Bill Gamble was born in 1920. He grew up on a farm in Iowa with no indoor plumbing or electricity. His mother cooked on a wood stove and could tell if it was hot enough just by sticking her hand over it. His sister Dorothy paid for him to go with her on his first airplane ride. He fell in love with flying. During World War II he enlisted in the Navy and flew blimps off the coast of Brazil. He was one of a handful of people who flew both lighter than air and heavier than air during WWII. When he was in Brazil he saw poverty and farms that weren’t producing. It made him think he could make a difference in the world. He could help these farmers.
William Keith Gamble was the first in his family to finish college. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from Iowa State University. Later, married with three children, he went back to school and received his Ph.D from Cornell University. Dr. Gamble. He worked for the Ford Foundation as a Specialist in Agriculture and a Country Director in Burma, Mexico and the Caribbean, Colombia and Venezuela, and West Africa. Then he went on to be the Director of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria. From there he became the founding Director of the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) in The Hague, the Netherlands. He was known internationally as somebody who was making a difference.
The farm boy from Iowa traveled to over 90 countries. He was invited to testify at the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons. He received the Distinguished Achievement Citation from Iowa State University that reads, “A pioneer in bringing science and technology to tropical agriculture, he has improved living conditions for millions in developing countries.”
He also gave back. The Gamble International Agriculture Scholarship at Iowa State University was made possible through an endowment generously established by William K. Gamble and Sara Virginia Liggett Gamble. Its purpose is to support international experience for graduate students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who intend to pursue a career in agriculture on an international level.
The family lived through several Coups. One in Burma in 1962, and two in Nigeria in July of 1975 and February of 1976. Life was never boring. Travel was always a wild card with delays, cancellations, re-routes, and bad communication. Sometimes we had phones that worked, sometimes we had indoor plumbing, sometimes we had electricity. Sometimes we did not. Through it all my mother entertained exquisitely and supported my father in whatever he did. They were together for 76 years. My mother died in 2019 at 99 years old.
Bill was a fierce opponent on the tennis court as well as the badminton court. He enjoyed a beer before dinner for many years and then turned to red wine. Even at 103 years old he loved a meal out with a good bottle of red wine.
My father wrote a note to my son on the inside cover of his memoirs. It reads, “I want you to do your very best to help achieve a better world and to always be considerate of your fellow man. In doing so, I hope that you, as I have done, can live happily and enjoy life to the fullest”.
He certainly did enjoy life to the fullest!
William K. Gamble
February 10, 1920 – November 25, 2023
He leaves behind two sons, two daughers-in-law, one daughter, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.