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Personal Bio of Shirley Wyrick up to 1972 - The Early years...


She grew up in a small town--Altoona Iowa--close to Des Moines where her father worked for NW Bell Telephone Company. She had a loving family with mother (Faye Spears Brown), father (Floyd Robert Brown) and older sister (Norma Jean Brown).


Shirley was an avid reader who championed underdogs and loved people but too often hated their ways of dealing with each other. She observed governments of cruelty and unbelievable insensitivity during World War II at weekly movies and RKO Pathe News in Des Moines that her family attended.


Her mother who was only 4’11” tall and had a congenital heart problem worked hard on the family’s acreage, doing house, gardening and yard work, raising chickens and sometimes pigs and rabbits, doing craftwork and enjoying being with people. She was devoted to her two girls.


Her father also enjoyed helping others, doing woodworking and house projects around the area with his cousin such as solving refrigeration and electrical problems for others along with working for the telephone company and progressing from outdoor lineman to toll testing during the war years and then to engineer in the company’s Des Moines offices.


Shirley was curious, intense, a good student and thoughtful. The skills she needed for “being” and being an artist developed over several years. She was an avid reader who championed underdogs and loved people but too often hated their ways of dealing with each other and she worked to get warring people around her to work together.


College years and marriage...


Wyrick’s intention when she started college at the University of Iowa in 1954, was to become a doctor. But she fell in love with a chemical engineering student who she met while working 20 hours a week as an office worker. In February 1956, between semesters in her sophomore year, she married Darrell Wyrick from Ft. Madison, Iowa. At that time, there were strong societal pressures against women, especially married women, attempting to become doctors.


As an alternative, she chose the medically related field of Occupational Therapy. She was attracted to the study because of its emphasis on medicine and the arts that could be adapted to rehabilitation for both physical and mental health. (At that time she was too pragmatic to choose to major in Art and choosing a medical field assured her of employment.)


Along with several courses in arts and crafts for non-art majors, Wyrick’s year in dissecting human anatomy laid the groundwork for her two decades’ later studies in art. Anatomy was the greatest memorization course ever devised! Its frequent tests during the year-long course were based all of the information studied from the beginning of the course.


Darrell’s 1957 move to Minneapolis...


Darrell completed his M.S. degree in chemical engineering in 1957 and he took a position as a chemical engineer with Archer Daniels Midland in Minneapolis. In order to earn her B.A. in Occupational Therapy, Shirley spent her senior year in Iowa City, living in an apartment on her own at a time when women just didn’t do that!


Shirley’s 1958 graduation from college...


Shirley graduated with a B.A. in 1958 and was enrolled as a graduate student in her fifth year of college (1958-1959) at the University of Iowa, but she was allowed to complete her year of clinical affiliations in the Twin Cities’ area where her husband was working. Her internships were at the University of Minnesota Heart Hospital, the V.A. Hospital and Anoka State Hospital for the Mentally Ill (begun in 1900 as an asylum and was closed in 1999.)



Shirley’s career in Minneapolis...


Shirley was employed as a registered O.T.R. for the next three years at SIster Kenney Institute for Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation in Minneapolis. The emphasis was on finding ways to adapt activities to the physical needs of each patient and to aid them in determining how to accomplish things such as mental and physical balance, strengthening, and activities of daily living (ADLs, such as independence in household tasks and other life skills.


Looking back, Wyrick feels all of her experience was great preparation in becoming an artist because she realizes how closely related “Adaptability” and “Creativity” are.



The Wyricks Return to Iowa City...


The Wyricks’ lives took another turn only a few years later in 1961 when Darrell was offered the opportunity to become the first full-time employee in Iowa City of the fledgling University of Iowa Foundation. This was at a time when fund raising for public educational institutions (including the University of Iowa) was in its infancy.


Darrell had been recognized for leadership during his college years and was intensely loyal to the University of Iowa’s academic and sports programs. In addition, he had demonstrated his ability to lead a successful fundraising campaign for the UI in its first ever UI Alumni Fundraiser from Minneapolis.


Friendliness, enthusiasm, good humor, love of people and music, along with organizational ability and loyalty to the institution made Darrell the perfect (although surprising because of his earlier career choice) to become a fundraiser and the UI Foundation’s first full-time employee!


When both Wyricks were asked if they would be willing to move to Iowa City (at a significant cut in income), they were very willing to do so. This type of decision was significant throughout the Wyricks’ marriage—both were happy to encourage and help facilitate each other’s hopes and decisions.



Returning to Iowa City and starting their familY...


The couple moved back to Iowa City in January 1962 and the Wyricks’ first child, Craig, was born in July. Their daughter Anne in January 1964 and then Lane completed their family in September 1967. The Wyricks thoroughly enjoyed life with their children, encouraging their curiosity, education and creativity and especially just having fun with them! The children were included in many of the Foundation’s activities.



Nurturing children...


The greatest joy of the Wyricks’ lives was watching their children grow, helping them to learn and to be inquisitive and creative. Their two sons documented Wyrick’s artwork (and their own) in film and video. And each of them participated in the Arts throughout their school days and beyond by doing design work, acting, writing or participating in orchestra, band, videography, tennis, volleyball and other sports.


Each of them chose to pursue creative careers—their daughter became a graphic designer and later taught Art in public schools, the two sons became writers, videographers, filmmakers and film producers.



Building the UI Foundation...


During the 1960s Darrell travelled around the United States to organize Iowa alumni and friends of the University through personal contact and in various cities at alumni fund-raisers that he named Telefunds.


His job in building the Foundation led to his success as C.E.O. and President. The Foundation started as a bootstrap operation and its success grew from Darrell’s kindness, his interest in others, in having a phenomenal memory for names and much more. Shirley and the children were included in many Foundation activities and also contributed to the success of the UI Foundation.

Shirley, who initially had no interest in cooking, became something of an accomplished cook since initially there were no catering services in Iowa City. The Wyricks hosted many dinner parties for the Foundation staff in their home, building close relationships with the staff “family” in light-hearted evenings together.


Darrell also forged relationships with other educational fundraising institutions, especially Big Ten Universities, and he eventually became the “Dean” of the BTFRI (Big Ten Fundraisers Institute) that met yearly at Mackinac Island, Michigan for week-long seminars to help those universities learn the best practices in raising funds. These sessions were sought after by institutions around the country, and were filled with good humor and information. The Wyrick family has great memories of several short summer vacations spent at Mackinac Island where BTFRI was held.


Beginnings of Shirley’s artistic journey...


By the time Wyrick started developing her career in art in the early 1970’s, she had already had a good many life experiences—she had helped her husband with his new vocation that included building his staff and traveling to connect UI alumni with the University. She had also participated in events and meetings throughout the University. On short notice, together they were hosts for an Alumni Association European month-long tour to 10 European countries in 1963 (their first travel to Europe!)


The first capital campaign of the UI Foundation from 1964 to1966 was to raise funds to build the University’s first Museum of Art. Both of the Wyricks were closely involved during the fundraising for and building of the museum. Ulfert Wilke, the UIMA’s initial director, was enthusiastic, encouraging and he helped build the UI’s and community-wide and UI Alumni-wide interest in Art. He also became a fast friend of both Wyricks.


Ulfert Wilke’s open, enthusiastic and welcoming attitude was instrumental in encouraging Shirley to make Art her career.



The rest of the story before Wyrick committed to Art as a career...


Shirley Wyrick’s navigation through various arts before she formally made her career in the arts can be found in BEGINNINGS -1950s – Early 1970s.


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