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Benjamin Sutton Willis papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RS 11/6/51

Scope and Content

This collection (1835-1970, undated) contains biographical information, newspaper clippings, speeches written by Ben Willis as well as others, and correspondence regarding the WOI Radio program “Prairie Valley Intelligencer.” There are also scripts and programs to minstrel shows and poetry. From his years as a professor at Iowa State, there are slides of lab equipment and schematics used for class lectures. In addition, the collection contains a scrapbook and negatives documenting the dredging of Lake LaVerne in 1959.


  • 1835-1970, undated

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Benjamin Sutton Willis was born to John A. and Alice C. (Jennison) Willis in Janesville, Minnesota, on February 19, 1895. He received his B.S. (1917) in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota and his M.S. (1929) in electrical engineering from Iowa State College (University). He also earned the Electrical Engineer (1926) degree from Iowa State.

Prior to coming to Iowa State, Willis worked as a Test Engineer (1917) for General Electric and as a Laboratory Assistant and Associate Physicist (1917-1924) for the U.S. National Bureau of Standards (National Institute of Standards and Technology) in the photometry and illumination section. He joined the staff at Iowa State as Instructor (1924-1927) in electrical engineering and was promoted to Assistant Professor (1927-1958), Associate Professor (1958-1963) and Professor (1963-1969).

As a teacher, Willis taught classes on circuits and machines, electromagnetic power conversion, and illumination. His main interest at Iowa State was with the machines laboratory and illumination. He wrote the laboratory instruction manual for the Electrical Engineering Department. Willis received the Alumni Citation (1958) from the Iowa State University Alumni Association and the Governor’s Citation (1961) from the State of Iowa for 35 years of service.

Willis was a lifetime member of several professional organizations, including the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, serving as chairman (1934-1935) of the Iowa Section; the American Society for Engineering Education; and the American Association of University Professors. He was also a member of Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and the Knights of St. Patrick.

Willis was an amateur photographer, dramatist, and poet. He was a member of Ames Playmakers and wrote and performed skits on WOI Radio as editor of the show “Prairie Valley Intelligencer.” He and his wife Elisabeth also appeared in the film “The Open Door to Greater Egg Profits” (1953) produced jointly by the Feed Institute, Inc., of Des Moines and the Department of Poultry Husbandry of Iowa State.

Ben Willis married Harriett Bogarth and together they had 3 children: Marian, Alice, and John. Harriett died in April 1939 and he married Elisabeth Curtiss in 1947. Willis died on June 11, 1969, and was buried in the Iowa State Cemetery.


1.47 Linear Feet (3 document boxes, 1 half-document box)


The collection organized Alphabetically.

Items in related collections

RS 11/6. Iowa State University. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering records, 1884-2013

Related collection materials

Other scripts for the Prairie Valley Intelligencer may be found in RS 5/6/4.

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

RS 11/6/51. Benjamin Sutton Willis papers, 1835-1970, undated
January 22, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672