Guest Opinion: PHIL is an "Angel Investor"


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The term “angel investor” is associated with an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up. Bluntly speaking, such individuals are focused principally on one thing: generating more wealth. However, throughout much of my life, I have come to use the term in a much more personal and philanthropic way. To me, “angel investors” are the countless individuals who, through the gifts of time, talent, and treasure, strive to advance the lives of others. Each seems to possess deep-seated values that are centered on the adage “It is better to give than to receive.” Because of my personal faith, my mind tends to emphasize the “angel” part of the term — but frankly, without the “investor” element, the fundamental essence of those good intentions could not possibly be realized.

I am the eldest of eight children, the son of a fifth-generation cabinetmaker/carpenter, and first-generation college graduate. Growing up, our home was rich with a treasure trove of love, but we were of very modest financial means. From strictly an economic viewpoint, who in their wildest dreams could have ever imagined that from such humble beginnings I would one day graduate from college, obtain a professional graduate degree, complete postgraduate residency training, and eventually have the distinct privilege of serving as dean of one the finest colleges of pharmacy in the world? 

Certainly not I; yet here I am. 

The truth is, my journey was made possible in large measure by some very caring, considerate, anonymous angel investor-philanthropists who helped fund my education. Without their support, I could not have possibly afforded the wonderful education I received. And for that I will forever be grateful.

As dean of the UI College of Pharmacy, I experience daily the joy of interacting with students. They serve as a constant reminder of the hopes and dreams of the future. Yet, given the ever-increasing cost of education, the financial burdens students face are a constant source of concern.

Counterbalancing this concern are the countless individuals, not unlike those angel investors who aided me, who are investing in our students through their support of scholarships, educational facilities, technology, and the faculty who serve as the backbone of our educational enterprise.

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet asks, “What’s in a name?” I think of these philanthropists as angels, but the University of Iowa calls them “Phil” for short. Whatever you choose to call them, they are helping in numerous ways to keep students’ hopes and dreams alive through their generous philanthropy. They made a tremendous difference in my life, and I hope the wonderful “angel investors” who helped make my own education possible feel that their return on investment was worthwhile.

Donald Letendre
UI College of Pharmacy

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