Rob Dillard

Correspondent

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’s Secretary of State is reminding voters with disabilities there are methods in place to help them cast ballots. This applies to military veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, as well.

It’s estimated between six-and-ten percent of the 300,000 Iowans with disabilities vote. The percentage for the overall population may approach 70 for this year’s election.

Tai Tomasi is a staff attorney with Disability Rights Iowa. She’s also blind. She says technological advancements have improved her ability to go to the polls.

Briar Cliff University

The six Catholic colleges in the state are banding together to address the challenges facing private higher education. The Iowa Catholic Collegiate Association will explore possible joint ventures and shared programs.

CRST International

The latest addition to the Cedar Rapids skyline is the 11-story CRST Center located near the Cedar River downtown.

The $37 million building will be the corporate headquarters for the transportation company CRST International. The trucking firm will occupy two of the floors, with Bankers Trust, Holmes Murphy and RSM International renting office space. Company chairman John Smith says since CRST announced plans to move its corporate campus downtown from southwest Cedar Rapids, others are considering similar moves.

Rob Dillard

A group of artists are part of an exhibit at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport. What sets the Living Proof Exhibit apart from other displays is how the work has helped these artists through some dark days. 

You might call the collection of more than 60 pieces of art at the Figge a smorgasbord exhibit. It includes everything from fiber art, such as sewing and knitting and a quilt, to painting, encaustics and photography, the more traditional forms of art.

There is one thing, however, that ties all of this work together.

Rob Dillard

Iowans gathered across the state Monday for parades, picnics and rallies to recognize the annual Labor Day holiday. In Des Moines, hundreds of union members paraded from the State Capitol to the State Fairgrounds.

Labor Day has been on the books as a national holiday since 1894.

The president of the South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, Mark Cooper, says the day serves as a reminder to Americans the labor movement is alive and well.

Cooper has his own meaning of Labor Day permanently imprinted.

Blackbird Development

The 26-story apartment tower planned for the spot once occupied by Younkers Department Store in downtown Des Moines will include a swimming pool on its roof.

Blackbird Development is releasing details of the $85 million project it calls 701 Walnut.

The 300,000 square-foot tower will house 276 apartments and ground floor commercial space.

Blackbird is also renovating the Wilkins Building next door, home of the Younkers Tea Room.

A massive fire destroyed the Younkers Building in 2014, leaving an empty space in the heart of Des Moines’ downtown.

Rob Dillard

The next recipient of the state’s highest award for an individual will be Des Moines philanthropist John Pappajohn.

At a luncheon to honor entrepreneurs, Governor Terry Branstad announced Pappajohn would receive the Iowa Award.

Pappajohn is known for his financial support of start-up companies and for the arts as seen in the downtown Des Moines sculpture park that bears his name.

Schools across Iowa are beginning classes this week amid concerns from public health officials about the drop in vaccination rates. At many schools, the percentage of students fully vaccinated is below 90 percent, and at a few around the state, it's below 50 percent. 

State Epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says more families are seeking exemptions from vaccinations for a variety of reasons. 

"One of the reasons is that people no longer have seen these diseases and therefore don't realize how bad they can be," she explains. 

Rob Dillard

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Center for Lesbian Rights brought their Rural Pride Summit to Des Moines Thursday. It offered a chance for the rural LGBT community to talk about their economic, health, legal and social concerns.

Des Moines was the 13th stop in the series, which began in 2014 as a way to increase the visibility of the LGBT community in rural America.

It’s estimated that almost 10 percent of same-sex couples live in rural areas of the country.

Rob Dillard

A 30-member advisory council looking into chronic absenteeism in Iowa schools held its first meeting Tuesday. The problem of students missing class is especially prevalent in the early grades.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days. A report issued in April by the Child and Family Policy Center indicates nine percent of Iowa’s kindergartners fit this pattern. A special assistant for education in the governor’s office, Linda Fandel, says this leaves them far behind when it comes to reading.

Rob Dillard/IPR

It has become a hot word in the board rooms of health professionals and urban planners. Walkability – a measure of how friendly an area is to walkers. For an increasing number of cities and towns, making it easier to move around on foot has become a way to attract residents. 

A small group is conducting a walking audit of downtown Des Moines. It's heading toward Second Avenue, and then it will turn north with the idea of crossing the interstate.

City of West Des Moines

Officials in West Des Moines are touting what the news of a third data center from Microsoft means for development in the southwest corner of the city. 

The computer giant is announcing plans to build a one-point-seven million square foot data center in an area straddling Warren and Madison counties within West Des Moines city limits. It will be built in four phases, with the initial investment at $417 million. West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer says the project will pay for the infrastructure needed to open thousands of acres to commercial and residential development.

Michael Leland, Iowa Public Radio

Population and economic growth in metropolitan areas often pits local community interests against those of the larger region. Now, something different is happening in Central Iowa, and it’s resulting in a remarkable number of construction projects in the Des Moines area. The urban center and its suburbs are coming together for the good of all.

For decades, the suburbs of Des Moines have boomed while the city itself has retracted. Today, things seem to be evening out, according to real estate attorney Larry James.

Drake University

Some of the African continent’s most promising young professionals are in Iowa for the next several weeks picking up tips on how to run businesses. They are part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program run by the U.S. State Department.

The founder of Kemin Industries, R.W. Nelson, recently greeted the 25 young people from 19 countries at his corporate headquarters in southeast Des Moines.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A piece of public art is now maneuvering along the streets of Des Moines. Iowa Public Radio’s Rob Dillard tells us for the fourth time a DART bus has become a rolling canvas.

The opening day of the Des Moines Art Festival provided the stage for the unveiling of a work called “Where’s the Ball?” It’s the creation of local artist Larassa Kabel and features depictions of her two dogs. She says it’s the first time she’s used a city bus as a medium.

