Photo by Duane Tinkey
Photo by Duane Tinkey

Madeleine Maxwell is an ideas person.

"I'm inspired by every single thing I see or do," she said. "Everything I've ever done helps me to learn and continue to learn and make things better overall."

Whether it's designing an award-winning artistic brassiere for Bras for the Cause or organizing a group of Drake University students for a community project, Drake's "first lady" has positively influenced both the university and Greater Des Moines for the past 10 years.

Working together with her husband, Drake President David Maxwell, to serve the university is a full-time job, she said.

"I joke that he does the substance, and I do the hugs," she said. "We were attracted to Des Moines because when we visited, we kept hearing how people were working to help others, which really appealed to us."

At Drake, Maxwell has become involved in the life of the university in numerous ways, such as discussing books in an honors group and helping students develop their senior projects. She has opened up her home to numerous community leaders, international visitors, students and faculty members, politicians and dignitaries, celebrities and athletes.

"As Drake's first lady, Maddy exudes boundless energy and enthusiasm for the university," wrote Diane Caldbeck, Drake's associate vice president for alumni and development. "She is always seeking ways for Drake to better serve the community and for ways that Des Moines and its citizens can become engaged with Drake."

Among the numerous community organizations she has served as a volunteer are Positively Iowa 1-2-3, AViD (Authors Visiting in Des Moines), the Des Moines Public Library Foundation, the American Heart Association Heart Ball and Go Red for Women, The Homestead, the Arthritis Foundation and the Des Moines Playhouse.

A graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, Maxwell has worked as an art director for a major broadcasting company and advertising agencies. She later opened her own design firm, which she operated for several years.

"So as a creative director, I've dealt with a lot of situations," she said. "I've also met with a ton of people in a lot of different disciplines." That experience has enabled her to serve as an effective "connector" between Drake and the larger community.

"Drake is a great place and I love it, and I love Des Moines and I love being able to connect the two, so I've got every obligation to do it," she said. "One of the nice things about coming into a community like Des Moines is you can fit right in, and you can become more empathetic and cooperative."

She and David celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary last year. "I think you have to constantly work at it and remember that respect is key," she said. "If you change your reaction, you change someone else's actions, sometimes. We still fight. Underneath you still have to have an electricity and a love for each other."