An important piece of Iowa State University and ISU Extension’s history was on display at the Christian Petersen Art Museum in Morrill Hall during March and April. The Morrill Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, enabled the states to establish land-grant colleges to make higher education accessible to all. Iowa was the first state to accept the Morrill Act’s provisions, and Iowa State was designated Iowa’s land-grant institution. This is the first time the Morrill Act has been available for public view since 1979. The document has never been exhibited outside of Washington, D.C., until now.
Speaking at the museum’s open house April 15, Vice President for ISU Extension Jack Payne said, “What better place for the Morrill Act itself to be made available to the people of Iowa than in Morrill Hall at Iowa State University, our nation’s first land-grant institution.”
The Morrill Act is named for its sponsor, Congressman Justin Morrill of Vermont, for whom Iowa State’s Morrill Hall also is named.
The Morrill Act paved the way for Cooperative Extension, which began in Iowa, Payne said. “I am very aware that the privilege and opportunity that I now have to lead Extension at Iowa State would not be possible without this Act. I also am the product of the land grant educational system and owe my entire career to what this Act established.”