An Iowa State Way of LIfe

Since graduation, Nancy and Scott Armbrust (Nancy, class of 1973, B.S. food and nutrition; Scott, class of 1975, DVM) settled in Wisconsin, raised their two boys and enjoyed careers that developed in ways they couldn’t, as new graduates, have predicted.

Scott became what he calls a “bovine OB-GYN,” developing the bovine embryo transfer market in Europe with Paradocs Embryo Transfer, the company he founded with fellow graduate Dr. Ken Collier (class of 1976, DVM). 

Nancy started her career at Pillsbury and the University of Wisconsin-Extension, ending up in a leadership position at Schreiber Foods, a customer-brand dairy company with worldwide sales of $6 billion annually, where she still serves on the board.

The Armbrusts credit Iowa State with giving them a great start. In gratitude, they have established two professorships and a scholarship – and led the project to purchase Frosty the cow, a birthing simulator for the Clinical Skills Lab in the College of Veterinary Medicine. They’ve also contributed many, many hours of service.

How did you two meet?

SCOTT ARMBRUST: When I was a second-year vet student, my roommate and I decided to have some people over. We had music and beverages, and due to our small apartment size, people started dancing on the living room coffee table. That’s where I met Nancy, on the coffee table. I asked her out a week later and our first date was the Elton John Concert at Hilton Coliseum. We got married in 1974. 

Scott, where did your Iowa State degree lead you in your life, and what have you enjoyed most in your career? 

SCOTT: My passion for cattle was supported and encouraged at Iowa State. Vet students had great access to training, mentorship and unique learning opportunities. Iowa State has had tremendous impact on both of us with the talented people we’ve met, the quality education we received and the pathways it opened for us.

My work with embryo transfer allows me to combine working with people, animals and genetics. Through embryo transfer, a cow can have five to 50 calves a year, and genetic testing allows us to give different genes different emphasis like marbled beef or improved dairy production traits.

My career has helped us build strong relationships around the world. It’s been more a way of life than a business.

Nancy, your degree in food and nutrition led to an interesting career path as well. 

NANCY ARMBRUST: When Scott and I moved to Wisconsin, I took a job with the University of Wisconsin-

Extension 4-H that moved my interest beyond food science to leadership development and team building. My next job was in human resources at Schneider National, a trucking and logistics company in Green Bay. In 1982, I was asked to apply for a position at Schreiber Foods. At the end of my career, I was vice president of education
and community relations.

You’ve contributed many of your professional skills back to Iowa State by serving on committees and cabinets. Most recently, Nancy has been named chair of the Iowa State University Foundation board of directors. What motivates you to commit your time?

NANCY: Our experiences at Iowa State were life-changing, preparing us for a wonderful future together that we never could have imagined in 1974. Volunteering not only allows us to reconnect with the university, but enables us to share our talents and resources in ways we hope are creating impact not only today for students and the university but also for the future.

You have been actively involved with the College of Veterinary Medicine over the years, mostly recently as members of the college’s Campaign Committee. What has the experience been like and how have you used it to learn more about the college and the university?

SCOTT: It has been a pleasure to serve on the CVM Advisory Board and Campaign Committee under four Deans. It has been wonderful to reconnect with Iowa State and the college.  Even more special to watch the evolution of the CVM and hospital clinics.  Most rewarding is assisting the college and ISU Foundation get reconnected with other alumni and supporters with projects and scholarship support. The "Forever True" campaign has had amazing support from our loyal alumni and the many friends of the ISU-CVM. The veterinary profession realizes the importance of supporting the futures generations of ISU-CVM students and the influence the college has in Iowa and the world.

Why have you chosen to give so generously not only of your time, but also of your financial resources? 

SCOTT: In this time and age, resources are limited, and the need for financial support has never been so critical. We have been incredibly blessed in our lives. We want to make sure that the Iowa State experience and opportunities we had are accessible for all students, whether through great faculty or scholarships.

If I had it my way, our philanthropy would be private and quiet. But sometimes you’ve got to show you have skin in the game to let others know that you believe in what you’re doing.

Tell us the story about the real Frosty and why it was important for you to give students the experience of working with this model in the Clinical Skills Lab?

SCOTT: Frosty is a Holstein cow that was Supreme Champion at World Dairy Expo held in Madison (Wisconsin) in 2009 and 2010. "Frosty" became a household name in the world dairy genetics business. We purchased Frosty in partnership with a young dairy couple in central Wisconsin, developed Frosty and were fortunate to have great success in marketing her genetics through embryos and offspring. T

The cow simulation models are made in Calgary, Alberta and normally designed as an Canadian True Type cow model. It was much more appropriate to have a famous U.S. cow (Frosty) with an Iowa State connection for students in the college. With the help of Bovine oriented '75 DVM classmates, John Kurt and Dan Smith, as well as another generous swine practitioner (and Iowa State graduate), Paul Ambrecht, the funds were donated for Frosty. The students have used the model so much over the past three years that the calf model, "Snowflake," is worn out and needs replacement. The simulation lab has been a great success and we're proud to have "Frosty" as a cornerstone educator.

What is the philosophy behind your financial support of Iowa State?

NANCY: We’re fortunate to see how our philanthropy is impacting Iowa State today; it’s exciting to meet with students and faculty and learn how our support is making a difference.

SCOTT: I call it “giving forward,” not back. We want to give forward to create a better future for others.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in TRUE, a publication of the Iowa State University Foundation

The Willis and Dolores Armbrust Veterinary Medicine Scholarship

The Armbrusts named the Willis and Dolores Armbrust Veterinary Medicine Scholarship in honor of Scott’s parents. Married 65 years, they were active members of the National Holstein Association with a nationally-recognized Holstein herd that they eventually sold to launch a successful dairy auction company. Their philosophy of generously sharing their talents and resources with others greatly benefited individuals and organizations throughout the Midwest and especially many in their home area of Omaha, Nebraska. 

Nancy and Scott recognize the importance of scholarships in drawing top students to the College of Veterinary Medicine. The scholarship focuses on future food animal production practitioners in response to a national shortage of expertise in this area. “The competition for the best and brightest students is intense,” Scott said. “We don’t want to hear of Iowa State losing out on great students.”