Ben Franklin advised that if we want something done, it’s best to ask a busy person. Governor Branstad acted on that advice in 2013 by approaching Mary Andringa to co-chair the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council alongside Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. At the time, Mary was President and CEO of the global manufacturer Vermeer Corporation, a member of the President’s Export Council, a director for three national companies, a trustee for two colleges and a deeply devoted family leader fresh off of a successful term as Chair of the National Association of Manufacturers (the first woman to hold the post). The Governor’s odds on a favorable response were strong based on Mary’s extensive record of service on Iowa councils, task forces, boards and commissions. To the benefit of Iowa STEM, she said “yes,” and her impact has been profound.
Immediately, the operations team was brought to Vermeer Corporation for two intensive Kaizens that have vastly improved programming and forever imbued the team with a lean, efficiency mindset. Her global manufacturing perspective brought the best known examples to Iowa and put Iowa STEM on the global map. She brought business to the table by leading as an example in community engagement, school partnerships and investing in STEM. She committed countless hours behind the scenes working with her co-chair and the executive director to set a strong course for the STEM Council.
Under Mary’s and Lt. Governor Reynolds watch over the last two years, Iowa STEM has more than doubled the number of participants in high-quality STEM programs across the state without a single penny’s increase in legislative funding thanks to continuous improvement in operations as well as ramped up cost-sharing and investment by private sector partners. These gains are now a well-established culture of excellence for the STEM Council, a permanent legacy and tribute to Mary Andringa. Thank you Mary, and best wishes on the Board of Regents, State of Iowa.