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Voices of Phil: Dr. Matthew A. Howard

BY GUEST COLUMN | OCTOBER 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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Last year, I volunteered to serve as a co-head for the first three years of We Are Phil, the University of Iowa’s new giving program for faculty and staff. After a very successful launch last fall, we are now looking forward to next week, when we will celebrate the second year of our annual campaign. Not only has it been fun, it has also been very meaningful to me.

The message I took away from the experience was simple: When it comes to giving to the University of Iowa, it is the good and right thing to do. Moreover, what we are really doing is investing in ourselves. Every day we come together to educate people, care for each other, and strive to make discoveries in the arts and sciences. What a great way to spend a day. It’s a wonderful feeling to be part of a special group that has been doing this good work before any of us were born and will continue long after we’ve had our brief turn on the stage.

The pride we feel in the University of Iowa’s accomplishments reminds me of riding around Boston in my grandfather’s car when I was a little kid. He was a plumber, and as he drove, he would point out the window to buildings around town that he and his friends had helped build. He was proud of what he had accomplished, and I was impressed. Many of them are still standing, and I’m still impressed by his achievements and inspired to help build a lasting legacy of excellence in my generation.

I received need-based scholarships to attend college and medical school. I remember when a group of us scholarship students met with the representative of the scholarship fund that paid our tuition, and he told us about the former student who, generations earlier, had donated to help future students he would never meet. What a way to have a lasting positive impact on the world.

That experience had a tremendous effect on me. Once I finished surgical training and had some time to think about how fortunate we are, and how much my family and I owe the University of Iowa and to that generous person, my wife and I started the donation habit. It feels good to pay forward the support we were given — and to make a difference for the next generation.

If you haven’t already begun your own habit of supporting the UI, you definitely should give it a try. It’s fun, and it really helps. The University of Iowa is us. Invest in yourself.

Dr. Matthew Howard
Professor and John C. Van Gilder Chair;
Chairman, Neurosurgery
21 years employed at the University of Iowa


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