Triangle Club unites faculty from all corners

Bill Preucil

Bill Preucil will serve a full-year term as president of the Triangle Club at The University of Iowa. Photo by Tom Jorgensen.

As people begin to file in, the room hums with camaraderie and reunion. It may have been months, maybe even years since they saw each other last, often times because of weather or schedules. Bill Preucil, at the front of the room, lifts his hand to strike a triangle bell, giving it a couple of good rings. The sound signals everyone to take their seats; the bell symbolizes a tradition of history.

That tradition is called the Triangle Club, which meets on the third Sunday of each month. Preucil, professor emeritus with the University of Iowa School of Music, is the next president in line and will fulfill that role for a full-year term.

“I’ve enjoyed the club so much and felt it was time to take my turn and fulfill this role to help out the club and organize the events and speakers,” says Preucil, a member of nine years and a cofounder of the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City.

The club recently paired with the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies. With their informal partnership, they hope the collaboration will give the club a stronger presence at The University of Iowa while giving the Obermann Center new access to yet another community that delights in learning about knowledge from many different arenas.

“The Triangle Club has a special place in the history of Iowa City and The University of Iowa,” says Teresa Mangum, director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and an associate professor in English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “The Obermann Center is proud to affiliate with the Triangle Club and to have the opportunity to work with and learn from the smart, energetic members of the Triangle Club.”

The group, about 50 members strong, has the chance to interact with members of different disciplines across campus. Each meeting begins with a 30-minute socializer, followed by a brunch and a guest speaker at the University Athletic Club. Axel Ruprecht, club secretary and treasurer and a member of 16 years, says his most memorable experiences with the club include “lunching” with speakers he has long admired and respected. Ignacio Ponseti and Willard “Sandy” Boyd are names that come immediately to mind, he says.

“They’re names you’ve heard of but may not have otherwise been in contact with if it weren’t for those mingling opportunities,” he says.

Photos provided by SUI Staff Magazine, 1963, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

The history of the club dates back to the late 1800s. It was first formed in a faculty office when seven instructors gathered to form a club for the purpose of creating fellowship and helpfulness. In the beginning, professors were barred from membership, but a few months later Professor Macbride was elected along with five other professors, changing the membership restrictions.

The organization started in a rented room over John Wilson’s Sporting Goods Store; later it moved to the Coldren Opera House. Eventually the club landed in a more permanent location in the State Room at the Iowa Memorial Union. After many years there, club events moved to the current meeting location at the University Athletic Club.

When the club first formed, there were only 45 professors at the University, no associate professors, seven assistant professors, 40 instructors, and only 1,283 students. Since then, the University grew to house a community of more than 30,000 students, and the history of the Triangle Club has grown along the way. But over the years, the ties between the University and the Triangle Club have changed, says Mangum—which is why the collaboration came at a perfect time. As part of the Obermann Center’s new mission of engaging campus and community more actively, the affiliation with the Triangle Club brought together the needs of both organizations. Both are committed to the interdisciplinary study of ideas and to ongoing, collaborative research and learning.

Join the club

The Triangle Club welcomes applications from instructors, faculty, and staff members from the University and from leaders in the Iowa City community. Annual dues are $13 per single member or $20 per couple.

To learn more about the organization or to apply, please contact Axel Ruprecht, Triangle Club Secretary/Treasurer, S340 Dental Science Building, 319-335-7341, or axel-ruprecht@uiowa.edu.

“This partnership is the best thing that has happened in a while,” says Ronald Ettinger, the current club president and a member of six years. “The eclectic presentations is what drew me to this organization. I don’t think many know much about this club but hopefully we can change that.”

The name “Triangle” was selected to represent three facets: faculty, administration, and town business. At least one local bank president at a time has been a member of the club for the last 40 years. The club helps to promote a high quality of University life, both intellectually and socially. Along with bringing together faculty members from across campus, the club aims to bridge the gap between the University and its surrounding town, says Ettinger, a professor of prosthodontics in the College of Dentistry and an affiliate of the Dows Institute for Dental Research.

“With the river running through the middle of our campus, it becomes a habit to see the same group of people,” says Ruprecht, professor of oral and maxillofacial radiology in the College of Dentistry. “But by mixing with other departments, you get out of that routine, and get the chance to glimpse other perspectives. Sometimes those perspectives generate talks of collaborative work or research.”

For many years, the University announced the club’s meetings but with the new affiliation with the Obermann Center, the Triangle Club will have a new avenue of support. The center hopes to help the club out by publicizing their activities, says Mangum, whom the club has invited twice as a guest speaker.

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