Robert F. and Hutha R. Sayre

Iowa City, Iowa

Robert F. Sayre fell in love with rowing — and water — during his family’s summer vacations at New York’s Great South Bay in the 1940s. There, his mother taught him to row dinghies and skiffs, sparking a lifelong passion that still burns today. It is this passion that has prompted Sayre — together with his wife, Hutha (1963 B.S.N.) — to invest in the new University of Iowa P. Sue Beckwith, M.D., Boathouse.

"Hutha and I just love the sight of sleek shells and beautifully coordinated teams skimming over the Iowa River," says Robert Sayre, who joined the Hawkeye Rowing Club in 1990. "We hope that, in addition to providing wonderful training and exercise for UI women rowers and local rowers, the Beckwith Boathouse also will draw more attention to the Iowa River."

The Sayres both have spent enough time in Iowa City to develop a deep appreciation for the Iowa River and its beautiful surroundings. Robert Sayre, a native of Columbus, Ohio, arrived on the UI campus in 1965, after graduating from Wesleyan University in 1955 and completing a Ph.D. in English at Yale University in 1962. He began at Iowa as an assistant professor in the Department of English and remained on the faculty as a professor and leading authority on American autobiographical writing, until his retirement in 1998.

Hutha Sayre grew up on a farm in Clayton County, Iowa, and returned to Iowa City in 1967 with her first husband, Tony Colby, who attended the Writers’ Workshop. She married Robert Sayre in 1988, and together, they have five children from their previous marriages. The Sayres have traveled extensively throughout the state, conducting research for their two Iowa travel books, Take This Exit: Rediscovering the Iowa Landscape and Take the Next Exit: New Views of the Iowa Landscape.

Their love for Iowa and its environment is part of what prompted the couple — who are members of The Presidents Club, which recognizes the University’s most generous contributors — to support such an important resource for the University, the community, and the river. The two hope that their gift of $25,000, which will name a boat in Hutha’s honor, will inspire others to invest in the Iowa River, too.

"We really hope that the more people use and enjoy the river, the more they will want to see it clear and clean," says Robert Sayre.

Thanks to their vision and generosity, Robert and Hutha Sayre have helped ensure that the beauty of the river — and the joy and grace of boats in motion on the water — will endure.

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