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The extraordinary life of Stephen Wieting

By Marcus Schupp
On April 21, 2014

  • Stephen Wieting, adjunct sociology instructor. Marcus Schupp


Kirkwood Community College adjunct instructor Stephen Wieting has been teaching and researching for 43 years. 

Wieting entered the teaching profession in 1971 at the University of Iowa and began sharing his knowledge of sociology with what would turn out to be thousands of college students. 

He said it is not exactly the direction he envisioned his life taking when he first entered college in 1958 but according to Wieting he is very satisfied with the way things turned out. 

Wieting said he originally planned on becoming a Presbyterian minister. Born and raised in the Seattle area, he attended Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash., where he earned a B.A. in sociology. He then headed east to the Princeton Theological Seminary where he graduated with a master's degree in 1965. According to Wieting it was at this time that he had second thoughts about his career choice.

It was also at about this time that he was drafted and chose to enlist in the Navy. He stated that while serving aboard a ship in Vietnam one of his friends recommended the University of Minnesota if he wanted to further his education. 

Wieting took his friend's advice and graduated in 1971 with a Ph.D. in sociology. A few months later he began teaching at the University of Iowa.

Wieting stated that he spent 38 years at the U of I.  

"I wanted to have both the research and teaching aspect of the job," he said. He added that if it had just been about a paycheck he said he might not have stayed at Iowa as long as he did. 

But once he started various programs to further students' education he said he became passionate about them and wanted to stay and keep the momentum going. 

Examples included an exchange program with Iceland, a four-country research project on women's gymnastics and a program to teach students better research techniques. 

Wieting said he also developed a passion for the sport of wrestling as he observed how motivated and competitive the Iowa wrestlers were who took his classes. This interest led to his involvement in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum, now located in Waterloo. 

After visiting the museum Wieting said he recognized that it did not have an exhibit on Glíma, a type of wrestling found in Iceland. He said he gathered several items associated with the sport and donated them to the museum. 

In the past 10 years Wieting said he has become more interested in the sociology of sports and the hypocrisy that sometimes comes with it. According to the instructor, scandals surrounding the Tour de France and Penn State are just two examples of how sports have lost much of their innocence. "This isn't business or politics," he said, "this is sport where people are supposed to be good and not lie to us." 

Wieting also includes sports among his hobbies. He stated that he has enjoyed playing basketball and distance running, completing 13 marathons and several 10k's. More recently he has taken up biking.

As for the future Wieting stated he has no plans to retire. "I have an insatiable interest in getting kids to think sociologically," he said, "And in this business its lifetime, you're never done with research." 

Wieting also said it is clear that he is not yet done molding young minds and sharing his wealth of knowledge with students at Kirkwood.

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