Skip to main content

Mary H. Yearns papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RS 12/4/57

Scope and Content

The collection (1972-2005) contains biographical information and materials related to the Modest Home Makeover Program (MHM) including evaluations, annual reports, teaching guides, county and family information, plans, slides, photographs, newspaper clippings, and resources.

Families interested in the MHM entered into an agreement with the ISU Extension Service to consult and offer in-home assistance for planning updates to rooms in the family's homes. A county extension home economist would work with the families to develop plans and arrange for payment of most of the materials required for the improvements. In exchange, the family's home would be used as a model for the program and they would allow scheduled tours of the remodeled rooms.

Many of the MHM records are organized by county. These folders include family information, proposed plans, and before and after slides and photographs. The MHM kits include slides, photographs, resources and teaching examples. Additional resources include storage aids, home repair information, and home design ideas.


  • 1973-2005

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research. This collection is stored offsite and can take up to seven business days to retrieve. Please email to request material and schedule your visit.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Mary Holt Yearns was born in Ames, Iowa on August 5, 1941. She graduated from high school in Arispe, Iowa. She went on to attend Iowa State University where she received her B.S. (1963) in home economics education, an M.S. (1972) in family environment (housing), and her Ph.D. (1984) in sociology. After receiving her B.S. Yearns taught in several public schools across the Midwest.

Yearns joined the faculty at Iowa State with a joint appointment as Instructor (1971-1974) in the Department of Family Environment, then a department in the College of Home Economics, and as Extension Specialist (1971-1973) in home management. She was promoted to Assistant Professor (1974-1985), Associate Professor (1985-2005), and Professor (2005-2010). During her career, Yearns was able to devote most of her attention to extension activities and public service as an Extension Specialist (1973-1976) in housing and home management, Extension Specialist (1976-1990) in family environment (housing), and Extension Housing Specialist (1990-2010). Yearns retired from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, a department of the College of Human Sciences, in 2010.

The extension work Yearns specialized in was on home renovation projects and energy efficiencies in the home. She was named the leader of the Home Energy Audit Program and the co-leader of the Modest Home Makeover Program. The Modest Home Makeover Program, which received grant funding from 1985 to 1987, provided residents of Iowa with the opportunity to explore ways to make improvements to their homes on a limited budget. Yearns also explored the possibilities of designing homes, primarily kitchen layouts and appliances, to be better suited for elderly and disabled people. She wrote dozens of publications and gave numerous presentations on these topics throughout her career.

For her work Yearns was rewarded with many honors and recognitions. She received the Outstanding Extension Educator Award (1979), the University Extension Achievement Award (1985, 1988) and was elected to Epsilon Sigma Phi (Extension Honorary). She served as President (1986) of the American Association of Housing Educators and was actively involved in the Iowa Home Economics Association. She also served as Chair (1980-1981) of Iowa State's Faculty Council.

Yearns is married to Kerald E. Yearns.


3.9 Linear Feet (3 records center cartons)


The collection is loosely organized with biographical information at the front followed by Modest Home Makeover Program records filed by county with reference and related files near the back.

Physical Location

This collection is stored offsite and can take up to seven business days to retrieve. Please email to request material and schedule your visit.

Items in related collections

RS 12/4. Iowa State University. Department of Human Development and Family Studies records, 1920-2011

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

RS 12/4/57. Mary H. Yearns papers, 1973-2005
July 1, 2020
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