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Voices of philanthropy: Phil’s Day 2014

BY GUEST OPINION | APRIL 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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As a native New Yorker, I am frequently asked why I went to the University of Iowa. My answer is simple: One of my older sisters, Adrienne, went to Iowa for her bachelor’s degree. I gravitated toward the Big Ten setting and happily chose to attend Iowa as well.

I have fond memories of a great four years at the UI — attending business classes at Phillips Hall (long before we had the Henry B. Tippie School of Business and the Pappajohn Business Building), being part of the Chi Omega sorority, wearing those big orange mums to the football games — and all despite the cold winters and tornado warnings. Iowa gave me a new perspective beyond the Hudson River, and being so far from home, a newfound sense of independence. Because of the distance, I spent most Thanksgivings at the homes of sorority sisters, experiencing Midwestern hospitality firsthand.

While it was a great experience, nearly 30 years passed before I returned to my Hawkeye friends.

My reconnection to Iowa occurred when I was invited to speak at the Tippie College of Business. Tom Deprenger, vice president of principal gifts for the UI Foundation, was there, and we quickly developed a rapport. I told him about my sister Adrienne, who, after graduating from the UI in 1961, went on to earn her master’s degree in public health. She was a pioneer in health-care reform and was a woman of great accomplishments. Adrienne died in 1986, and Tom helped me find a way to remember and honor her.

I created the Adrienne Astolfi Eddins Memorial Scholarship in 1999 to be awarded to women in the master’s degree program in the College of Public Health. Amy Hughes, the first recipient in 1999, now has five young sons, yet continues to work as a consultant public health. She was followed in 2000 by Tina Freese-Decker, who in addition to raising two children, has worked hard to become senior vice president and chief strategy officer of Spectrum Health System in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

To date, 15 women have received the scholarship, and their accomplishments are outstanding; they are Adrienne’s Legacy. My sister lives on in what each of these women are doing to help Iowa, the nation and the world solve our growing healthcare needs. They are giving me more than I ever could have imagined. They epitomize the phrase, “to give is to receive.”

I landed in Iowa at the age of 18, and now each time I fly into the Cedar Rapids airport, I reflect on where I was then and where I am today. I am truly blessed for what Iowa gave to me then and what it has given to me over these past 15 years. My advice to these young women has always been to “reach for the stars, but always take your sisters with you.” They are the future, and I am proud to be part of their lives.

The UI influences all of us in different ways. Today, as a proud alumna, I am inspired by the many friends I have made through my involvement with the UI Foundation Board of Directors, and by the phenomenal leader we have in University of Iowa President Sally Mason.  It is a privilege to serve. I thank the university leaders for providing me with an education to successfully be able to give back and because of them, my life is richer and fuller. For Iowa. Forever More!

Janice Ellig (1968 B.B.A.) was the featured “Life With Phil” speaker for Phil’s Day in 2013. Co-CEO of Chadick Ellig, an executive search firm in New York, she is a trustee of the Actors Fund, serves on the national board for the YMCA, and is head of the Corporate Board Initiative for the Women’s Forum of New York.


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