C. Esco Obermann stands out as an articulate and forceful advocate of collegiality in an era that lauds individuality and specialization above all else. His emphasis on the broad-based multidisciplinary approach to research and education, as well as his continuing support for all programs at the University of Iowa, make him one of this university's most esteemed and beloved alumni.
Dr. Obermann's long career as an innovator in education began at the University of Iowa, where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 1926, a master's in education in 1931, and a doctorate in clinical psychology and speech pathology in 1938. While an undergraduate at the UI, Obermann was a member of the gymnastics team and served as one of the editors on the 1926 Hawkeye yearbook.
From 1938 to 1940, he was a research fellow at the UI and, in collaboration with the late Wendell Johnson, he designed and implemented a project to survey over 30,000 Iowa school children for disabilities and handicaps. As a reserve captain, he was ordered to active duty in 1940 and was released as a colonel in the Air Force in 1946. His last assignment in the armed forces involved planning the demobilization of the Air Force and providing for separation counseling for ten million homeward-bound servicemen.
From 1946 to 1960, Obermann was in charge of the Veterans Administration program for the rehabilitation of disabled veterans and the V.A. education program for the upper Midwest. As a research fellow in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, he wrote a definitive History of Vocational Rehabilitation in America, completed in 1965. In 1966 he became an associate professor in rehabilitation counseling at the University of Iowa, a post he held until 1970, when he retired to work as a rehabilitation consultant in research design and program development.
Of all his contribution to education, one of the most significant is his work on a unique institution at the UI known as University House. Established in 1978, University House provides an opportunity for scholars from different disciplines and institutions to work together on research problems, using multidisciplinary approaches. Dr. Obermann has been an invaluable supporter of the idea since its inception. Through his active participation on the University House Advisory Committee, he has helped shape an institution that is on the cutting edge of educational and research development.
Dr. Obermann is a Diplomat in Counseling of the American Board of Professional Psychology and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Psychological Association. His membership included many years of service on national and international committees for the handicapped. In addition, Dr. Obermann has continued his ties to the University of Iowa as a life member of the Alumni Association and an Old Capitol Club member, sponsor of the annual Gymnastics Award Banquet and Obermann Trophy, and as a member of the UI Foundation's Presidents Club.