Born: June 25, 1921
ISU ‘44 "Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary" informs us that a heroine is one who shows great courage and is admired for her qualities and accomplishments. W. Helen Horton Carroll is a heroine. Helen has been active in community affairs, has strongly supported education, and has raised eight children with the help of her husband, T. J. Carroll. Her qualities of good humor, organization, and persistence have been important in her heroism.
Although Helen's qualities and accomplishments qualify her as a heroine, her courage in facing the daily challenges and horrors of multiple sclerosis have made her a true heroine. Helen is never one to avoid a challenge and looks for the fun-loving activities. She started her college career at what is now the University of Northern Iowa. During her freshman year, she scaled the water tower on a dare. Another time, Helen sneaked into the third floor of the college library, climbed out of the window onto the ledge, and circumnavigated the library--at night. The next year she was needed at home to care for her ill mother. After that year at home she transferred to I.S.U.
W. Helen Horton Carroll '44 graduated from I.S.U. in Foods and Nutrition with a major in Experimental Cookery and a minor in Technical Journalism. At Iowa State she was selected for membership in Phi Upsilon Omicron, the Home Economics honorary society. Helen was on the staff of Homemaker magazine and served as vice president of Mary Lyon Hall. Besides her studies and extracurricular activities, Helen worked at the Union, starting at $.26 per hour and finally earning $.40. She also met her future husband, Thomas Carroll, when he worked at Memorial Union. Her children knew about the frosties at the Union and the swans in Lake Luverne long before ever visiting ISU. Her love of ISU was influential in six of her eight children spending college years there.
In 1976 she and her husband were selected as ISU Parents of the Year. After graduation, Helen worked as a home economist for the American Meat Institute in Chicago and taught home economics in Hospers, Iowa. Following her marriage, she practiced home economics, experimental cookery, and child development while raising eight children. In 1949-50 she developed the first symptoms of multiple sclerosis. At the time her husband was in the Air Force in Japan and her oldest daughter was ill with rheumatic fever. Luckily, the disease went into an almost 20-year remission until 1969 when an exacerbation occurred and the debilitating process began, which has steadily continued. Now she is completely paralyzed.
During the years of remission Helen continued to be physically active. She played golf regularly, as pregnancies allowed, won an occasional tournament, and taught her children to play. Helen expressed her more adventurous side through travel, and in the early 60's through learning to fly. It was in the summer of 1968 when she was almost unable to make it up the hill on the eighteenth hole of the Okoboji Vu golf course that she had to admit to herself that nagging physical problems were probably signs of a reemergence of multiple sclerosis.
Both during the remission and after the diseases reemergence, Helen felt that it was her responsibility to contribute to her community. Instead of seeing herself as overwhelmed by her children and their many demands and later by her physical problems, she volunteered and took leadership responsibilities for church and community activities. She was a leader in both Boy and Girl Scouts for 15 years. Helen was responsible along with her husband and a few other couples for promoting a bond issue to build the Sibley swimming pool. In addition, she campaigned to prevent a large water tower from being built in the city park. The water tower would have violated the original grant of the park land from the railroad company. Helen remains an active long-standing member of the Sibley Parks Commission.
Education and curiosity have always been important to Helen. She organized her active household to make sure that her children studied and encouraged their participation in all types of school and community activities, seeing these activities as an important part of education. She volunteered at her children's schools. When she could no longer be as physically active, she tutored in her home. Helen says that the educational accomplishments of her eight children, six of whom are Iowa Staters, contribute to her feelings of success. All have earned advanced degrees that include two M.D.'s, two Ph.D.'s, two J.D.'s and several masters degrees.
Helen looked forward to a time when she and her husband Tom could travel, play golf, and continue to nurture the next generation. Multiple sclerosis has made most of those dreams impossible.