Former Iowa Lt. Gov. Joy Corning died Saturday at age 84. Corning succumbed to a kidney disease while in hospice care at her daughter’s residence in Urbandale.

Corning, a Republican, served from 1991-1999.

“I was saddened to hear today of Joy Corning’s passing,” Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said in a news release. 

In 1985, Corning won a seat in the Iowa Senate and served until she was asked by Gov. Terry Branstad to join the Republican ticket as candidate for lieutenant governor in 1991. She served that term and another term after being re-elected in 1995. She served as chair of the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors from 1996-1997.

“Joy was a very dedicated mother and grandmother and an excellent role model," he said. "Joy was a strong advocate for quality education and served as president of the Cedar Falls (Iowa) school board, before defeating an incumbent to serve in the Iowa State Senate.”

Branstad said he was impressed by Corning’s commitment to education, and is proud to have selected her to be the first person to run for lieutenant governor after the Constitution was amended to have the governor and lieutenant governor elected as a team.

“She was an outstanding, unflappable leader who treated everyone with the respect and dignity they deserved,” Branstad said. “Joy’s three daughters and their families are in our family’s thoughts and prayers.”

Reynolds called Corning “a tremendous mentor and role model for me personally, as well as so many other women. I treasured the times we got together, and the guidance and encouragement she gave me.”

Reynolds said she and Corning came from similar backgrounds – both served in local and state government before serving as lieutenant governor. “We also were both proud mothers to three daughters,” Reynolds said. “Family was always very important to Joy and I appreciated the example she set in having a professional career, while always putting her family first.”

"Joy Corning was a woman of great integrity and a strong advocate for education," said Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, in a press release. "Iowa mourns her loss. Joy and her family are in our thoughts and prayers."

Additionally, 50-50 in 2020 is mourning its board member and friend.

Until a few months ago, Corning had maintained a schedule of volunteer activities that typified her life’s devotion to humanitarian causes, 50-50 in 2020 representatives said in a release.

Corning was one of the founding members of 50-50 in 2020, a bipartisan initiative created in 2010 to get more women elected into the Iowa Legislature, Iowa’s congressional delegation and the governor’s office. Women currently hold fewer than 23 percent of the Legislature’s seats.

“It was my great pleasure to work with Joy most recently as a member of the board of directors for 50-50 in 2020,” said 50-50 in 2020 co-founder Maggie Tinsman, a former state senator from Bettendorf, ”but she became a dear friend many years ago, even before we two served in the Iowa Senate together. She was the kind of person we all aspire to be: bright, wise, happy and totally involved in her community.”

“Iowa has lost a champion for the common good, and we have lost a shining inspiration who demonstrated every day the best in Iowa values and good conscience,” said Jean Lloyd-Jones, 50-50 in 2020’s co-founder who also served in the Iowa Legislature with Corning and Tinsman. “Joy was proud to have served as lieutenant governor during Gov. Terry Branstad’s first terms, but she was always someone who showed regard for all Iowans, Democrats like me as well as her fellow Republicans. Her openness was a precious and treasured gift, just as Joy was herself.”

In addition to her support for gender equity, Corning was a major fundraiser for numerous causes, and served on the boards for such groups as the Des Moines Symphony, Iowa Women in Public Policy, Money and Politics, and Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa. She was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 2004.


Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Broadcast Film Critics Association member. College instructor for criminal justice, English and math. Serves on Safer Foundation and The Salvation Army advisory boards. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church