Graceland College Information Technology Services

Graceland College - A Brief History of Information Technology

A Brief History of Information Technology at Graceland College

Note: most of the information up to 1977 was made possible through the generous contribution of text by Jim Closson, edited by Bob Farnham. The remainder was written by Bob Farnham with help from Jerry Thomas and David DeBarthe. A valiant attempt at accuracy was made, although there are bound to be misstatements and inadvertent factual errors. If you spot inaccuracies or omissions, please send them to Thank you!

Data processing at Graceland was started in 1965 by James T. Closson. Prior to Jim, Oliver C. Houston served for four years as Graceland's Registrar, and had started taking IBM grade cards to a service bureau in Des Moines. After he was hired, Jim worked with the various administrative offices to develop a planned data flow system. With the exception of the grade cards, everything was done by hand at that time. Jim continued using the grade card service bureau during the first year as Registrar.

During his first year, Jim convinced the administration to invest in an IBM 401 Accounting Machine and set up a Data Processing Department. Jim hired Gene Tabor, who was then working in the Physical Plant, as the Director of Data Processing.

Along with being Registrar, then President Earl T. Higdon named Jim as Administrator of Data Processing. One year to the day of Jim's arrival to Graceland, the IBM system was installed which included the accounting machine (that was programmed by wiring a board), a sorter, a collator and keypunch machine. A data entry clerk was hired, another keypunch was added and Graceland entered the world of EDP.

A few years later, Graceland got a real computer (even though the 401 was upgraded to a 402 and had some computing capability). The new computer was an NCR Century 50. This was later upgraded to an NCR 100. During this time, Jerry Thomas was Director of Computer Services. Gene Tabor and Jerry worked closely together, spending thousands of hours to develop the original systems on the NCR system during the early 1970's.

In the mid '70s an IBM System 3 Model 10 Disk system was purchased. Shortly thereafter, Graceland did away with using IBM cards for class scheduling and grades and went directly to diskettes.

In 1977, Ray Adams was the Controller at the College and was also named Director of the Computer Center. Dean Hunter was a Systems Analyst during this period of time, and stayed until 1980. Dean was the analyst for the Graceland Accounting System, coordinated by Ray. Ray, Dennis Steele (a faculty member who developed Graceland's major in Computer Science) and Jim researched computer systems and decided on the HP 3000 Series II. Also in August, 1977, David DeBarthe was hired to work with the Graceland Information Systemd development coordinated by Jim Closson.

There was a time Park College used Graceland's accounting system, and accessed Graceland's HP3000 over leased line until they got their own machine. Dean Hunter was responsible for both Graceland's and Park's accounting systems during this time.

The Series II was shortly thereafter upgraded to a Series III, then a Series 48 in the mid 1980's, a Series 70 in 1985. David Mohler was hired in May, 1982 as a programmer/analyst and subsequently moved more into computer system management with the expanding minicomputer operations.

When Ray Adams and Dean Hunter left, both accounting systems were merged into GIS under David DeBarthe's direction. Park continued to use Graceland's accounting systems on their own HP3000. Dayle Robinson served as an operator and later as a programmer. His position was closed and a new position of System Manager was filled by Dave Mohler about 1980. Brad Bryant was Systems Analyst during the period from 1981 to 1984.

Aaron Price served as a programmer during the early 80's. When Aaron left, Colleen (Neal) Hancock served as secretary until 1985. She was succeeded by Linda Smith until July, 1994, Sharon Gammell through August, 1995, Sherrie Taylor until December, 1995, Shari Norman until June, 1997, and Lori Christensen beginning in July, 1997.

The HP 3000 represented a major shift in approach to computing for Graceland, since it enabled the use of interactive display terminals in offices. Previously, data entry operators in various departments would bring diskettes to the Computer Center to be run in batch mode on the IBM System 3. Offices could now directly enter data and have some interactive access to data. Some of the early IBM programming was done in RPG and these programs were simply converted over to the new HP 3000. COBOL began to be used on a more extensive basis as well. Then, in response to a desire to improve programmer productivity, the Transact language was introduced.

