At Home in the World
Careers built near Drake reach lives beyond borders.
Anyone who questions the breadth of opportunities that characterize a lifetime in Iowa should talk to Larry, LW’74, and Cynthia Eisenhauer, GR’76. The couple moved in 1975 to an early 20th-century farmhouse in what is now a suburb of Des Moines. It’s been their home ever since, though their careers have taken them around the world. Larry’s 28-year judicial career culminated in a position as chief judge of the Iowa Court of Appeals. Cynthia served as director in no fewer than four state organizations and as chief of staff to former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Their professional experiences have touched others beyond Iowa.
Cynthia, you helped the city of New Orleans prepare its 2008–2010 budgets, while the city continued to recover from Hurricane Katrina. What experience did you carry with you from Des Moines that was valuable in the project?
After Katrina, revenues plummeted in New Orleans, and at least a third of the city staff was laid off. The mayor wanted a budgeting approach that started from scratch, identifying citizen priorities and making choices based on those priorities.
Iowa has (thankfully) never experienced that level of devastation, but the Great Flood of 1993 caused considerable destruction. I was director of Iowa Workforce Development at that time—our offices were flooded, the city had a shortage of running water, and we had to establish makeshift offices to provide public services. The flood taught me about perseverance and flexibility. Those characteristics helped me encourage New Orleans’ city staff to have faith and creatively overcome adversity.
Larry, you served a six-month term as an international judge for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. Which Iowa judicial experiences were valuable in your work abroad, and how did your time in Kosovo influence the way you think about and approach justice back home?
My first trial in Kosovo was with defendants charged with human trafficking and rape. The first day in court, one of the victims appeared in the company of one of the defendant’s family members. Drawing on my Iowa trial experience, I quickly separated the victim from the defendant’s family, questioned her, and determined she was being coerced.
Although the justice system in Kosovo was much different from ours, the experience reminded me of the universal nature of the human desire for justice. The atmosphere in a courtroom, the tension, and the need for confidence and faith in the integrity of the system are all the same.
The scope of your careers is extraordinary. What do you talk about at the dinner table?
Current events, politics, popular culture, where we want to travel next, and the need to bring better balance to our lives by spending more time with friends and riding our bikes. Often we don’t talk much because we are reading our respective books. (Larry prefers nonfiction history and anything by John le Carré. Cynthia prefers historical fiction, legal thrillers, and anything by David McCullough.)