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Doctor Curt Cardwell

Doctor Curt Cardwell, age 55, passed away on Thursday, January 7, 2021 at his home in Des Moines, Iowa.


Curt was born in Long Beach, California to Lana (Gray) and Brent Cardwell in May 1965. In 1971, Lana married Bob Powers, blending their families and gifting him immediately with three more sisters.


Growing up, Curt always enjoyed cooking and honed his talents while employed at restaurants around southern California. He knew he also wanted to pursue higher education so he enlisted in the United States Army in 1984 to take advantage of the Army College Fund program. Curt served as a food services specialist in the U.S. and various locations in Bavaria, Germany. He received an honorable discharge in 1988. Curt also took advantage of his time in the Army to travel throughout Europe: he loved the countries of Spain, France, Italy, and Greece, but the most special place in his heart was Paris.


Upon discharge from the Army, Curt moved to northern California to live near Stephanie (Page), a friend from his high school years. In 1989, Curt and Stephanie were married in Sacramento, California. Curt attended American River and Sacramento City community colleges, eventually transferring to the University of California, Davis, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History. Curt was bitten by the history bug and knew he wanted to pursue a career in academia to share his love of history with others. After graduation, he enrolled at California State University, Sacramento, receiving his Masters in 1997. Curt was fortunate to be accepted into the Ph.D. program in the Department of History at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. The move across the country was delayed by a year due to the arrival of their daughter, Lenin Cardwell in 1998. In August 1999, the small family of life-long Californians made the move from the west coast to the east, where they lived in student family housing in Piscataway and Curt began his studies in New Brunswick, New Jersey. After finishing his coursework in 2003, the family bounced back to northern California, to live near Stephanie’s parents, Charles (Chuck) and Miriam (Conroy) Page in Yuba City. Curt graduated from Rutgers in 2004. In 2005, Curt was offered a position at Drake University in Des Moines and the small family moved one more time.


Curt was associate professor of history at Drake University, but that title does not encompass all that he was. His area of focus was the Cold War, foreign relations, and political economy but he also loved bringing popular culture, music, and movies into the classroom to help students learn how deeply history informs not only the past but the present. He was an author of many published articles as well as his book “NSC 68 and the Political Economy of the Early Cold War,” Cambridge University Press (2011) which has a five star rating on Amazon. He was a member of Phi Alpha Theta and a former member of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR). Curt was always appreciative and spoke fondly of his many mentors, including Frank Kofsky, Ph.D. (California State University, Sacramento, deceased 1997), Lloyd Gardner, Ph.D. (Rutgers University), and Frank Costigliola, Ph.D. (University of Connecticut), who helped to guide him through his academic studies, career, and beyond.


Curt is survived by his wife, Stephanie (Page); daughter Lenin; his parents Lana (Gray) and Bob Powers; his siblings Kim Powers (Alan Lombardi), Kelly Powers (Lisa Ramsey), Darren Cardwell (Terry Higbee Cardwell), Heather Powers (Pierre Muchel), Heather (Cardwell) Priest, and Rachel Powers Fernandes (Chad Fernandes); his stepmother Kay (Cardwell) Holmes and step-brother Lee Mandeville; many beloved nieces and nephews; and the hundreds of Drake students whose lives he touched. He was preceded in death by his father, Brent Cardwell (2000) and mother-in-law Miriam (Conroy) Page (2020).


A service is being planned for late spring 2021 at the Veterans Cemetery in Adel, Iowa. Friends and family interested in honoring Curt’s memory can make donations to the Drake University History Department (https://alumni.drake.edu/giveonline), Des Moines Mutual Aid (Venmo @DesMoines-MutualAid), or the charity of their choice.