Working Towards a Better Tomorrow
The Iowa United Nations Association (Iowa UNA) emphasizes the importance of maintaining and strengthening U.S. support for the United Nations. The organization was established in 1953 following a visit by Eleanor Roosevelt to Des Moines during which she delivered a public speech about the importance of the United Nations to an overflowing crowd.
With our national UNA-USA office and the Better World Campaign, we continue a long history of the Iowa UNA helping bolster American support for the UN. We are dedicated to informing, inspiring, and mobilizing Iowans to support the ideals and vital work of the United Nations both locally and globally.
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The Iowa United Nations Association’s history began when Eleanor Roosevelt visited Des Moines in 1953 to speak for the American Association for the United Nations. The University Christian Church feared controversy and cancelled the venue. But a place was located, and Eleanor Roosevelt delivered her message to an overflowing crowd. Under the leadership of Dorothy Schramm, the Iowa United Nations Association was then established to carry on what has proven to be decades of dedication to, promotion of, and education about the United Nations.
In 1953, Elizabeth Kruidenier of Des Moines was chosen the first president of the Iowa UNA, a new organization without money, budget, or program, but a cadre of dedicated members and volunteers.
In 1954, Dorothy Schramm of Burlington was chosen as the second president and served for the next four years (1954-1957). The first Iowa Governor’s UN Day was observed on October 24, 1954 at the Iowa State Capitol. Iowa State’s collection of UN flags was created together with the Iowa High School Essay Contest. The first Annual Meeting (later know as the Annual Assembly) was held on June 4, 1955.
By 1957, eight chapters were active in Iowa. Over 135 schools were participating in the high school UN Essay Contest. The Iowa UNA and the Iowa Chapters provided over 287 Community Programs on the UN. The budget of $100 the first year increased to $4,000.
William Kerstetter and J.W. Maucker, Presidents of Simpson College and the University of Northern Iowa respectively, were elected as the third and fourth presidents. Cecil G. Douglass, an Associated Press journalist, was the Executive Director from 1964-1977. He was also the editor of the Iowa UNA Forum and A Quest for World Peace: The Story of the Iowa UNA.
Following other executive directors who served for brief periods of time, Dorothy Paul was hired as Executive Director in 1979. She had already served as a board officer. She began working part-time and eventually became full-time due to the increased demands of the position. In 2000, Dorothy resigned her UNA position to help launch the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights under the leadership of UI law professor, Burns H. Weston, who also served on the Iowa UNA Board of Directors. Dorothy continues to serve on the Iowa UNA Board of Directors and play an important role in the organization.
Katy Hansen worked as Co-Director beginning in 1996, and became the Executive Director in 2000. Andrea Niehaus worked as Co-Director beginning in 2009, and became Executive Director in 2010. From 2010 through 2014, Yashar Vasef served as the Executive Director, followed by Matthew Wolf (2014-2015). Jim Olson, former board president of Iowa UNA served as Acting Executive Director from July 2015 to December 2016. Andrea Cohen served as the Executive Director from 2017 through 2019, when Deb DeLaet took on the position.
The Iowa UNA continues to provide educational programming and coordinates humanitarian fundraisers in Iowa through UN programs like UNICEF, Nothing but Nets (to help end malaria), and many more!