Simpson College is hosting several events today to celebrate Iowa’s first every “George Washington Carver Day,” and Carver’s time on the Indianola campus.

Simpson’s associate director for multicultural and international affairs, Tisha Carter-Smith, says Carver had first planned to go to college in Kansas after being accepted based on his academic record and transcripts. “When he arrived there, he was denied admittance because they saw that physically, he was a person of African descent. So he did wander a bit before coming to Iowa,” she says.

Carter-Smith says Carver eventually ran into someone who suggested he try Simpson College. He did that in 1890 before moving on to earning a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science and a master’s degree in science from Iowa State University. Events begin today  at Simpson’s Carver Center Atrium a 9:30 a.m. and will continue throughout the day. There are afternoon sessions in Lekberg Hall, including a reading of a proclamation from the governor declaring it George Washington Carver Day.

“We’ll also have a presentation from Linda Griffen Smith from Madison County, talking about George Washington Carver’s life while in Iowa, Paxton Williams will be sharing his one man show called ‘Listening to the still small voice, the George Washington Carver story,'” she says. Carter-Smith says there will be a self-guided tour of some of the places that were important to Carver while he was enrolled at Simpson.

There is a lot of focus on his work with the peanut, Carter-Smith his goal was to help increase the use of peanuts. “And it wasn’t so much that he invented peanut butter — because you didn’t — but he tried to offer the American consumer alternative products that can be used with those in order to increase the demand so that farmers will be able to use isn’t in their rotation more often,” she explains.

She says Carver did work with other products like soybeans and sweet potatoes. “He definitely had quite a career, along with those commodities, but just also farming techniques that really helped to save the southern farmer,” Carter-Smith says. Carter-Smith says one of the more inspiring things about George Washington Carver is he left the family farm to go to another town in search of his early education at age 12.

“And he walked there, he had nothing except the clothes on his back, to get to that town to get his first education in a school,” Carter-Smith says. “And I don’t even think that I would have had that gumption to do that, you know, and I certainly would not allow my child to go anywhere by himself at the age of 12. But yet he did that.” She says he did the same thing when he went to find a college education.

“It’s really quite an amazing, an amazing story, the pursuit of education and then wanting to give back and dedicate the rest of his life to educating others,” she says. You can find the complete schedule of events on the Simpson College website at: Iowa State University is also holding events today to celebrate his time there.

Radio Iowa