One-man show highlights second annual Carver Day at ISU

AMES, Iowa — On Thursday, Feb. 1, George Washington Carver will tell his story in person* in the Durham Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

(* “In person” — thanks to alumnus Paxton Williams’ portrayal of the world-famous agricultural scientist in a performance for the second annual Carver Day celebration at Iowa State University.)

Registration and beverages begin at 5 p.m. and the program starts at 5:30 p.m. The Carver Day event is free, but an RSVP registration is encouraged by Tuesday, Jan. 30. The program will be livestreamed.

Last year’s inaugural George Washington Carver Day program at Iowa State resulted from the Iowa Legislature’s unanimous vote the previous year to establish Feb. 1 as an Official Day of Recognition in honor of Carver.

George Washington Carver received his college education in Iowa, starting with Simpson College and then becoming Iowa State’s first Black student and faculty member. He left Iowa State for a lifelong career at Tuskegee Institute (now University) in Alabama, where he introduced improved farming systems and developed hundreds of food products from peanuts, sweet potatoes and other plants native to the southern United States.

Paxton Williams, an attorney with Belin McCormick in Des Moines, has made significant contributions to keeping Carver’s story and legacy alive and relevant for new generations. He wrote his one-man show as an Iowa State honors student, and has since performed as Carver hundreds of times across the United States and in other countries. From 2005 to 2009, Williams served as the executive director of the George Washington Carver Birthplace Association in Diamond, Missouri. He served as associate producer for an Iowa PBS documentary on Carver and was the content expert on a National Geographic Reader Series book on Carver.

Williams earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and communication studies from Iowa State in 2000. He earned graduate degrees from the University of Birmingham, England, the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago Law School. In 2023, Iowa State’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences honored him with its Carrie Chapman Catt Public Engagement Award.

Along with Williams’ performance, the Carver Day program on Feb. 1 will feature:

  • Recognition of Iowa State students involved in the annual Food Insecurity Challenge, a campus competition that educates students about local and global hunger issues and challenges them to develop solutions.
  • Remarks by Jay Byers, president of Simpson College, and Rolundus Rice, chief operating officer and vice president for student affairs at Tuskegee University.
  • Reflections on Carver’s legacy by Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, emeritus president of the World Food Prize Foundation, and by Simon Estes, the F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Artist-In-Residence in Iowa State’s Department of Music and Theatre.

At the conclusion of the program, ISU Creamery ice cream will be served.

More information on the 2024 program and Carver’s legacy can be found here.