As Graceland personnel began to demand more of the Computer Center for application development, it became clear than some official coordination was needed. An M.I.S. Steering Committee, initially chaired by Jim Closson, was active prior to 1977 and continues today. In October 1984, then President Barbara Higdon officially formed an M.I.S. Steering Committee and an Academic Computer Steering Committee. VP for Business Affairs Ralph Wouters chaired the committee until this responsibility was given to Bob Farnham. Since September, 1996, David DeBarthe is the committee chair.

In 1985, Graceland was the recipient of a $1.5 million Title III grant. Bob Farnham, who had been hired as a Systems Analyst in January 1985 to replace Brad Bryant, was named Director of Computing Services and Systems on on December 1, 1985. David DeBarthe was named Associate Director for Information Services, to head up the information systems maintenance and development effort. The five activities of the grant enabled substantial progress toward development of the campus Management Information System.

The Title III grant provided for three additional Systems Analysts and Ray Piedt, Ray Kaminski and Wayne Evers were hired in Winter, 1985-86. When Ray Kaminski left for another position, Kay Popelka joined the team in March, 1987. Following Wayne Evers departure, Mark Hotalling came on board in May, 1987, who was succeeded in turn by Jim Deahl-Coy. Jim's position was closed at the end of the Title III grant period in August, 1990. Ray Piedt was succeeded by Shelly Fitzgerald. When Shelly left, she was replaced by Curt Blanchard until he moved to the new Addiction Studies Marketing department in April, 1994. Jim Collins was hired as an Information Systems Specialist in April, 1994. Denis Poeppe was hired to fill positions which were originally filled by student programmers when it became impossible to fill student programmer positions. (We are indebted to all those wonderful student programmers who worked with us during this period of time!)

Also as part of the Title III grant, student microcomputer labs were established (using 8088-based PC compatibles and Macintosh 512's). Many faculty members were also assigned microcomputers for their offices, a Gandalf PACX/2000 data switch was installed to provide serial line connectivity for the HP 3000, department printers, microcomputers and terminals. In 1989, the F.M. Smith Library purchased another HP 3000, a Series 922/LX to run the VTLS on-line library catalog.

With the additional microcomputers on campus, Ed Damman was hired in 1987 as Computer Training and Support Coordinator. When Ed left, Curt Blanchard was hired in May 1989 to fulfill the same role. Curt's role expanded as PC Coordinator. In June 1993, Computing Services and Systems department became Information Technology Services. The new name anticipates opportunities brought by data, video and voice networking in addition to traditional computer services. Support for faculty computers and operation of the main MicroLab also became the responsibility of the new ITS department. Doris Edwards was promoted as a Help Desk Technician in recognition of her continuing service and expanding role in support of the MicroLab. With the expanding networks, Jim McKinney, Jr. was hired in September 1993 as Network Specialist. In February, 1996, a second Title III grant enabled hiring Devi Konda as a Network Specialist.

After a year-long hiatus with the Addiction Studies Marketing Department, Curt returned to ITS in June 1995 as Associate Director for Desktop Computer Support, a position he held until he left in October, 1996 to become President and owner of Aegis Computers, Inc. During Curt's year with Addiction Studies, Linda Smith, formerly the ITS secretary, was promoted to Help Desk Technician. Lou Ann Abernathy joined the team in July, 1985 as the third Help Desk Technician. That fall, Scott Comstock was hired as a Help Desk Technician. When Scott left in August, 1996, Brian Brock was hired to fill the role.

Between 1987 and 1992, the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) was being tossed as a political football, although astute observers predicted it would become a reality. During this time, Graceland stayed in touch with the key decision makers to ensure a connection for Graceland to the network. During the summer of 1991, the ICN was far enough along that completion of the project and direct access by Graceland was virtually assured. Simultaneously, a recognition of the converging technologies of voice, data and video networking was realized by Graceland's administration. Some attention was given to combining responsibility for these technologies within the existing Computing Services and Systems organization.

