Duane C. "Sprie" Spriestersbach, 40MA, 48PhD, is a man whose life and achievements have been intertwined with the University of Iowa for more than five decades. When Iowa has needed him, he has been there. He postponed retirement twice in order to continue serving the institution during transitions in leadership, and he continues to serve the university and the Iowa City community today.
After receiving his bachelor's degree from Winona State Teachers College in 1939. Spriesterbach came to the UI to obtain advanced degrees. He joined the speech pathology and audiology faculty in 1948 and the otolaryngology faculty in 1954. In 1955, he initiated the UI Cleft Palate research Program, which continued until 1991. At the time of its termination, the 36-year, $13 million research project represented one of the longest continuing partnerships the UI had maintained with the National Institutes of Health. Established as an effort to understand the social impact of these birth defects on patients and their families, the program grew to encompass the surgical, dental, speech, and biological development aspects of the impairment.
From 1958 to 1989, Spriestersbach served as professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology and in the Department of Otolaryngology and Maxillofacial Surgery. Dean of the UI graduate college from 1965 to 1989, he served as vice president for research from 1966 to 1970, when he was named vice president for educational development and research. He is particularly proud of the record achieved by the faculty and staff in winning gifts, grants, and contracts during his term-more than $1.25 billion. Spriestersbach served as interim president of the university from 1981 to 1982, between the administrations of William "Sandy" Boyd and James O. Freedman.
Spriestersbach has also given many years of his life to military service. A U.S. Army personnel officer from 1942 to 1946 and lieutenant colonel in the US Army Reserves from 1952 to 1967, he was awarded the Bronze Star in 1945 and the Army Commendation Medal in 1946. In 1987, Spriestersbach received Iowa City's Will J. Hayek Award for outstanding military and community service.
Spriestersbach's hearty involvement in numerous organizations has earned him many leadership roles and awards. He has been active in the American Cleft Palate Association, the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association, the Iowa Academy of Science, the Association of Graduate Schools, the Council of Graduate Schools of the US, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to name a few. He has received the Hancher/Finkbine Alumni Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the Iowa Academy of Science,, and distinguished alumni awards fron Winona State University and the UI's Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology. The UI has established the Spriestersbach Dissertation Award and the D.C. Spriestersbach Professorship in the Liberal Arts to honor his commitment to academic excellence.
Longtime members of the UI Alumni Association's Directors' Club, Spriestersbach and his wife, Bette Bartell Spriestersbach, 43BA, 45MA, have personally assisted the UI Foundations with many fundraising campaigns. In 1992, Spriestersbach created the Bette R. Spriestersbach Endowed Lectureship in the Museum of Art to honor his wife. Members of the Foundation's Presidents Club, the Spriestersbachs' support disciplines and programs as diverse as their interests-from athletics and Hancher to the Museum of Art, the University Press, and the Museum of Natural History.