Philanthropy supporters: Weak economy will encourage donations to higher ed

BY DORA GROTE | APRIL 25, 2012 6:30 AM

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Yellow ribbons, bows, and flags speckled the University of Iowa campus on Tuesday. These decorations marked UI buildings with one thing in common — they were all made possible by philanthropic donations.


As state appropriations decrease, philanthropic advocates said, donors will step in to fill the gaps.

"As tuition is on the rise, it also leads to an increase in donations," said Gary Seamans, who has donated $4.5 million to the UI in collaboration with his wife, Camille. "Donors become very aware of the barrier families and students have to cross, and we want to expand the availability of [scholarships] to more students as it gets more and more expensive. There is still nothing better than getting a degree."

The UI's first Phil's Day was celebrated Tuesday in an effort to highlight philanthropic donations and activities on campus.

Alumni and friends donated $213.9 million to the UI and the UI Foundation in 2011, part of a total $2.2 billion the organization raised since its founding in 1956.

Total donators reached 74,591 in 2011, allowing for 70 new scholarships, among other items.

But Seamans — after whom the Seamans Center is named — said philanthropy has very little to do with money.

"It has to do with people's resources — their time, intellectual ability, and physical ability," Seamans told The Daily Iowan. "People share their energy and athleticism and create millions of dollars out of that."

Other campus buildings named after donors include the Pomerantz Center and Pappajohn Business Building.

Kaitlyn Kemna, the president of the UI Foundation Student Philanthropy Group , said Phil's Day brings more attention to opportunities students may want in the future.

"I'm a student accumulating student debt, but with Phil's Day, we can make students aware and maybe spark their interest for later on when they do have a well-paying job — their debts are paid off — and can give back to the University of Iowa," she said while distributing Phil's Day postcards Tuesday afternoon.

UI senior Samantha Terrill, a member of the Student Philanthropy Group, said raising student awareness of private donations on campus is important.

"A lot of the undergraduates might not understand how large of an impact [philanthropy] has on the UI — especially the UIHC and UI Health Care," said Terrill, who is pursuing a certificate in fundraising and philanthropy communication. "There is so much research supported by private gifts. It makes the state better and whole country better."

The certificate is available through the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

"It's a way for students, who know that they might not pursue a professional career in their field, to continue being in an activity they really love," said Ann Haugland, the coordinator of the certificate program. "It's a way of exploring options and finding ways to support their mission."

Seamans said he is always excited to come back to campus and see how students are benefiting from donations.

"I get more out of it than all [of the students]," Seamans said. "The energy and enthusiasm is infectious. It's just fun to do."

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