By 1988, Computing Services and Systems personnel were developing strategies for the future information systems paradigm and required infrastructure. In May, 1989, a network design consultant from Minneapolis was asked to brief the Executive Council regarding various options and costs for campus networking. In September, 1991, Bob Farnham presented the M.I.S. Steering Committee and Academic Computer Services Committee with a "Strategy for Computer Information Systems Development". This document called for campus network backbone together with deployment of client/server-based information systems. Soon thereafter, members of both committees were invited to attend several vendor presentations relating to information systems development.

A concept budget was developed in the fall of 1991 for presentation to Graceland's Executive Council to seek funding for a 5-year campus network project. The budget, totaling $2 Million, included backbone, rewiring of residence hall rooms and offices, servers, network printers, PC upgrades, hubs, DBMS software, Internet access, network operations personnel and network management software. An addendum to the budget includes upgrading the HP 3000 Series 70 minicomputer and additional information systems personnel. In the budget, priority was given first to students, second to faculty and third to administration. The budget did not address cable TV or the ICN, except for pulling coax into residence hall rooms. The budget also assumed that existing power systems are adequate (an assumption which was later refuted.) The Executive Council requested a panel of external advisors to review the concept.

In response to the Executive Council's request for an external panel, a group of Graceland alumni and friends were convened on February 29, 1992 to review Graceland's campus network concept. In debriefing the work of the panel, the Executive Council declared a "Year Zero" to further investigate the possibilities, but allocated no budget. The remainder of 1992 was used by Computing Services and Systems personnel to continue to investigate possibilities, primarily in the area of information systems development. Contact was maintained with ICN officials, potential consultants, telephone system vendors and the like.

In the summer and fall of 1992, Hewlett-Packard offered attractive trade-in and financing alternatives to upgrade the overloaded Series 70 minicomputer. In late fall, the decision was made to upgrade the minicomputer.

Also in the fall of 1992, Graceland submited an application to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide funding for an Internet connection. This application was subsequently funded, and Graceland's Internet connection became a reality in the summer of 1993. At the time, David Negaard was a student worker who provided much assistance in getting Graceland's Internet connection put together. In August 1994, David was hired full-time as a Help Desk Technician. In this role, David continued to support the Internet connection as well as student access to the network.

Several other grants were written and submitted in the winter and spring of 1993: a $49,000 grant to the Department of Education to supplement the NSF grant for an Internet connection, a $258,000 grant to the Department of Education to enable a Southern-Iowa/Northern Missouri wide-area network for CD data base and library catalog sharing, and a $1.8 Million Title III application to fund many aspects of Graceland's distance education program utilizing ICN. Graceland also participated in a Department of Education grant to fund high-speed, high-resolution facsimile via Internet (Ariel) among several Iowa colleges and universities. All of these grant applications were subsequently turned down by the respective funding agencies. In the following year, Graceland resubmitted the Title III proposal, which this time was funded. The Ariel grant was also resubmitted and was also successful.

In the spring of 1993, Graceland began packaging a number of projects on campus, including building remodeling, energy management and technology. A financing plan congealed which would provide funding for many of these projects. "The financing" included five technology projects:

In a presentation of these projects to the Board of Trustees, the Board requested a technology business plan which would identify an implementation timeline as well as potential applications and their respective costs and revenues.

During the summer of 1993, discussions with Kiewit Network Technologies lead to a contract to have KNT install campus backbone simultaneously with ICN cable. KNT was also asked to design a network for interactive TV classroom and cable TV. Powers and Company was engaged to design the data network. KNT installed the campus network backbone and ICN equipment during the fall of 1993. The data network served the following buildings initially: Gunsolley, Graybill, Tess Morgan, Units A and C, Walker, Tower, Unit B, Patroness, Briggs, MSC, Physical Plant and Library. (These buildings either had, or were funded to have, building wiring to support data networking.) Data network backbone connections for Administation Bldg., Shaw, Closson, Zimmermann, Science, Chapel, Carmichael, Kelley, Physical Plant Shop and Commons were to be funded as part of wiring projects for those buildings.

