Ailene Liechty / Linda Mordaunt
Iowa City, Iowa
Ailene Liechty couldn’t play sports in public. The child of a strict Pennsylvania Dutch horse trainer, she wasn’t allowed to shine on an organized sports team. However, thanks to inspiration from one of her daughters, Linda Mordaunt, Ailene Liechty now has given University of Iowa women rowers the chance to shine—both on and off the water.
Though Liechty died in October 2007, just one month shy of her 100th birthday, her independent spirit and love of adventure will help inspire future generations of UI women rowers. Liechty and her other daughter, Karen Schreiner (1963 M.A.), with encouragement from Mordaunt, joined together to make a generous gift of $25,000 to name the Medical Training Room in the new P. Sue Beckwith, M.D., Boathouse.
“My mother was very strong and very independent. She loved organized sports, but she never was allowed to play them herself, which is why I thought it was so fitting for her to support this important project,” says Linda Mordaunt, an ardent Hawkeye fan who is herself a generous UI giver and member of The Presidents Club. Both she and her husband, Dick, who was a senior adjuster at Pekin Insurance and died in November 2007, supported the UI.
After leaving the family farm in Zearing, Iowa, Ailene Liechty received a B.A. degree in education from Drake University in 1929 and taught elementary education in Polk City. She married E. J. Liechty in the front parlor of her family home, and they had four children: Karen, John (1960 B.S.E.E.), Linda, and Joe. Her husband went on to become publisher of the Iowa City Press-Citizen and then a director of Gannett Company, Inc.
“My mom and dad just instilled in all of us children the idea that you give back. You give back to your church, to your city, and to your University,” says Mordaunt. “Even though both my parents were Drake University graduates, they still firmly believed in supporting The University of Iowa because it was part of the community where they lived and worked.”
Mordaunt, who grew up in Iowa City, said her parents also taught her to embrace her interests. They supported her athletic endeavors, even buying her a horse named “Princess”— which she rode on Taft Speedway, right past the site where the new boathouse will be built.
“I really encouraged my mother to include women’s sports in her giving because she always supported my sister and me—and all us siblings—in our athletic pursuits,” says Mordaunt.
Though she never had the chance to take to the water herself, Ailene Liechty’s lively spirit and love of competition will live on through each new class of Iowa women rowers who train in the P. Sue Beckwith, M.D., Boathouse.