Barbara Marie Mack


“Barbara Mack was an Iowa woman who became mentor and role model for God knows how many other Iowa women, many of whom were—like her—the first in their families to go to college (or at least to go for reasons other than finding a husband).” —Christine Romans, CNN Correspondent and host of “Your Bottom Line”


Barbara Marie Mack was a journalist, lawyer and teacher who shattered glass ceilings, inspired women and gave generously to many people throughout her life. Born in Des Moines in 1952, she put herself through college in just three years, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree with Phi Beta Kappa academic honors in journalism from Iowa State University in 1974. Long before college, Mack was at home in a newsroom. She started as a copy courier at age 16 with the Des Moines Register and Tribune, then rose to reporter after graduation, blazing a trail for Register women covering courts and crime news. From those earliest days, she was passionate about First Amendment issues. She helped found the Iowa Freedom of Information Council in 1975. Her growing interest in the law drew her to Drake University Law School, where she received her Juris Doctor in 1977. By 1982, at age 29, Mack became the Register and Tribune Company’s first female corporate secretary and general counsel, making her the highest-ranking woman in Register corporate history and its youngest executive. After overseeing the sale of the company to Gannett interests, she was of counsel at the Davis Law Firm briefly before returning to Iowa State University as a professor in journalism and mass communications. While at ISU, she taught classes ranging from basic to advanced and was a teacher, academic advisor, mentor and role model for thousands of students over a 25-year career; but Mack also made it a personal priority to tutor students who needed to pass the fundamental language usage exam required for entry into the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communications. She died in 2012, mourned by family, friends and those many students who have taken her lessons to heart. Her legacy is a generation of young people, particularly women, poised to have positive impacts on Iowa and on the world beyond.