Rob Dillard


Rob Dillard is a Des Moines based correspondent for Iowa Public Radio. He joined IPR in 2001 as host of Morning Edition and moved to reporting in 2007.  He has been on special assignment for IPR since early 2011 reporting the ongoing series “Being in Iowa.” It has taken him around the state shining light on small segments of the population, including Muslims, military veterans, Latinos and the physically disabled. The series has won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and Northwest Broadcast News Association (NBNA).

Rob has extensive experience in radio, newspaper and media relations dating back more than 30 years. He has also taught news writing at Central College in Pella. Rob earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communications at the University of Iowa.

Rob’s favorite public radio program is Morning Edition.

Ways To Connect

John Pemple/IPR file photo

Iowa U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is among those sponsoring legislation aimed at recalibrating prison sentences for certain drug offenders.  Grassley appeared at a Washington news conference today with Senators from both parties.  He called the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 a significant change in how the courts treat lower-level drug crimes.

A first-of-its-kind report out released today found most community college students leave school with debts of less than ten-thousand dollars.  But it also finds those who borrow the least are the most likely to default.

The executive dean of student services at Des Moines Area Community College, Laurie Wolf, contributed to the report. She says there may be a simple reason why students default on loan debts as small as 500-dollars.

Matt Brooks/NET News file photo

China will buy 13-point-eight metric tons of U.S soybeans this year, worth about $5.3 million.  Twenty-four contracts making that official were signed today in downtown Des Moines. 

This year’s Iowa soybean harvest is expected to be strong, and Laura Foell welcomes this news.  She and her husband farm 900 acres near the Sac county town of Schaller. She’s also the chairwoman of the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

Alan Light/Wikimedia Commons

A new coalition of organizations in Iowa is working to keep young people who identify as LGBTQ out of the welfare and juvenile justice systems by finding them supportive places to live. The group calls itself AFFIRM, and it’s looking to include gender-neutral language in all paperwork required of potential foster and adoptive parents.

One of AFFIRM’s founders, Penny McGee, says such changes may not be as easy as they appear, possibly requiring legislative approval and some costs.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

The 16th Annual White Eagle Pow Wow will be staged this weekend on land just south of Interstate 80 near Waukee. The man behind the event calls it the only multicultural Pow Wow in the world.


On a football Saturday afternoon in a suburban West Des Moines neighborhood of single family homes, the air is filled with incongruous music.


Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Iowa’s Secretary of State Paul Pate used a naturalization ceremony for new citizens to promote the state’s upcoming online voter registration. 

Beginning January 1,2016, Iowans with valid drivers’ licenses or other legitimate forms of state ID will be able to log on to their computers and register to vote.

Pate says he encouraged the newly naturalized citizens to take advantage of this simple way to get involved in the electoral process.

More than two dozen mayors from Mississippi River cities and towns gathered in Dubuque this week to talk about clean water and climate change. They are finding a unified voice to address issues important to communities from Bemidji, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico.

Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol is co-chair of the three-and-a-half year old effort called the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative.

The project includes a strong push to reduce nutrient levels in the massive waterway.

Buol says Dubuque already has a 10-to-15 million-dollar plan to do just that.

Huffington Post

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says Congress has its best chance since 2009 to fix the No Child Left Behind education law.

The House and Senate have passed different versions of a revised law.

The Republican-backed House bill allows parents to opt out of federal testing requirements and academic standards.

The Senate version retains the annual reading and math tests required under current law but give states latitude on how to use them.

Education Secretary Duncan says he has two other areas he wants addressed in a reauthorized law.

No Child Left Behind

The Iowa Department of Education issued its required annual report card on the federal No Child Left Behind law Thursday.

It shows more than 65 percent of the state’s schools are in need of assistance. 

Education Director Ryan Wise says the law’s requirement that all students meet annual yearly progress in reading and math is unrealistic.

Casey's General Stores, Inc.

Executives at the Ankeny-based convenience store chain Casey’s are calling the company’s first quarter results a good start to fiscal 2016. 

Casey’s is reporting record first quarter earnings of $1.57 per share, compared with $1.28 during the same period a year ago.

