Phil’s Day 2013: Philanthropy enhances student education


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Growing up in a Minneapolis suburb, I spent the first years of my life despising the Hawkeyes. My dad, a University of Iowa graduate, suffered through unimaginable torture from my persistent scorn for the team. However, just before I turned 17, he brought me to Kinnick Stadium for a game, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I really love Kinnick Stadium, but that Hawkeye football game was not what made my first UI visit so memorable. I also spent almost three hours engrossed in a discussion with Professor Jack Scudder of the Physics/Astronomy Department. Scudder has earned no less than 12 separate awards from NASA and has written more than 100 journal articles based on his research in space magneto-plasmas and extraterrestrial physics.

Here I was — a socially awkward high-school junior with hardly a year of physics under my belt — conversing with an internationally renowned professor for the better part of a Saturday afternoon. And when I returned to the UI for a formal campus visit, I also had the privilege of going to lunch with Professor Wayne Polyzou, whose area of research is theoretical nuclear physics.

While it was these one-of-a-kind experiences that drew me to campus, it was generous private support that made it possible for me to attend Iowa. My mother grew up in the war-torn country of Uganda, under the genocidal ways of the dictator Idi Amin. Her family fled the country with only the clothes on their backs when she was 13, and she taught me the value of a dollar from a very young age.

When it came to paying for college, I cannot speak enough to the importance of philanthropy in enhancing my education. I applied to almost a dozen schools throughout the country, and none even came close to providing the kind of merit-based aid that Iowa offered me. I know that these resources only are possible because of the donations of UI alumni and friends, whose generosity makes a difference in my life every day.

Receiving the Presidential Scholarship has enabled me to attend this tremendous university without a penny in student loans. I have had the freedom to join 12 student organizations, to engage in an independent research project, to participate in the Honors Program, and to run for Student Government.

No matter what our backgrounds, each UI student has her or his own Hawkeye journey. It begins with a top-notch education, and it continues long after we earn our degrees. This university is so great today because of our graduates’ spirit of philanthropy and giving back.

Now, I am proud to call myself an “Iowa Hawkeye,” and I am even prouder to cheer for UI philanthropy.

Nicholas “Nick” Rolston
UI student, class of 2014, majoring in physics and math

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