At nearly 90 years of age, Henry Pelham of DeWitt stands behind his advice to students: “Math is something you’ll need; get all the math you can.” In fact, Pelham believes so strongly in the importance of an education in mathematics, he is willing to put his money where his mouth is. Pelham recently made a $10,000 endowment to the Central Community Education Foundation with the proceeds from his gift to be used to enhance math education for Central students.
Pelham was born on a farm in Clinton County April 3, 1916. He attended Eden Country School No. 5 and eventually continued his education at DeWitt High School, graduating in 1934. He felt the best parts of school were math and history. Pelham recalls he drove his Model T Ford to high school. He purchased the Model T from Philers Junk Yard for $8.00 and drove it for five years. He enlisted in the Navy in 1939 and served until 1945, traveling from Iceland to the Philippines. During his Navy years, Henry worked on fire control problems involving Navy guns. He used his math skills to solve those problems, sometimes taking as long as two hours to solve one problem, and doing the calculations by hand. After the war, Pelham returned home to Clinton County to help his ailing parents on the farm. Henry continued to farm until the last part of the 20th century. He married Helen Fae Benning in 1957; they travel extensively through the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe.
Pelham’s wish was to attend Iowa State University and become an electrical engineer, but he never achieved that dream. His hope now is his gift will enable other students to live their dream job, getting all the math they can.