Company officials say sales were helped by low fuel prices and a higher demand for cigarettes.

Chief Financial Officer Bill Walljasper says Casey’s is continuing to expand.

The Iowa State medical examiner is planning an autopsy Wednesday morning to determine the cause of death of former University of Iowa standout football player Tyler Sash.

The 27-year old was found dead at his home in Oskaloosa by a family member who stopped by to walk his dog.

Sash was a safety for the Hawkeyes, who became a first-team All Big Ten selection his junior year. He had 13 interceptions during his Iowa career, fifth best in school history.

He went on to play two years for the New York Giants, winning a Super Bowl with the team in 2011.

Des Moines-based Meredith Corporation has been purchased for $2.4 billion from another media company. 

Meredith was bought by Virginia-based Media General which will form a new holding company. It will change its name to Meredith Media General and will maintain corporate and executive offices in both Des Moines and Richmond, Virginia. 

Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio

Two views of the Iowa economy released Tuesday show steady growth, but not at the rate of recent months.

The surveys come from the Iowa Business Council and Creighton University’s Mid-America Business Conditions Index.

The overall economic outlook for the third-quarter of 2015 from the Council is off 12 points from last month and nine points from a year ago.

Donegal Racing

Iowa-owned thoroughbred Keen Ice pulled off the upset of the horse-racing season over the weekend.          

The three-year-old raced past Triple-Crown winner American Pharoah down the stretch to win the Travers Stakes by three-quarters of a length Saturday.

The president of Donegal Racing, Jerry Crawford, says the win lifts Keen Ice into the upper echelon of horse racing.

“As of today we’re ranked as the second best three-year-old in North America in a new poll that came out today," he says. "And the sixth best horse overall of any age or sex in North America.”

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

An associate professor at Simpson College is spreading the word about the many types of religious beliefs found in Iowa. She's trying to defuse tensions among faiths that occasionally lead to violence and, during the last session of the Iowa Legislature, resulted in lawmakers boycotting a prayer from a Wiccan priestess.  

Maeve Callan is first-generation Irish-American, and raised Catholic until she was around 15. That’s when she started reading European history and learning about the Holocaust, which left her struggling with a difficult question.

Iowa Public Television

The founder of the taxpayers rights group Iowans for Tax Relief has died.


David Stanley of Muscatine formed the group that would become an influential player in Republican politics in 1978.


He had been a member of the Iowa House of Representatives for 16 years beginning in 1958, and he unsuccessfully ran twice for U.S. Senate, losing to Harold Hughes in 1968 and to John Culver in 1974.


His wife of 67 years, Jean, died earlier this month.


David Stanley died Wednesday. He was 86-years old.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

One of the so-called "Lost Boys of Sudan" is living in Storm Lake, but his heart remains in his homeland. He is dedicated to drawing attention to and raising money for children orphaned by civil war.

Prominent Des Moines arts patron and philanthropist Melva Bucksbaum has died.

She established the popular Bucksbaum Distinguished Lecture Series at Drake University in memory of her late husband, Martin, the founder of General Growth Properties.

Since 1997, the series has drawn top names in politics, media and the arts, including NPR’s Nina Totenberg and former President Jimmy Carter.

The first Bucksbaum lecture was delivered by Melva’s nephew, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.

Melva Bucksbaum died Sunday in Aspen, Colorado. She was 82 years old.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham touted his 33-year military career as one reason he should be elected commander-in chief during a stop at the Iowa State Fair Monday.

He told a crowd at the Register’s soapbox American troops were withdrawn from Iraq way too soon.

“Thirty-five-hundred soldiers on the ground is not enough we need about 10,000," he says. "We need a couple of aviation battalions to take the fight to ISIL. We’re going to need embedders and trainers at the battalion level. We’re going to need air controllers to drop bombs on the right people."

John Pemble/IPR

Two more Republican presidential hopefuls spoke to Iowa State Fair crowds this morning.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took on members of a Wisconsin labor union, while former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina chose to use nearly all of her allotted 20-minutes taking questions from the crowd.

