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A farewell to a devoted board member

April 17, 2012


IRIS Executive Director presenting Hamilton with a gift from IRIS.

Serving on the IRIS board of directors since the very beginning, Laura Hamilton looks back at her time with IRIS, and recalls her “wonderful life experiences.”

While her time serving on the board is over, Hamilton carries with her more than just memories, one of her first being made while she, her husband Mark and two children took a trip to Bulgaria with IRIS (then the International Center for Community Journalism) via the Iowa Peace Institute.

Immediately after the fall of communism, the Iowa Peace Institute worked diligently with Bulgarian journalists wanting to know more about free press, and how their newspapers could be profitable without help from the government.

From July 1992 to August of 1993, Hamilton and her husband Mark spent their time helping the Iowa Center for Community Journalism fulfill their mission in Bulgaria, while raising their two children, Drew (12) and Jill (9), in a foreign country. “It changed my children’s worldview and was a wonderful family experience. They have felt free to wander ever since,” said Hamilton.

Another project brought Hamilton to Mongolia, where she calls her two weeks spent in the Buddhist nation “one of my most memorable and most appreciated experience with IRIS. They are peaceful people, and it was a real joy to work with journalists there.”

Hamilton continued working on several IRIS projects, one of which took her back to Bulgaria in 2000. She felt “very rewarded to see that the library was still operating.” Some of her time was also spent catching up with old friends, both in Bulgaria and Ukraine.

“It was very well planned. The people Bob Anderson (President and Founder of IRIS) found to work with were always very hospitable and eager to receive any information that we could give them. I feel like my time was always very well used, and I never had a bad experience,” said Hamilton.

In the last few years, Hamilton has played host to numerous international visitors, including Bulgarian guests who were in Iowa for the American-Bulgarian Library Exchange (ABLE) project.  The ABLE project was an effort to introduce the concepts of public libraries into the country of Bulgaria. For this project, she took the role of Intercultural Coordinator, helping Bulgarians become accustomed to American culture.

While most of her time will be spent in the Pacific Northwest, Hamilton’s deep values and ties to Iowa will occasionally bring her back to the Midwest where she plans to continue volunteering with IRIS and stay connected with family and friends.

Although IRIS will greatly miss the long-time board member, Hamilton believes she is leaving the organization in good hands. “Del has enlightened leadership that will keep IRIS very strong. When we started out we already had a statewide reputation as a peacemaker, and I hope that someday IRIS becomes a household name,” said Hamilton. She also hopes the new board member stepping into her shoes will enjoy the opportunities that IRIS provides as far as promoting international understanding, creating friendships and helping people all over the world.

IRIS Director Del Christensen demonstrated his gratitude by saying “Everyone at IRIS is so very thankful for Laura and her nearly twenty years of service at IRIS, her dedication in helping to grow the organization to what it is today, as well as her lifetime commitment to global citizenship. She, Mark and her entire family will always be a part of the IRIS family.”


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