The ISU Homecoming Central Committee held its fourth annual Cyclone Sweethearts contest ahead of homecoming week, selecting Iowa State alumni Don and Donna Smith as the 2021 winners.
The purpose of the contest is to celebrate Cyclone love stories and recognize couples who were brought together by Iowa State.
“Nobody was more surprised than us when the phone call came through,” Don said.
Donna was equally as shocked to be selected as the Cyclone Sweethearts.
“I was astounded. Absolutely astounded,” Donna said.
As the 2021 winners, Don and Donna will participate in the Homecoming pep rally and attend the Homecoming football game against Oklahoma State, using free tickets they received from the contest.
The two first met at Iowa State during a blind date on a hayride in the fall of 1966, during Don’s senior year and Donna’s sophomore year.
Several dates followed, including a second date at the library, where they almost did not recognize each other due to the hayride’s dark lighting. However, it did not take long for them to realize the connection between them.
“My dad had always said when you meet the right one, you’ll know,” Don said. “And I did. I was basically smitten.”
The couple sealed the deal the following April by getting engaged right before Don was commissioned by the Navy ROTC.
Their wedding took place in August '67 at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic church in Ames, and their reception was held in the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union.
“At [Donna’s] age, we probably would have dated longer,” Don said. “But it was ‘if you want to come with me we got to go, because the Navy isn’t going to change their mind.’”
Don was given two years off and a scholarship from ROTC, so Donna could finish her education. This led them to the University of Mississippi, where Don received a master’s degree in organic chemistry and Donna earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics education.
After graduating in 1969, they had two sons, now ages 47 and 51, while Don served his time in the Navy. When Don left the Navy, he joined the American Cyanamid Chemical company while Donna focused on her teaching career.
Donna also later earned a master’s degree in education and a degree in mathematics and computer science. They are currently both retired in the Isle of Palms, S.C.
“It all worked, because I never did things without [Donna’s] clearance and vice versa,” Don said. “We are a team and we always have been.”
In 2017, they were able to celebrate 50 years of marriage with friends, family and a few bales of hay in honor of their first date. This year, they can continue to commemorate their marriage with the honor of being the 2021 Cyclone Sweethearts.
“After 54 years, we haven’t quit yet,” Don said. “She still makes me laugh.”