In the fall of 1993, Graceland signed contracts with Apple Computer, Aegis Computers and Cedar Computer Center to enable resale of computers to students. A computer order center was created in the MicroLab for sales of hardware, while software was sold through the Graceland Bookstore.

In November 1993, Graceland began using the ICN for long-distance telephone communications.

Also in the fall of 1993, investigation of telephone system options was begun, culminating in a decision in December to order new telephone systems for both Lamoni and Independence campuses. Investigation of voice mail and call accounting systems was begun.

During the spring of 1994, the lower level of the F.M. Smith Library was remodeled and a TV classroom was installed to be used with the ICN. Later that spring, two microcomputer classrooms were constructed in the Library to house the PC and Mac labs, which were moved from their previous home in Zimmermann Hall during May, 1994.

At the same time, systems at the Independence Education Center expanded. With the move from the Winner Road facility to the Central Professional Building, the campus was converted to a Novell network. This as well as the expansion of the Outreach Program required full-time support. So, in April 1994, Tom Venne was hired as an Information Systems Specialist to provide primary support to IEC. After Tom's position was closed in May, 1996, Tammy Oakes joined the team as a Help Desk Technician to support IEC.

Major rewiring and power system upgrade projects were completed in the Lamoni campus residence hall to provide access to telephone, cable TV and data network services in the summer of 1994. Simultaneously, rewiring was also done in The Shaw Center, Science Hall, Health & Education Division and Student Support Services in Zimmermann Hall, and the Social Science Division in Briggs Hall to accommodate network access.

In August and September, 1994, new MITEL 2000 Light PBX's were installed at the Independence Education Center and Lamoni campus. A Centigram voice mail system was installed at the same time. Until then, a Siemans Saturn II PBX was used in Independence and a Northern-Telecom SL/1 was used at Lamoni. With these new systems, Graceland was able to provide direct-dial long-distance and voice mail services to residence hall students. With the new telephone systems, Graceland assumed responsibility for the on-campus copper plant which had been previously maintained by Grand River Mutual Telephone Company. Roger Potts was hired in July 1994 as Telecommunications Technician, with primary responsibility for the wire plant and wire rooms.

Data connections in the residence halls were available by late fall 1994 and cable TV service was made available in each residence hall room in January 1995.

By May 1995, demand for network connections for students, faculty and staff had reached the point that the Cisco 4000 router needed to be upgraded. Anticipating future growth, a Cisco 7000 router was purchased and installed over the summer, 1995. When the initial Internet connection was established, sixteen (16) class-C addresses had been reserved for Graceland and the Cisco 7000 enabled several more of these to be made available for service.

Data wiring for faculty in the divisions of Humanities, Fine Arts in Kelley Hall, Publications Production Center and the Registrar's office was completed in October 1995.

Also in October 1995, the library HP 3000 "libbie" was made available via a telnet interface to Internet users.

During the summer of 1996, a decision was made to upgrade Graceland's server plant. Up to this time, the campus Novell servers were nothing but glorified workstations (most with 32 MB memory and 1 GB SCSI hard drives). A Hewlett-Packard NetServer LH was purchased to support the Independence Education Center, and a NetServer LS and two NetServer LC's were purchased to support the Lamoni campus. A NetServer LM, which was previously purchased, was retained as a server on the Lamoni campus as well. At the same time, a decision was made to transition the network from Novell to Microsoft NT, and desktop PCs from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95.

Check out the ITS Home Page for the current people and status of information technology systems at Graceland College.

This page last updated: 2/17/97

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