Mr. Harlan Van Gerpen’s commitment to equipping people with tangible workforce skills was a driving force behind the development of the College. Harlan served in a variety of administrative roles during his 16 years on the original Board of Directors for Hawkeye Institute of Technology, and his involvement and input toward key decisions provided the groundwork for what is now Hawkeye Community College. Mr. Van Gerpen saw the need to provide training opportunities for people to learn new skills and earn credentials allowing them to secure employment with local employers and in turn provide services to their fellow community members.
Mr. Van Gerpen served three years in World War II as a meteorologist in Europe and 16 months in the Korean conflict as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer. He earned a B.S. degree from South Dakota School of Mines and an M.S. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois. He pioneered the use of computers in John Deere’s gear design process, and is believed to have been the first person in the world to use a computer to design gears reducing gear calculations from one week to 15 minutes. He retired from the John Deere Product Engineering Center after 28 years of service and spent the next 23 years as a partner in Van Gerpen/Reece Consulting developing and marketing gear design software.
Van Gerpen served as a state legislator from 1983-1985, and was later appointed to the Iowa Board of Education for a 3-year term. As a lifetime member of the Hawkeye Foundation, he remained active with the College until his passing in October, 2012. His vision to build and sustain career programs continues today through family gifts to establish the “Van Gerpen Health Sciences Endowment” with the Hawkeye Community College Foundation. Hawkeye’s Van Gerpen Patient Simulator Lab was dedicated in 2014 in memory of Harlan and his wife, Betty.