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

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A small group of students at the University of Dubuque is holding some difficult conversations about race. A new initiative there is designed to get young people thinking about racial differences in order to bring the campus closer together. 

At the start of a three-hour session on a Sunday afternoon, Roger Bonair-Agard reminds the dozen or so students what he expects from them as they begin a series of writing exercises.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

 The Des Moines Metro area’s largest private employer is announcing plans to develop a history museum downtown.

Economic development leaders say it will be a linchpin to the revitalization of Walnut Street. 

Wells Fargo says it will open a 5,500-hundred-square-foot museum in its bank lobby a year from now.

City leaders say that times out perfectly with revitalization efforts on the street, which served for years as a hub for buses and was shut off to traffic.

Mercy Medical Center

Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines is using an eight-point-five million dollar gift to establish a women’s health center.

The money comes from the family of the late Frank Comfort and will help start a medical center in Clive dedicated to women in mid-life or older.

The facility will be known as the Mercy Comfort Women’s Center and is expected to open in early 2017.

The gift from the Comfort Family Foundation is the largest family gift in Mercy history.

March of Dimes

Iowa earns a grade of C on a report card issued by the March of Dimes.

The rating measures the rate of premature births in the state, and it shows a disparity between the races.

The percentage of babies born before full term in Iowa is 9.3.

For blacks, it’s 11.7 percent.

The state director of programs and advocacy for the March of Dimes, Michelle Gogerty says it’s not clear why this disparity exists.

She says the state chapter is working to do something about it.

Fairfield Community School District

The 2016 Teacher of the Year in Iowa is a 35-year veteran of the profession. 

Fairfield High School English teacher Scott Slechta was introduced as the latest Teacher of the Year during a school assembly.

The 57-year-old has been teaching in the southeast Iowa town since 1984.

Slechta reflects on what the recognition means at this stage of his career.

“New opportunities, new doors opened," he says. "I always think there are points in my career when I kind of look for something new and adventuresome, and I’m sure this journey will offer both of those things.

Friends of Iowa Civil Rights

The 20th Annual Friends of Iowa Civil Rights Lifetime Achievement Award went to the World Food Prize Foundation. 

The president of the Foundation, Ken Quinn, quotes World Food Prize founder Norman Borlaug when he says “food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.”

“If people don’t have enough food and sufficient nutritious food, they are not going to be able to avail themselves of their civil rights," Quinn says. "So food is the foundation that has to be addressed.”

A coalition of advocacy groups for children is urging presidential candidates to address issues of poverty in early childhood, especially among kids of color. 

A report from the philanthropic Annie E. Casey Foundation shows half of the nation’s children younger than five are either African-American or Hispanic.

In Iowa, it’s around 17 percent.

Advocates for children of color say many of these kids are living in poverty, and yet policymakers and presidential candidates are ignoring the problem.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A group of students in the Des Moines Public Schools are using art and poetry to address some of the nation’s most divisive social issues, such as racial divisions and immigrant rights. It’s in a course called Urban Leadership.

Sixteen-year old Jalesha Johnson has collected her thoughts on the plight of refugees in the form of a poem.

“This is us living the American dream.". she reads. "This is every migrant who never woke up, I wonder if the ships start sinking because they can’t hold all of that hope .”

Sioux City Schools

Latino activists in Sioux City are gathering signatures to protest Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s appearance at West High School next Tuesday evening. They plan to present a petition to the Superintendent of Schools in Sioux City saying Trump should not be allowed to use school property.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Two busloads of opponents of the proposed Bakken oil pipeline across Iowa protested outside the state’s Utility Board offices Thursday.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement organized the demonstration and delivered a box full of letters objecting to the plan.

Longtime Des Moines social activist Frank Cordaro was among the protesters.  

“Today we’re at the utility folks, the folks who are supposed to be protecting this state," he says. "And we’re here to tell them don’t let dirty oil come to our state.”

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Women farmers were at the center of a luncheon in Des Moines sponsored by Oxfam America.

The event was part of the week-long festivities surrounding the World Food Prize and it was meant to highlight the importance of women in food production.

The only woman to hold the job of Secretary of Agriculture in Iowa, Patty Judge, told the audience women are key to feeding a hungry world.

“Chronic hunger most often affects women and children," she says. "Investing in women as farmers raising food to feed their hungry children is just the right thing to do.”

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."