“It kind of represents what art is, which is a gift artists give that nobody asked for,” she says.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

Supporters of the arts and city leaders in Des Moines are unveiling plans for a walking tour of public installations in the downtown area. 

The Art Route will pass by 87 pieces of art and stretch 6.6 miles from the west end of downtown to the State Capitol.

The chief communications officer for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Tiffany Tauscheck, calls the Art Route one-of-a-kind in the nation.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Hundreds of central Iowans held a vigil in downtown Des Moines to mourn the lost lives in the Orlando mass killings. They came in support of the LGBT and Hispanic communities, and to call for tougher gun laws.

One Iowa, the state’s largest advocate for LGBT rights, organized the gathering in the sculpture park downtown. 

Politicians, civil rights leaders and local clergy paraded to the mic to call for an end to what they called senseless violence in America.

Deanna Edwards of Des Moines had family reasons for being in the crowd.

Iowa gets an early taste of summer toward the end of this week, with temperatures expected to climb into the mid-90’s.  Health officials, animal welfare advocates, and the National Weather Service are issuing warnings in advance of the hot temperatures.

The Iowa Department of Public Health says about 500 Iowans are hospitalized each year with heat-related illnesses.

Rob Dillard/IPR

Former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge is the Democrats’ choice to take on U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley in the general election in November. It was one of several primaries that will help decide who will represent Iowa in Washington next year.

At her campaign headquarters in Des Moines last night, Judge made it clear to supporters what her campaign strategy would be. Iowans can expect to see plenty of campaign signs between now and November that are a play on Patty Judge’s last name.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A class of fifth graders at Saint Anthony Catholic School in Des Moines are reaching a milestone. The students are coming to the end of six years of taking all of their coursework in Spanish. 

The 10- and 11-year olds are native English speakers. They have been completely immersed in a second language since kindergarten. Eleven-year-old Tyler Faris wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he began learning in Spanish at the age of five.

“I felt kind of nervous because it was a whole different language and I barely knew English,” he says.

AIB College of Business

A Des Moines school that has trained people to enter the business world for 95 years holds its final graduation ceremonies Sunday.

The American Institute of Business began in 1921 in a single room with 30-dollars-worth of used furniture and one borrowed chair. Two college roommates, Ray Hansen and E.O. Fenton, had an idea, says Fenton's son, Keith.

“They started a teacher placement agency," he says. "I don’t know if it was hard to get teachers or if it was hard for teachers to get jobs.”

An assistant Iowa attorney general is calling on state lawmakers to take action next session on laws to protect bicyclists on Iowa roadways. Iowa Assistant Attorney General Pete Grady says current law makes it nearly impossible to prove recklessness in cases where drivers hit bicyclists. 

At present, Grady says prosecutors need to show the vehicle operators knew their actions would cause harm.

"I don’t think anyone would define reckless behavior as requiring a better than 50 percent outcome for danger or harm, but that’s the standard we have here in Iowa," he says. 

John Pemble, IPR news

The annual Workers Memorial Day is remembering Iowa lives lost while on the job in 2015. 

Thirty-nine Iowans were killed at work last year.

The list includes Andrea Farrington, who was murdered at Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville last summer.

There were also people who died in explosions, falls, trench collapses, and vehicle accidents.

Iowa’s Commissioner of Labor Michael Mauro says on average, 12 people are killed on the job every day in the U.S.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

It’s being called the Dam Debate. Planners in the Des Moines metropolitan area are pulling in ideas from the public on what can be done to make the city’s two major rivers more open to boating, fishing and other recreational opportunities. 

More than a hundred residents skipped their lunch hours Tuesday to weigh in on a water trails plan for the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers downtown.

They used smart phones to answer survey questions to help determine what should be included in the plan.

The student art exhibit that just went up in Drake University’s Harmon Fine Arts Center crosses the intersection between art and the natural world. It’s the result of work created in a class called Planets. 

Drake associate art professor Angela Battle is pawing through an untidy box of display materials as she searches for things by which student artwork might attach to a gallery wall.

“See all the stuff required to hang an exhibition," she says. "Where are they?”

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

An unassuming laboratory in a basement corner room of the Black Engineering Building at Iowa State has a lofty goal: to make humans better at what they do. Researchers at the ATHENA Lab are working to improve human performance.

Photo by Kyle Munson

One of the Iowa's most generous philanthropists has died at the age of 79.  Richard Jacobson grew up in Belmond. He died today at his home in Florida.

Jacobson used the wealth he built as owner of a Des Moines-based shipping company to support many causes in the areas of health care, education and the Iowa State Fair.  His large gifts include $15 million to the University of Northern Iowa’s College of Education and $100 million to the Mayo Clinic, the largest gift Mayo has ever received from a single donor.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

About 50 people rallied outside the Federal Building in Des Moines Monday afternoon, calling on U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to hold hearings for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. 

The event was part of a nationwide call for senators to move ahead with hearings for President Obama's nominee to the high court.

It was organized by some three dozen groups, such as MoveOn.org, and included representatives from Iowa’s environmental and faith communities.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

We hear a great deal about attempts to recruit young women into the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Well, there’s another profession with a relatively small number of females, one that combines science with art. There's currently an effort to draw more women into architecture, and keep them in the profession.

When Barbara Welander enrolled in the architecture program at Iowa State in 1962, she was one of eleven women in the freshman class. When she graduated five years later, she was the only female remaining.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Doctors and nurses in military hospitals after World War Two saw the benefits of music.

They watched their patients improve under its sway. In recent years, scientists have shown it has special powers as we grow older. 

It doesn’t take musician Bill Connet long to win over his audience at Wesley Acres retirement community in Des Moines.

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