The 'Bridges' come home

Robert James Waller has authored seven novels, including the bestseller "The Bridges of Madison County." Published in 1992, the novel has sold 50 million copies worldwide and has been published in 40 different languages. The UNI Foundation is fortunate to receive the donated original manuscript of the novel by Waller himself. The manuscript is housed in the Rod Library's special collections and university archives.

Robert Waller

The UNI Foundation received the donated original manuscript of "The Bridges of Madison County" by Robert James Waller.

Waller's book presents a love story between a lonely married woman living in Madison County, Iowa, and a photographer assigned to create a photographic essay on the bridges in the area. The true love of the characters Waller created inspired many fans in the 1990s and today, as well as the movie and music industries.

In 1995, "The Bridges of Madison County" was made into a feature film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. Scenes were shot in Winterset and at Roseman and Holliwell covered bridges. In August 2013, a musical adaptation of "Bridges" won a Tony Award.

"Interest in professor Waller's first novel and his later works has remained at a high level over the years," said Gerald Peterson, Rod Library's special collections librarian and university archivist. "The special collections and university archives will be a destination for Waller scholars around the world."

Tour buses full of inspired fans came to Madison County because of the hype "Bridges" brought to popular culture during the time. Oprah Winfrey broadcasted one of her shows in 1993 from Cedar Bridge and even called "The Bridges of Madison County" her favorite book of the year.

"As the inaugural dean of the college of business, former professor of management and an alumnus, professor Waller has affection and respect for the University of Northern Iowa," said Noreen Hermansen, vice president of the UNI Foundation. "He has chosen his alma mater to be the recipient of his papers, books and musical recordings. Dr. Waller embraces the liberal arts education and is pleased that his writings will be available for UNI students to study and learn from as they work toward their own chosen careers and dreams."

Currently living in Texas, Waller received both his B.A. in 1962 and M.A. in 1964 from UNI.