College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Schwab retires after 30 years at Iowa State

Charles Schwab retired Oct. 16 as a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State after serving 30 years. Schwab also served as the ISU Extension and Outreach safety specialist for the state of Iowa.

Charles Schwab

Since his arrival to campus on Aug. 15, 1990 – yes, he remembers the date – Schwab has been invested in serving on committees, boards and teams that promote injury prevention and foster emergency preparedness. His classroom teachings and research echo a need to make agriculture safer for all farmers.

Schwab earned his Ph.D. in agricultural engineering from the University of Kentucky in 1989, and he says Iowa State was the first university to offer him a tenure-track position. But it wasn’t just the offer that drew him to Iowa.

“Agriculture is a big part of this state, and that connects well with the position of farm safety specialist. This is the ‘birthplace’ of extension, and the philosophy of extension matches my personal belief of sharing information and helping people,” Schwab said.

He also said one of the faculty members he met during his interview was from entomology: current Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen.

In his extension work, Schwab provided leadership for Safe Farm, Iowa State’s extension program that helps make Iowa farms a safer place to work and live. This ties in nicely with his research; the most recent project included exploring the phenomenon that influences the extraction forces for victims entrapped in grain. His other research includes efforts in the injury and fatality identification and analysis and safety education and intervention methods.

“Through his extension programming on farm safety, Chuck impacted many Iowans in a positive way,” said Jay Harmon, associate dean for extension and outreach programs and director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State. “It is always difficult to say how many deaths or injuries might have been avoided through his tireless work, but I dare say he definitely made a difference.”

Schwab said his favorite memory at Iowa State was sitting in the Iowa State Provost’s conference room with an external accreditation visit team chair. That chair shared the preliminary finding of a “pass” with Schwab and expressed his positive impression about the high quality of the ABE department.

The ABE department is continually ranked high in the nation every year by U.S. News and World Report. The graduate program is ranked No. 1, and the undergraduate program is ranked No. 2.

During his time at Iowa State, Schwab was an active member of ASABE, ASSP, ATMAE and ISASH, and received notable awards, such as the Superior Paper Award from ASABE in 2019, and an Iowa State University Award for Outstanding Achievement in Extension or Professional Practices, and a Meritorious Service Award from Iowa State Extension, among others.

“Dr. Schwab has left a tremendous legacy in the area of agricultural health and safety at ISU. His impacts will continue even after his retirement for many years to come,” said Steve Mickelson, ABE department chair and Charles R. and Jane F. Olsen professor. “He has been an excellent colleague and friend for the 30 years he has been at ISU. I wish him all the best in his new adventure.”

His advice to students is simple.

“Come to class prepared and study hard, but participate in the other aspects of college life by getting involved,” Schwab said.

During retirement, Schwab says he will not be doing reports. But he will tend to his backyard garden, play golf for his health and explore his passion for antique clocks by fixing them.