Phil's Day 2013: Celebrating 'life-changing' philanthropy

BY GUEST COLUMN | APRIL 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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Last year I was incredibly honored to serve as the keynote speaker for the inaugural University of Iowa Phil’s Day, which celebrates life-changing philanthropy on campus. It is always humbling to be asked to do such things, and I often wonder, “What does a lower-middle-class kid from Iowa City have to share that would be valuable to the excellent students and profound faculty of the University of Iowa?”

However, I can tell you that, from my perspective, speaking at last year’s Phil’s Day event was a “mountaintop” experience; I not only had the chance to share my own thoughts, but I also had the opportunity to connect with some of Iowa’s best and brightest.

That Phil’s Day speaking request made me recall the day, some 18 years ago, when I was asked to join the board of the University of Iowa Foundation. Again, I remember wondering what I would have to offer such an important organization. The people with whom I would serve were Horatio Alger Award winners and CEOs of large and famous companies — and their names were on buildings all over campus and on many endowed and prestigious professorships and chairs.

My other passion relates to recognizing and thanking those who helped me get my start in life. I have been blessed to be in a position to give back to the UI College of Engineering, of which I am a graduate. Words are not adequate to express how my wife, Cammy, and I felt when we were able to add our resources to those of many others in naming the Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences.

That call to action — to change the world — is the reason I am so excited about my current role as one of four co-heads of an exciting and ambitious $1.7 billion fundraising initiative, For Iowa, Forever More: The Campaign for the University of Iowa. This campaign will mean the difference between the UI being a great institution and being the best, and I look forward to seeing just how far we can go … For Iowa. Forever More.

As I think about my own experiences related to philanthropy, I have decided that what our parents always told us is true: It is better to give than receive. There are so many talented faculty and students who have skills and capabilities that dwarf my own. Though I can’t do what they do, I can help them succeed by supporting their endeavors and encouraging others to do the same. Together, we really can change the world — and, trust me, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Gary F. Seamans (1972 B.S.E.E.)
Chairman and CEO of IDx and longtime UI philanthropist

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