Part I: The remarkable Dwight Ink

15 Apr

03-25-13 dwight 173F9890

Dwight Ink (’47 government) is a man who gets things done. Described as “The Remarkable Dwight Ink” in the book If We Can Put a Man On the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government by William D. Eggers and John O’Leary, Ink held major leadership roles in the federal government for seven presidents: from Eisenhower to Reagan.

Here are just a few of the many positions in which he served:

  • Assistant general manager for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
  • First assistant secretary for administration in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • Assistant director for executive management in the Office of Management and Budget
  • Deputy administrator of the General Service Administration
  • Assistant administrator of the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Director of the Community Services Administration under Ronald Reagan

Ink also:

  • Supervised the reconstruction of Alaska after the earthquake of 1964
  • Helped establish the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Managed oil conservation after the Arab Embargo
  • And was instrumental in the design of Civil Service reform, the first major overhaul of that federal system in 100 years, during the Carter Administration

As part of VISIONS Across America, Mr. Ink invited Jim Heemstra and me to visit him in his Leesburg, Va., home. I have to tell you, it was quite an honor to have the opportunity to hear, first hand, a few of Mr. Ink’s fascinating stories. This post is part one of two, based on those stories.

On growing up poor on a Madison County, Iowa, farm:

  • In grade school, I had to drop out when it got too cold to go barefoot. My family could not afford shoes.

On his education at Iowa State:

  • I didn’t have much preparation for college. I almost flunked out my first year, but the university took a chance on me.
  • Iowa State provided the environment and opportunity to go into [public service], the very best field I can possibly imagine. It’s a field you can go to the top as an average type of person.
  • I did a lot of organizing on the Iowa State campus before and after [World War II]. When the debate coach got drafted, the university appointed me “faculty adviser” to the debate teams. They even gave me an office in Beardshear. I organized a national debate in the football stadium. I got to know political leaders in Iowa. These were experiences that very few universities would allow a student to do. I owe so much, so much to Iowa State University.

[Note: Mr. Ink donated 68 boxes of personal papers to Iowa State’s library archives in 2012.]

On public service:

  • I was a combat engineer for three and half years in World War II. I had a lot of time to think. I came back thinking that public service would be a field of interest. I’d never get rich, but it would provide a decent living and provide shoes for my kids.
  • I did whatever was needed to do. My view of the career I chose was that I should focus on wherever I might be needed the most.
  • In what other field could you have so much interest and excitement as public service? I can’t think of one. And you help people. It’s very fulfilling.

Next up: Dwight Ink on the projects, the presidents, and, at age 90, retirement from public service.

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One Response to “Part I: The remarkable Dwight Ink”

  1. Stephanie Bennett July 9, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives is home to a collection of materials that document Dwight Ink’s career in public administration and government management. For anyone who wants to read more about Ink or the information that we have, an overview of the collection is available at http://www.add.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/arch/rgrp/21-7-241.pdf or through our website, http://www.add.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/index.html

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