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Old Capital Expert

  Brooke A. Kush ’03  

After a fire, Margaret Keyes ’39 is consulting once again on restoration of the Old Capitol in Iowa City.

When the University of Iowa’s beloved Old Capitol ceiling and dome burned down last year, Margaret Keyes ’39 received a phone call from the president seeking her expertise. A previous U of I president had asked Keyes to direct the restoration of the Old Capitol in 1970, after which she published Old Capitol: Portrait of an Iowa Landmark (1988).

A well-known resident of Iowa City, Keyes comes from a legacy of Cornell graduates and Mount Vernon dwellers. Her grandparents were Mount Vernon pioneers and her father, Charles R. Keyes, Class of 1894, taught German at Cornell from 1903 until 1941. Her sister was Catharine K. Miller ’31.

Keyes, a U of I professor emerita, was awarded a master’s degree in related art (design) from the University of Wisconsin and a PhD in interior design and housing from Florida State University. In 1967 she published Nineteenth Century Home Architecture of Iowa City, which has since been reprinted with two added chapters. Cornell’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa elected her as an alumna in 1975 and the college awarded her an honorary degree in 1976.

Keyes has given nearly 4,000 volunteer hours in the “day of surgery” lounge at the University Hospitals and Clinics. Like her father, she chaired the State Historical Society of Iowa. She is a major contributor to Cornell’s arts campaign and is honored in the newly dedicated McWethy Hall by the Margaret N. Keyes Art History Room.

“My fondest memories from Cornell are the relationships I developed that have lasted over the years. I have some good friends still today that I made at Cornell, even one who is coming in to visit me from Illinois tomorrow,” Keyes said recently.

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