions. I was assigned to write about a song lyricist and a longtime official at Iowa State University who was named the newspaper’s Citizen of the Year.
I personally love writing profiles, I think it goes back to a class I had in journalism school that was taught by a local newspaper writer who truly believed that everyone had a story. He even has a column where he dials up random people in the phone book and does a short story about them (an amazing feat in itself given that land lines are disappearing rapidly.)
With everyone, it seems, focused on breaking news these days and the race to be first to get something online … even if in that rush it’s happens to be incorrect … I hope we don’t lose sight of story telling.
An ordained pastor and retired Iowa State University professor, Charles Kniker is also a prolific writer of hymns and is hoping to get a book of his songs published. Kniker has been named an Unsung Hero by the Ames Tribune. Photo by Jessie Bonner/Ames Tribune
As a prolific writer of hymns, Charles Kniker might seem an unusual choice for one of the Ames Tribune’s Unsung Hero awards given the countless hours he spends on verses that are meant to be, well, sung.
Not by him, though.
“I’m a terrible singer, and not really a musician. But I love hymns,” said Kniker, an ordained pastor and retired Iowa State University education professor.
He seemed surprised he didn’t catch the word juxtaposition between his award’s title and what he does most days, writing songs in his expansive apartment at the Green Hills Retirement Community in Ames.
But then again, he’s a busy guy.
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Sure, it mentions his numerous responsibilities as the university’s senior vice president for business and finance, and it highlights his role in the establishment of ISU’s research park and points out that he’s been active in a number of community organizations.
Madden’s “brief bio” on the ISU website is 600 words and also mentions his prestigious recognition from the National Association of College and University Business Officers, which awarded him their top honor in 1993.
The biography also mentions Madden was awarded ISU’s Alumni Medal last year for his loyal service, but it doesn’t detail the staggering list of campus projects he and his wife have supported over the years.
There’s also nothing about his collaborations with the city on flood recovery, or how some consider him to be the face of ISU at the various community functions he attends, or his efforts to improve town-gown relations between ISU and Ames.
Some also felt the narrative didn’t quite capture the enthusiasm in which Madden approaches his work. No campus building bears his name, there’s no scholarship awarded in his honor.
Betty Horras was among friends and colleagues, both past and present, who felt Madden deserved a larger share of the spotlight, and they nominated him for the Ames Tribune’s Citizen of the Year award.
“I believe he has been ‘unsung’ by the Ames community,” Horras said in her nomination letter. “We just know and expect that Warren is working for the greater good.”
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