The Brenton Center for Agricultural Instruction and Technology Transfer germinated from a seed planted when Dr. Harold Crawford identified a need for facilities for teleconferencing and teaching at a distance. Dean David Topel nurtured the idea, encouraging Dr. Crawford to develop a plan for using Curtiss Hall space vacated by the Department of Genetics. Topel and Crawford found fertile ground for the seed's growth during discussions with members of the Brenton family.
The Brentons' gift, honoring W. Harold and Etta Brenton, graduates of the Iowa State College class of 1920, launched a fund-raising campaign. Many others provided a good growing season, contributing ideas, funds and other gifts. On August 21, 1995, classes began in the Brenton Center and consumers of educational programs in agriculture began harvesting the fruits of a seed planted in 1988.