BVU Gives Warm Welcome to “The Woz”


On Oct. 4, Buena Vista University welcomed Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, Inc. and inventor of the Apple II computer, as the keynote speaker for its 2019 American Heritage Lecture. The American Heritage Lecture Series has given students the opportunity to engage with influential leaders to routinely challenge and inspire them in their future career paths.

Student Senate President Joshua Cole introduced “The Woz” to over 700 students, faculty and staff before giving the floor to moderator Dr. Nathan Backman, associate professor of computer science, for the afternoon’s conversation. 

Six student panelists received the honor of asking Wozniak questions on the stage of Schaller Chapel, a day they had spent months preparing for. Question topics ranged from the wage gap, to artificial intelligence, to what it means to be successful.

In sixth grade, Wozniak dreamed of becoming an electrical engineer. His other ambition was to teach fifth grade, which shaped his core values and influenced the impact he hoped to have on students in the future through his work.

This is showcased through his revolutionary work in the design of Apple I, Apple II, and impact on Macintosh’s design. Wozniak emphasized the importance of taking initiative as a student especially. According to “The Woz,” there is not a specific path or checklist to follow, but a do-it-yourself mindset that will get one where they want to be.

“The things you do yourself are the things you do the best,” he smiled, remembering his journey.

Photo by Autumn McClain

Laura Petersen, a senior business/human resource major and student panelist, asked Wozniak what advice he had to offer to young entrepreneurs looking to be successful in the modern business world.

“Knowledge is very important . . . but it’s more important that students are inspired. To me . . . success is happiness . . . Follow your heart and you can achieve things,” he said. “Have a good attitude about yourself and know what makes you happy.”

Wozniak reminisced on childhood memories growing up with Steve Jobs, and how they knew each other prior to their fame. Many in the audience were under the assumption Wozniak and Jobs were friends, but Wozniak revealed there was more to be told. Jobs seemed to always desire to become idolized and famous in Wozniak’s memory. This was not what “The Woz” had in mind for his life.

Wozniak spoke about Jobs’ representation association with all of society. He made note of Jobs’ failed attempts at mimicking his original creations and contributions to society. Wozniak felt that Jobs was corrupted by the wealth and power Apple gave him. “The Woz” never was in the business for money. He found his passion in the computing industry, particularly engineering.

“I was not out there to promote myself, and I didn’t want to be at a very high economic level because I had very strong morals, values, and personalityI wanted to make sure they weren’t corrupted by what wealth and power can do to you,” said Wozniak.  

Photo by Autumn McClain

Before the event, Wozniak spoke to student panelists backstage. He expressed how deeply valuable it is to have a driving passion to learn, and to teach yourself new skills. There is no design for success, but how successful one will be depends on their own happiness, according to Wozniak.

The six student panelists included Sam Loerts, sophomore psychology and political science major, Nate Strohmyer, senior computer science major, Tanner Frost, junior digital media major, Laura Petersen, senior business and human resource major, Michael Martin, senior computer science major, and Olivia Wieseler, senior digital media major. Alternate student panelists included Regan Sylvester and Emma Bloom. Faculty members who worked closely with panelists to prepare for the event were Mr. Gary Sterling, instructor of management, Dr. Karin Strohmyer, Associate Professor of Education and Special Education, Dr. Jason Shepherd, Professor of Computer Science, and Dr. Shawn Stone, Professor of Physics and Computer Science.

 In addition to the afternoon’s presentation, a night session was held. It was special invitation only, and President Joshua D. Merchant had a casual conversation onstage with “The Woz” for this event. A much smaller crowd was in attendance.

Students, faculty, staff, and community members of Storm Lake walked away from the 2019 American Heritage Lecture with the experience of a lifetime.

 Student panelist Tanner Frost expressed, “[This was] an absolutely incredible experience I will never forget being a part of!”