Owen Newlin Obituary

Owen  J. Newlin
Owen J. Newlin

February 6, 1928 - July 12, 2020
Born in Des Moines, Iowa
Resided in Des Moines, Iowa
  • Contat Us
  • Videos
  • Guestbook
  • Photos
  • Services
  • Send Flowers


** A Celebration of Life Service for Owen has now been scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, September 18, 2021 at Iles Dunn's Chapel. Owen was a lifelong Quaker, and the service will be held in the style of unprogrammed Friends Worship. The family will receive friends for one hour prior to the service and also at a reception following the service. The service will be live-streamed from this site beginning at 1:45 p.m. September 18. **

Owen J. Newlin died on July 12, 2020, at Wesley Acres in Des Moines, IA. Born February 6, 1928, in Des Moines, Iowa, Owen dedicated his entire life to his family and helping farmers feed the world. While a student at Iowa State University, he met Doris Jean (“D.J.”) Coxon, and they were married on July 19, 1952. They had four children. Newlin was elected vice president of Pioneer Hi-Bred International in 1978, senior vice president in 1986, and he retired from Pioneer in 1993. He served as a director of the company from 1963 to 1999. He received a B.S. in Agronomy and a M.S. in Crop Production from Iowa State University. He also earned a Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1955. He was a 1974 graduate of Harvard University’s Advanced Management Program.

Newlin joined Pioneer in 1955 as a research assistant in the production department of the Central Division. He became production manager for the division in 1964 and served as president of the Central Division from 1967 to 1978. As senior vice president, Newlin had responsibility for the finance, information management, human resources, and seed production operations of the North American Operations group.

One of Newlin’s most important contributions was his decision in 1971 as President of the Central Division of Pioneer, to substantially increase the planned production of hybrid number 3780 very early in its introduction. He and his team convinced the company to make an enormous jump from 10,000 bags to 500,000 bags in one year. Newlin believed so strongly in the performance of the product that he was willing to take the risk, and it paid off. Pioneer sold over 20 million bags of hybrid 3780 over its 17-year period allowing the company to dramatically increase its market share for many years. It was an achievement that was realized because research, production, sales, and distribution all worked effectively as a team.

Newlin was a long-time board member of the American Seed Research Foundation serving as president in 1982-84. He was also chair of the Corn and Sorghum Division of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) in 1975-76, Past Chair of the Subcommittee for ASTA Strategic and Allied Sponsors and served as president of ASTA from 1985-86. He was named an honorary member of ASTA in 1991 and received the first and only Lifetime Industry Achievement Award from ASTA in 2016.

He was a board member of the U.S. Grains Council from 1970 to 2002 and served as its chair in 1978-79. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the U.S. Grains Council in 2005. In 1975, 1976, and 1977 he raised funds from agribusinesses to support a referendum for a Corn Check-off in Iowa. After two unsuccessful efforts, in 1977 the Iowa Corn Growers Association passed a Corn Checkoff. Over the next few years, he also raised funds to support similar successful referendums in Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Ohio. He raised funds to support three unsuccessful referendum efforts in Indiana. In 1987 he was given the Distinguished Award from the Iowa Corn Growers Association. In 1993 Newlin received the President’s Award from the National Corn Growers Association, and in 2011 he received the first Iowa Corn Growers Lifetime Achievement Award.

Newlin served two six-year terms on the Board of Regents, State of Iowa and was president for eight years. From 1978-1983 Newlin was the chair for the Committee in Support of New Agronomy Facilities at Iowa State University. He was president of the ISU Achievement Foundation from 1985-1986, and he chaired the successful ISU Partnership for Prominence campaign from 1988-1993. He was a member of the Iowa State University Foundation Board of Governors. He received the Iowa State University Alumni Recognition Medal, the Floyd Andre Award for Contributions to Agriculture, the Distinguished Achievement Award in 1988 and the Alumni Merit Award for outstanding contributions to human welfare in 1990. He is a Sustaining Lifetime Member of the ISU Alumni Association and Past Member of the ISU Memorial Union Board of Directors. He received the Order of the Knoll Campanile Award in 1993 and the first True and Valiant Award as well as H.A. Wallace Award in 2008. In 2017 he received the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement and Service Award from the ISU Seed Science Center.

