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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 29, 2004

(NOTE: Click on photo of UI Scottish Highlander Reunion button for high-resolution image)

Scottish Highlanders Return To UI For Homecoming Weekend

Dating back to 1936, the Scottish Highlanders have a proud tradition at the University of Iowa. In their heyday, they traveled across the U.S. and toured Europe, with the largest all-woman bagpipe band in the world. This weekend many memories of those times will be shared when more than 200 Highlanders return for a reunion during Homecoming Weekend.

The Scottish Highlanders are a student group dedicated to practicing and performing the Scottish arts of piping, drumming and dancing. The group, formed in 1936 at the UI, has a long tradition of performing at football games, parades and at competitions. It's the first reunion of the group since 1986, and many friendships are sure to be renewed during the weekend activities, according to Staci Valenta, the Alumni Association's Reunion Director.

A contingent of about 20 Highlanders along with members of the Iowa Scottish Pipes and Drums will perform and march in the Homecoming Parade starting at 5:45 p.m. Friday in downtown Iowa City, while some Highlander alumni will watch the parade from VIP seating. Following the parade, the Highlanders will gather at 7:30 p.m. in the Iowa Memorial Union for a social and banquet that will include a presentation about the history of the Highlanders and a performance from current and past members, said Heather Adamson-Stockman of Iowa City, a Highlander alumna who is on the Reunion Committee. A collection of photos and memorabilia will also be on display at the Quality Inn and Suites where other reunion activities will be taking place.

The idea for the reunion started with a Highlander who went on the first European tour in 1952 and inquired about setting up a 50-year reunion. Valenta liked the idea, got other Highlander alumni involved and then coordinated the effort with current pipe major Troy Shehan.

The Highlanders have an illustrious history at the UI, starting with Col. George F.N. Dailey, head of the UI's ROTC program, who saw the Black Watch Regiment and Pipe Band on overseas duty during World War I. He was so impressed with the regiment that he resolved to start a pipe band in the United States. In the 1930s, Dailey took the first step toward his goal, by contacting William Adamson of Boston who was well known for his outstanding ability on the pipes. Adamson was hired as the director and gave the Scottish Highlanders its name. He retained his position until his death in the 1965.

In the early years, the Scottish Highlanders was an all-male unit, but by 1942, World War II had so depleted male enrollment that women were invited to join. During the decades that followed, Iowa's Scottish Highlanders gained fame at home and abroad as the world's largest women's pipe band. During this period, the Highlanders played at Iowa football games, in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, on the "Ed Sullivan Show" and on the "Tonight Show." They also made a trip to Europe every four years until 1976.

In 1972 the Highlanders became a co-ed organization. Unfortunately, in 1980 the UI cut the Scottish Highlanders' funding completely as part of campus-wide budget cuts. Membership dropped, but a few loyal members persevered and were able to obtain funding from the Hiland Potato Chip Company and establish the group as a student organization.

The Highlanders no longer receive support from Hiland but earn money from parades and performances. As an official student organization, the group also gets funding from the UI. It also receives generous donations from the Highlanders' alumni, which number more than 1,700.

For Adamson-Stockman, the Highlanders were a big part of her life, since her father, William Adamson, was a long-time director. She was in the dance section from 1964 to 1968. Seeing pictures of the group from its past will bring back many fond memories.

"The Highlanders were a integral part of the university in their day. People came to the university just to be in the group," Adamson-Stockman said. "The Highlanders were good ambassadors for the UI, and brought it some national recognition."

At times, it was very competitive to become a Highlander; 500 women might try out, but only 50 would be selected, she added. "It was a group of women who exemplified a high standard of conduct at the UI."

Richard Fedderson of North Liberty was in the Highlanders from 1937 to 1940. His first introduction to the group was at a high school assembly in 1935, when Col. Dailey and William Adamson were recruiting members for a high school band. Both were in full gear, an impressive sight for the students.

After coming to the UI, Fedderson joined the Highlanders and traveled around the country to perform. One highlight was performing at the 1939 World's Fair, marching up and down the grounds twice a day in heavy authentic Scottish uniform.

"Col. Dailey took good care of us. He saw that we had a good time for all the hard work we did," Fedderson said, adding that Dailey arranged for the group to see Cab Calloway after the New York trip.

"We're looking forward to a wonderful weekend of having the Highlanders back on campus to celebrate and reconnect with each other and with the UI," Valenta said.

For a full schedule of Scottish Highlander Reunion events see http://www.iowalum.com/reunions/hrw/index.html.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: George McCrory, 319-384-0012, george-mccrory@uiowa.edu.Program: Staci Valenta, University of Iowa Alumni Association, 319-335-3294, staci-valenta@uiowa.edu