Jack Hartley

50MA Service 2003

Jack Hartley, 50MA, is a civil rights champion and a hero to the many students whose lives he has influenced. One of the first teachers in Iowa to include black history in a high school curriculum, Hartley employed an innovative, imaginative teaching style to reach two generations of high school and community college students in Iowa and Arizona.

Born in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, he attended a one-room schoolhouse and went on to enroll at Grinnell College, where he completed B.A. degrees in English and history in 1946. After three years of teaching high school English, speech, and theatre, he came to the University of Iowa to complete a master's degree in English.

Hartley's long and successful teaching career extended from 1946 to 1986, with summers spent pursuing several more advanced degrees, including an M.S. in L.S. degree from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in English from Arizona State University.

Hartley's teaching style was ahead of its time. His groundbreaking "American Heritage" course, which he taught at the high school level, was characterized by inventive techniques including role-playing, debate, in-class speakers, class trips, and weekly essays. Hartley's inclusion of slavery and black history in his curriculum in the late 1950s was considered bold at the time, preceding the Civil Rights movement by several years.

Over the years, hundreds of students have had the good fortune of sitting in Hartley's classroom. More than 20 of his former students who have gone on to distinguished careers themselves wrote letters supporting his nomination for this award.

Comments from these letters speak volumes about Hartley's contribution to their lives:

"Before Mr. Hartley, I was a 'good' student; after Mr. Hartley I was a real student." "I consider Mr. Hartley to be, hands down, the best teacher I have ever had." "Thanks, Jack, for being such an inspiring educator; a real-life testament to the superb Iowa educational system." "Mr. Hartley created a community of generosity.... After I'd had a serious illness, he tutored me in my backyard so I could graduate with my class." "The benefit I derived from this [American Heritage] course has had a greater impact on my life than any other single course I took in high school or college."

Hartley has been honored for his achievements many times. In Cedar Rapids, he was named teacher of the year and was president of the city's Education Association. In Arizona, he was president of the county Community College District Faculty Association, and he was elected president of the Glendale Community College Faculty Senate.

Perhaps one former student's comment best sums up Hartley's gift to his students: "To be involved passionately, yet with the discipline of thought and a long view of history-that's it, I think-Jack Hartley's legacy in my own life." Or, as several others said more simply, "Jack Hartley changed my life."

Hartley is a member of the UIAA's Old Capitol club.

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