For Bob ’63 and Ardene Kildal ’62 Downing, a lifetime of giving back to Simpson College started with a modest donation.
They were just out of college when the late Bill Buxton ’28, a former Simpson trustee, called Bob and asked him to give to the college. At first, Bob said no. He didn’t think they could afford to give. Buxton was persistent and suggested the Downings give just $10. They agreed.
“We’ve given to Simpson every year,” said Ardene. “At the beginning it wasn’t much.”
Bob and Ardene met at Simpson on a blind date. He needed a date to a fraternity event, and a friend told him to call Ardene. When he went to pick her up at Hopper Gym after a basketball game (she was a cheerleader), he still didn’t know what she looked like and had to ask a friend. “Third one from the right,” he told him.
They married in December 1961 when Ardene was a senior and Bob was a junior. The day after his graduation, Bob opened an insurance and real estate business in Indianola, and the Downings made their home in the community. In 1966, he opened his construction business, and as it — and their family — grew, so did their commitment to the college.
“Simpson is an important part of our community and our family and our life,” said Bob. “That’s why we [give back].”
Over the years, Bob and Ardene’s contributions to the college have been numerous. Bob joined the Simpson College Board of Trustees in 1977 and is currently its longest serving member. He has chaired or served on several committees and was chairman of the board from 1999 to 2003. Last fall, Bob was inducted into the Alpha Tau Omega Hall of Fame for his contributions to Simpson’s chapter.
Ardene has been actively involved in her sorority, Pi Beta Phi, and the Simpson Guild for years. Currently, she is house corporation president for Simpson’s Pi Phi chapter, and she just finished her term as president of the Simpson Guild.
In addition to their work for Simpson, the Downings are active in the First United Methodist Church. Since both are business owners in the community, Bob and Ardene are also involved with organizations that promote Indianola. Bob has served as president of the Indianola Development Corporation, and Ardene is past president of the Chamber of Commerce.
Bob and Ardene say they can’t imagine living in a town without a college because of the many opportunities it presents. They enjoy getting to know new students each year and following their successes after graduation.
“Seeing a new group of students each year is invigorating,” Bob said.
During their years in the community, Bob and Ardene have been proud to see the college grow — they believe strongly in the transformative power of a liberal arts education — and as the college entered into its 150th anniversary year, they say they have high hopes that it will remain “strong, vibrant and current.”