During Walker’s speech on the Des Moines Register Soapbox stage, members of a Wisconsin labor union began heckling the Wisconsin Governor who’s known for stripping bargaining rights from state employees. Walker told the protesters he’s not intimidated by them.

John Pemble/IPR

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush made a morning stop at the Iowa State Fair Friday.

He touched on a wide-range of issues before a large crowd of several hundred at the Des Moines Register soapbox.

“I believe we’re on the verge of the greatest time to be alive if we’re strong, rebuild our military, show support for our veterans, bring back competency in government, and grow our economy at a far faster rate,” he says.

The brother and son of presidents, Bush says he’s tired of the divide in American politics.

John Pemble/IPR

  The parade of presidential candidates at the Iowa State Fair began Thursday morning with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

The Republican winner of the 2008 Iowa Caucuses is mounting another campaign after taking a break to be a commentator for Fox News.

Before a crowd of a couple hundred people at the Des Moines Register soapbox, Huckabee made the case for why he wants to be president.

Photo by John Pemble

One of the lesser known Democratic candidates for president took the stage at the Iowa State Fair Thursday afternoon.

Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb served in the Marines Corps during the Viet Nam War and he was Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration.

He says this military background has prepared him to be the Nation’s Commander-in-Chief.

Photo by John Pemble

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was the first in a long line of presidential candidates to take the microphone at the Des Moines Register’s State Fair soapbox Thursday morning.

The surprise winner of the Iowa Republican Caucus in 2008 is building this campaign around what he calls “truly major changes” to the nation’s income tax system.

“Like get the Fair Tax passed and quit punishing people for their work." he says. "And once and for all get rid of the criminal enterprise known as the Internal Revenue Service. Let’s be rid of them.”

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

 About 20 inner-city Des Moines middle school students spent the past week learning about flight at a special summer camp sponsored by Iowa State University. It was part of an effort to bring science and art together into one educational package. 

On a breezy morning outside the Grubb Y-M-C-A on Des Moines’s near north side, the project leader of the DAVinCI Flight Camp, Chris Whitmer, is giving some final instructions before takeoff.

“Before you throw, one last check, does it balance?" he asks the students. "You might want to wait until the wind goes a little bit down.”

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

  The high-tech industry is not known for its diverse workforce. The field is made up of fewer than 25 percent women. At major tech companies in Silicon Valley, the numbers of blacks and Latinos hover between two-and-three percent. The Technology Association of Iowa is hoping to develop ways to attract more minorities to the I-T field. 

Tony Kioko is accustomed to walking into a session at a technology conference and seeing no one who looks like him.

“I’ve had several instances where I’m the only African-American in the room,” he says.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

  The future of Iowa’s economy is front-and-center this summer during a series of week-long camps for young entrepreneurs. Middle school students polish their elevator pitches and sell their newly designed products at the weekly Farmers Market in the Valley Junction shopping area of West Des Moines. Twelve-year-old Logan Kempf shows her handmade jewelry to a potential customer.

“Those will then be put into a bracelet or a necklace with the wire and the clippers and it will be customized just for you,” she explains.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

 The six members of the band known as Chaotic Inquisition are in rehearsal.

They are polishing an original tune for a studio recording session and a concert, which will conclude the two weeks of Girls Rock Des Moines. The camp aims to build confidence in young women ages ten-to-16, and to encourage more of them to pursue music. The founder and executive director of the camp, Rae Fehring, says she was struck by an observation she made while lingering in a store testing instruments.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Examples of public art are appearing across Iowa in parks, on street corners, and in the lobbies of office buildings. Sculptor Bounnak Thammavong has been commissioned to create a piece that will be seen by thousands of travelers passing through the Des Moines International Airport.

On a late spring afternoon, Thammavong melts aluminum using a welding torch in his garage-turned-studio behind his house in Swisher.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

It didn’t take the Iowa State University athletic department long to name a replacement for outgoing head basketball coach Fred Hoiberg.

A week after Hoiberg officially left to take the helm of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, Murray State head coach Steve Prohm was introduced as the new leader of the Cyclones.

The 40-year-old Prohm has been coaching at the Kentucky school for nine years, the last four as head coach.

So he says a move to a new community will take an adjustment.