Phil's Day reaches third year

BY LILY ABROMEIT | MAY 01, 2014 5:00 AM

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Jane Engeldinger came to Iowa City 40 years ago to attend medical school at the University of Iowa — and she never left.

“This is my home, this is my community,” she said. “Many people come and go, that’s just the nature of universities, but we’re the long term.”

Over that time, Engeldinger and husband Michael O’Hara have made a strong impact on the university and community through their philanthropic efforts.

“It’s fair to say over that time … we’ve always had a philanthropic interest in the university,” O’Hara said. “It’s that sense that it’s our responsibility to support those things we value, so we try hard to focus on that and keep them front and center.”

Engeldinger and O’Hara represent a large group of philanthropists highlighted by Phil’s Day at the UI.

Phil’s Day, in its third year, is a day set aside to celebrate, recognize, and thank those who give to create a unique UI experience.

“We wanted [something] that would engage our students, something visual that they could see when they came to campus,” said Kristin Beckman, the assistant director for student philanthropy. “Our hope is that we increase the number of students, faculty, and staff that are aware of philanthropy on campus.”

This year, the efforts are being headlined by O’Hara, a UI professor of psychology, and Engeldinger, a UI emeritus professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology.

“We have a lot of donors who live in Iowa City who maybe aren’t a part of the university,” Beckman said. “In this case, we have both faculty members … so they’ve made a longtime commitment both in their careers and with their philanthropy.”

Over the years, the two have given to various areas of the community and the university, but what they think will be most memorable are their contributions to Hancher Auditorium and the Psychology Department.

Engeldinger grew up around philanthropic and nonprofit efforts, finding her basis in United Way. This early dedication found its way into her marriage and later life as well.

“Together, we sort of complement each other,” O’Hara said. “We’re members of the community, and the university, to some degree, is a lot of the community. For me, it’s trying to participate in all aspects of the university.”

O’Hara said the idea is simple — if you value something, you should support it.

This is a notion they think applies to everyone.

“If you’re of small means, and you give a small gift, that, in a sense, will represent a greater sacrifice,” he said.

After years of giving, Engeldinger said, she hopes this will be her legacy.

“I would like to leave a legacy when I die, but I realized that leaving money to children or heirs was not going to leave a legacy of what we valued in life,” she said. “The principle, to me, is advancing the ability of people to gain education … advancing access to education and resources, as well as enriching life through the arts.”

Phil’s Day, Engeldinger said, is simply only one reminder of the efforts.

“To me, every day is Phil’s Day,” she said. “Our commitment to the university and philanthropy is just an ongoing thing.”

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