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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

BABKA, Edward and Shirley

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Edward and Shirley Babka. Photo courtesy: TH Media

In 1957 inspired by a newspaper for gun collectors, Edward Babka (Belvidere, NE, Jan. 8, 1928--Dubuque, IA, June 20, 2016) began publishing a similar publication for antiques, ANTIQUE TRADER (THE). He was then an electrical engineer for the Illinois Power Company. Writing to chambers of commerce to obtain the names of antique dealers nationwide, he established a 3,500-name mailing list of potential subscribers. Sending out 2,000 copies of the four page tabloid, he received two hundred paid subscriptions. This paid the expenses of the initial 2,000 copies. (1)

Babka resigned from the power company after six months of half-time employment to continue publishing. The business soon outgrew his basement and the Kewanee, Illinois newspaper which served as his printer. He moved the company to Dubuque in 1969 and employed the press facilities of the TELEGRAPH HERALD. Babka married Shirley Stover (Des Moines, IA-- ) a graduate of DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL. Stover and her husband were victims of the Hyatt Regency hotel walkway collapse in Kansas City in 1981. The deadliest structural collapse in United States history until the tragic events on September 11, 2001, the collapse killed 113 including David E. Stover, her husband, and injured Shirley and many others. (2)

The Antique Trader became the nation's largest weekly newspaper catering to collectors and buyers of collectibles and antiques. The newspaper in 1969 added editorial material about antique trading and began weekly publication. By the late 1980s, The Antique Trader produced at the Babka Publishing Company had between ninety and one hundred pages and a circulation of more than sixty thousand. (3)

Babka was the recipient of the 1982 United States Small Business Person of the Year Award for the Cedar Rapids District. In 1993 the Greater Tri-State Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals honored the Babkas as outstanding philanthropists. Edward served on the board of directors of the MERCANTILE BANK OF DUBUQUE, DUBUQUE BOYS' CLUB, FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF DUBUQUE, American Heart Association, and the DUBUQUE MUSEUM OF ART. He served over forty years on the MOUNT PLEASANT HOME Board of Trustees and board of the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE. He was a member of the Carnegie-Stout Public Library Foundation. (4)

Edward was awarded the Small Business Person of the Year for Northeastern Iowa Award in 1982. In 1993 he and Shirley were honored as Outstanding Philanthropists for the Dubuque and Clinton areas. In 2006 Edward was installed in the JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT BUSINESS HALL OF FAME. (5)

The Babkas civic contributions include those to the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE where a housing unit, theater/drama classroom space, and bookstore carry their name. The campus of UNITYPOINT HEALTH-FINLEY HOSPITAL includes the Babka Outpatient Surgical Center and Babka Wellness Center. In 2015 the couple donated one million dollars toward the hospital's Grandview Expansion Project. Among many local organizations which benefited from their generosity were the DUBUQUE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY, HILLCREST FAMILY SERVICES, Dubuque Museum of Art and the Linwood Cemetery Association. (6)

On February 17, 2017 the University of Dubuque received one of the largest gifts in the school’s history when school officials announced a $60 million estate gift from the Babkas. The money was to be used to provide scholarships for students in need. The Babka Scholarship Fund came to support scholarships annually worth more than $15 million. The gift boosted the school’s overall endowment to more than $150 million, the third largest of any private school in Iowa. (7)

In 2019 a dream of University of Dubuque officials for years came true. The Ed Babka Aviation Learning Center, located near the Dubuque Regional Airport, was dedicated. The 12,700-square-foot center included multiple rooms with flight simulators, space for flight instructor offices, briefing rooms where students could meet privately with instructors, classrooms, conference room, and dispatch desk. An estimated $5 million was spent on the facility with a large portion coming from Edward and his wife, Shirley. (8)

Edward and Shirley Babka were named charter members of The Finley Health Foundation Hall of Fame in 2000 and were the 2015 recipients of the Telegraph Herald FIRST CITIZEN AWARD.



1. Hogstrom, Eric. "Dedicated to Dubuque," Telegraph Herald, January 1, 2016, p. 1

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. "Babka Estate Donates $60 Million to UD," Online: http://kdth.radiodubuque.com/news/dubuque-tri-state-news/ February 17, 2017

8. Hinga, Allie, "UD's 'Amazing' Aviation Center Takes Flight, Telegraph Herald'Italic text, October 18, 2019, p. 1A

Obituaries. Telegraph Herald, June 26, 2016, p. 23A