When mechanical engineering (ME) senior Nathan Stoufer walks across the commencement stage at the end of the semester, he will be following a legacy that his family established more than a century ago.
Florence Kimball Stoufer and Donald Stoufer, Nathan’s great great grandparents, completed their B.S. degrees in ME in 1908. Florence, whose father taught “practical shop mechanics” at Iowa State in the late 1800s, was the department’s first female graduate.
In the decades following their graduation, nearly a dozen other Stoufers have pursued studies at Iowa State. Though few of the Stoufers have pursued studies in engineering after Florence and Donald, Nathan will buck that trend when he graduates in May.
Nathan was raised in a Cyclone household, often watching games on TV with his family, but he largely developed his interest in engineering on his own. As a kid growing up in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Nathan enjoyed designing his own Halloween costumes and playing with LEGO blocks. By middle and high school his interests shifted toward woodworking and metalworking, which was encouraged by his father and grandfather.
“I really just enjoy making things and the challenge that comes with it,” said Nathan. “I am grateful to have a dad and grandpa who also enjoy making things. Their shops have about every tool you could think of.”
Attending Iowa State was the obvious choice for Nathan, who was influenced by his family but still says that he found a “home” at Iowa State on his own. The next step was to find a major that would lead to a career in something he enjoyed.
“I knew I wanted to be an engineer of some kind,” he said. “Mechanical engineering jumped out at me right away because of its emphasis on hands-on learning.”
Nathan considers ME 415: Mechanical Systems Design (a.k.a. senior design/capstone) with Jacqulyn Baughman and ME 419: Computer-Aided Design with Emmanuel Agba to be among the favorite courses he has taken because of their hands-on nature. He also appreciated the hands-on emphasis of his internship with Red Oak Fabrication during summer 2021.
“Going in I didn’t know what to expect but by the time my internship was up I knew this was what I wanted to do full time. I really enjoyed the job because I was able to take ideas and make them come to life beginning with a SolidWorks part and ending with a well-developed final product,” he said.
Nathan also followed his great great grandfather’s legacy when he pledged Phi Delta Theta, of which his father and uncle were also members. Nathan’s great great grandfather was one of the chapter’s founding members back in the early 20th century. Nathan said his involvement in Phi Delta Theta has allowed him to develop his leadership skills and expand his professional network, but he also appreciates the opportunities to participate in longtime university traditions such as Homecoming and Greek Week. Ever the engineer, Nathan has even found himself applying his technical skills to efforts with his fraternity.
“One of my favorite things I’ve done here was as part of Greek Week. Our chapter needed a bed racer, which as it sounds is a bed that you race, so I got to weld together our team’s bed racer for the event,” he said, adding that sometimes he serves as a repairman for his friends who don’t know how to fix things on their own.
After graduation, Nathan said he will look for a job as a design engineer, again citing the passion he has for working with his hands. With his time in Ames is coming to end, he said it will be the “little things” that he misses most.
“Everything from living with your best friends to being up late at night studying with classmates who had the same test or homework as me. I haven’t even left college yet and we still enjoy reminiscing about the good times we’ve had,” he said.
Given the fond memories he and his family have developed at Iowa State over more than a century, Nathan hopes to play a role in a sixth generation of Stoufers attending the place he will soon proudly call his alma mater.
“If I have kids someday, I will definitely show them how great Iowa State is so we can carry on this proud family tradition,” he said.
The family legacy
Florence (Kimball) Stoufer, mechanical engineering, 1908; Donald Stoufer, mechanical engineering, 1908; William Stoufer, mechanical engineering, 1938; Lucy (Stoufer) Beall Graeme, household equipment, 1946; Alice (Graeme) Rohrssen, craft design, 1978; William Stoufer, transportation and logistics, 1990; Brian Stoufer, transportation and logistics, 1995; Angela (Koenig) Stoufer, elementary education, 1995; Mason Stoufer, supply chain management, 2018.