Simon Estes.

A dozen Iowans, state-based organizations, schools, teams and companies that go above and beyond to promote good character are being honored by the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University in Des Moines with this year’s Iowa Character Awards.

Spokeswoman Hilary Ortmann says the winners are finally being named. “We had a selection committee of about 40 representatives from across the state who came together at the end of May and made great selections,” Ortmann says. “We had nearly 100 nominations from across the state, representing nearly 70 communities.”

She says these Iowa citizens, businesses and organizations have displayed their role in living the six pillars of character: caring, citizenship, fairness, respect, responsibility and trustworthiness. “One great award we love to give every year is our Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award,” Ortmann says, “and this one is a very special year for us as we will be giving former Governor Ray’s wife, Billie D. Ray, the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award this summer.”

Another notable recipient of this year’s awards is opera singer Simon Estes as the recipient of the Adult Citizen of Character Award. A TV special recognizing this year’s recipients will air on the FOX-affiliated stations in Iowa this summer while a recognition event will be held August 29th at the Prairie Meadows Events Center in Altoona.

2021 Iowa Character Award Recipients

Business/Organization of Character:
Matthew 25 (Cedar Rapids)

Honorable Mentions:
Dorothy’s House (Des Moines)
African American Museum of Iowa (Cedar Rapids)

Adult Citizen of Character:
Simon Estes (Ankeny)
Honorable Mentions:
Dr. Monic Behnken (Ames)
Kyle Horn (Des Moines)

Youth Citizen of Character:
Alison Van Gelder (Creston)
Honorable Mentions:
Carley Deery (Des Moines)
Mackenzie Kokke (Mitchellville)
Mackenzie Eichhorn (Cedar Rapids)

Aaron Eilerts Community Service Award:
Toby Laurie (Norwalk)

Educator of Character:
Yonas Michael (Ames Middle School)
Honorable Mentions:
Shane Ehresman (Lynnville-Sully CSD)
Shana Putnam Dibble (Decorah CSD)

Jim Hallihan Pursuing Victory with Honor Award:
Storm Lake St. Mary’s Girls Basketball Team (Storm Lake)

School of Character:
Ames Community School District (Ames)
Honorable Mention:
Pella Middle School (Pella)

Student Organization of Character:
Sioux City East High Student Council (Sioux City)
Honorable Mentions:
Nevada High School FFA (Nevada)

Community of Character:
Iowa Great Lakes Region (Northwest Iowa)

Partner of the Year:
Iowa Cubs / Gartner Family Foundation (Des Moines)

Character Champion:
Drake University Women’s Basketball (Des Moines)

Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character:
Billie Ray (Des Moines)


(By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)