Ex-Governor Branstad to be ambassador-in-residence at Drake University
Terry Branstad (Radio Iowa photo)

DES MOINES — Former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad will be “ambassador-in-residence” at Drake University, meeting with students and planning to host a yearly conference about U.S. and China relations.

Branstad, who was President Donald Trump’s Ambassador to China, graduated from Drake’s law school 50 years ago.

“I have a lot of good memories involved with going to law school here, even though I was also serving in the legislature. It was a very active time,” Branstad said during a news conference this week. “This is where I met my wife, for Drake’s homecoming.”

Branstad, the nation’s longest-serving governor, has just turned 75. His office on the Drake campus is in the law library.

“I’m feeling good and I’m in good health and I hope this will be for an extended period of time,” Branstad said. “I do intend to meet with students, be available like on a weekly basis. I will only teach classes not real often, maybe a couple of times a semester or something like that.”

Branstad hopes to organize an annual conference to focus on the U.S. relationship with China — a country Branstad said can be considered both an adversary and a potential trading partner.

“We have some big differences on policy and those have gotten wider over the years and especially since Covid,” Branstad said. “The Chinese still deny that it started in Wuhan.”

Branstad said it was no easy task as the ambassador to evacuate 1300 people from China back to the United States. Branstad told reporters the Chinese government has done everything it can to cover up the origins of Covid-19 and the world probably will never know for sure how it started.

“We had people from the CDC there at the embassy and we’re calling them every day, offering assistance and wanting to help, but no response,” Branstad said. “…They did everything they could to lie and cover it up and say everything is fine and whatever — until it got way out of hand.”

Some of Branstad’s personal papers and memorabilia will also be donated to Drake. Some of it is already at the Winnebago County Historical Museum.

“You get a lot of stuff as governor and as ambassador I found out as well and so we wanted a place to display it where the public can see it and so some of it will be here,” Branstad said. “There is some up in Forest City at the Mansion Museum as well.”

Branstad’s official papers from his time as governor are digitized and available at the State Historical Museum’s library. Digital copies will soon be available at the library on the Drake campus as well. Drake’s library is also the repository for U.S. Senator Tom Harkin’s papers and the records of former Governor Robert Ray. Ray graduated from Drake’s Law School in 1954 and served as Drake’s interim president in 1998.