Dr. Gary Weede
Dr. Gary Weede

Academia was not the first career choice for Dr. Gary Weede, who envisioned being an Air Force pilot. That plan faded as an undergraduate in Iowa State University’s ROTC program because he failed a vision test.

Weede shifted to aero engineering and ultimately engineering technology. He taught junior high students while completing his master’s degree at Iowa State, which recruited him to teach while earning a doctorate.

“I didn’t even apply for the spot,” Weede chuckled, reflecting on how he taught woodworking technology while studying cellulose nitrate. That evolved into a plastics career path.

“I started the plastics technology program at Iowa State,” Weede said, which put him on Illinois State’s radar. He joined the Industrial Technology
Department in 1970, at which time plastics courses were just being offered.

“I was on the cutting edge. When I started, there really were no textbooks,” said Weede, who developed a plastics program a second time, despite serious obstacles.

“When I walked into the Illinois State lab, I didn’t have any equipment,” he said, recalling students wearing WWII gas masks in a fiberglass class. Dealing with the fumes was further complicated because the lab’s ventilation system connected to the home economics kitchen.

It was the students who kept Weede engaged and determined. “I got to know my students quite well,” he said, recalling taking two out to Lake Decatur to test if the fiberglass water sled they created worked. Weede donned a wet suit and did a test run to determine the grade.

His teaching skills and unique knowledge resulted in international graduate students enrolling in ISU’s program, and Weede becoming a global consultant who worked in South Korea.

His wife, Jannes, was an elementary school educator for 28 years. They established two scholarships at ISU to celebrate their careers and help first-generation students. The Dr. Gary Weede Scholarship Endowment Fund helps a student in the technology program. The Jannes (Teply) and

Dr. Gary Weede Endowed Elementary Education Scholarship supports an education major.

The couple lived in a Colorado home Weede built after retiring in 1998. They now reside in Marshalltown, Iowa, closer to their two adult daughters, Susan Pollpeter ’81, and Sandra Menard ’87; six grandchildren, and four great grandchildren.

Weede can be reached at gweede@gmail.com.