Newlin was a 39-year trustee of Simpson College and served as chair of the board of trustees from 1985-1993. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Simpson in 1993. He was a 54-year member of the Rotary Club of Des Moines and as its president in 1987-88 led a successful effort to induct its first 10 women as Rotary Club members. In 2009 he received a Lifetime Service Award from the Rotary Club of Des Moines. He was involved with United Way of Central Iowa serving as its annual campaign chair in 1979-80 and board member for 5 years including board chair in 1983-84. Newlin received the Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame Award from the Governor’s Volunteer Advisory Council. He chaired the Human Services Coordinating Board of Des Moines in 1986-87. He was a past member of the board of directors of the American Mutual Life Insurance Company (Des Moines), NationsBank, N.A. (Des Moines), Iowa Methodist Medical Center (Des Moines), and Farm Foundation (Oak Brook, IL). He received the Iowa Business Hall of Fame Award in 2000. He was a board member of the Iowa Seed Association from 1967 to 1974 serving as president in 1972-1973. In 1985 he was named an honorary member of the Iowa Seed Association and received an Honorary Life Member Award from the International Seed Federation in 1996. He was named a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, Fellow of the Crop Science Society of America, and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2001. Newlin was a member of the Sigma Xi Honor Society, a distinguished member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and a member of Cardinal Key, Alpha Zeta & Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Societies. He was a member of the Farmhouse Fraternity and received their Master Builder of Men Award in 1998. In 1981, Newlin served as chair of the National Sponsors Board of the Future Farmers of America Foundation. In 1981 he received that organizations Honorary American Farmer Degree, and in 1988 Newlin received the VIP Citation from the National Future Farmers of America.

He received the Friend of Agriculture Award in 1981 from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Iowa Chapter of the National Agricultural Marketing Association (NAMA). In 1983 he received NAMA’s Agri-Marketer of the Year Award. In 1995 he received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota.

Owen is survived by his wife Doris Jean, his children, Tamara (Ed) Gregori of Fort Collins, CO, John (Patty Carton) Newlin of Brunswick, ME, and Christine (Rick) Kovach of Scottsdale, AZ, ten grandchildren, Paul (Maria) Gregori, Rebecca (Andrew) Hill, Eric Oransky, David (Mary) Oransky, Kari Oransky, Mitchell Newlin, Joseph Newlin, Daniel Kovach, Nicholas Kovach, Alison Kovach, and four great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Jay and Ruth (Owen) Newlin, his sisters Emily (Newlin) Bay and Vesta (Newlin) Hansen, and his daughter Janet Newlin.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Iowa State University’s Seed Science Center Research Fund, United Way of Central Iowa General Fund, Unity Point Health Foundation Medical Education and Research Fund, and the Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting General Fund.






Dunn's Funeral Home
2121 Grand Ave.
Des Moines, IA US 50312
Saturday, September 18, 2021
1:00 PM - 1:50 PM
Celebration of Life
Dunn's Funeral Home
2121 Grand Ave.
Des Moines, IA US 50312
Saturday, September 18, 2021
2:00 PM


ISU Seed Science Center Research Fund
2505 University Boulevard, P.O. Box 2230
Ames, Iowa 50010-2230
The Seed Science Center is home to the largest public seed testing laboratory in the world.
United Way of Central Iowa
1111 - 9th Street, Suite 100
Des Moines, IA 50314
UnityPoint Health Foundation Medical Education and Research Fund
1415 Woodland Avenue Suite E-200
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting General Fund
4211 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50312