Iowa Alumni Magazine | August 2009 | News

Peggy Jenn

By IAM Staff
When the jerseys pile up, Peggy Jenn pretty much lives in the Hawkeye laundry room.

Peggy Jenn peeked in the washer and felt a wave of panic. The piping of color along the softball team's new pants hadn't been set before entering the water, leaving Jenn with wads of sopping-wet uniforms that resembled camouflage—not the symbol of a Hawkeye sports team.

"I wanted to go and hide," says Jenn, 86BBA, even though the incident wasn't her fault. "I had to go tell a coach that her uniforms were ruined."

That wasn't a fun day. As Hawkeye athletics equipment manager since 1983—primarily responsible for the practice and competition apparel of 14 UI sports—Jenn has racked up quite a few colorful stories.

From "camouflaged" laundry to the practical jokes she sometimes plays on athletes (like deliberately mixing wrong items of clothing with their practice gear), she's enjoyed every minute of her 26 years inside her ground-floor office at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Jenn began her career as a student employee in 1983, right after the arena opened, and accepted a full-time position in 1987. Now, she cleans and provides sewing repairs for the jerseys, sweats, socks, and towels for teams that include women's and men's basketball, volleyball, wrestling, field hockey, swimming, soccer, and cheerleading. Jenn issues uniforms before home games, meets, and practices; she packs athletes' bags for road trips. And she makes sure she gets every stitch of Hawkeye gear back for washing, diligently checking off each item returned on her inventory list.

Jenn and her eight staff members log long hours from August until May. They keep the washers rolling non-stop, often completing more than 20 loads over the course of a 12-hour day. When the UI hosts tournaments, Jenn and her crew (who are responsible for the visiting teams, too) can wash laundry from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Two jumbo 75-pound washers and two 100-pound dryers, along with a smaller set of laundry equipment, make sure black-and-gold jerseys stay fresh and clean. Jenn uses large barrels of liquid laundry detergent from a local company, New Outlook, as well as softener and disinfectant.

Over the years, she's learned a few tricks of the trade: a few drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid will take out grease spots and a presoak in saltwater leaves colors brighter.

While many people might moan and groan about doing the wash, Jenn really enjoys her work. "It's the athletes and my staff who have kept me here all these years," she says. "I've always been a Hawkeye fan and the kids are fun—they keep me young."

Plus, she gets a break at home. When her two college-aged daughters bring home their dirty clothes, Jenn's family does the laundry.