For Jon Ness, the exceptional education he received while attending Roland-Story schools in the 1960s and 70s laid the foundation for a vibrant career in the financial services sector.


Ness, a 1977 graduate of Roland-Story High School, is a director in the retirement division of Principal Financial Group, a global financial investment firm based in Des Moines. After high school, he received a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University.


“I am incredibly grateful that I grew up in Story City and attended Roland-Story schools,” Ness says. “I experienced how important and impactful a community can be in shaping our values. The longer I’ve been gone, the more I appreciate the blessings I received from my small-town upbringing.”


While he can point to a variety of positive ways Roland-Story influenced him, Ness remembers a specific conversation during his senior year with his English teacher, Mr. Gustafson.


“He challenged me to get serious about academics and what I wanted to accomplish in my life,” Ness says. “It was clearly the right message at the right time. It resonated with me because I knew he genuinely cared about me and had my best interests in mind.”


For the current students of the Roland-Story Community School District, Ness has some wise advice:


“Be disciplined about learning. Be bold in pursuing your passions. Be intentional about relationships. Be humble about your achievements. Be thankful for your blessings. And be diligent to develop your character.”


Perhaps not by coincidence, Ness’ advice aligns well with one of Roland-Story’s core values: “We believe in being leaders with character.” This successful professional provides yet another example of how our alumni are living out our values, each and every day!


As we celebrate our 50th anniversary this school year, we’re sharing stories, memories and moments that have made Roland-Story such a special place over the past five decades. We encourage our community to share their stories using the hashtag #NorsemenAt50!