Guest Opinion: Why I Give To the University of Iowa


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My parents met at the University of Iowa, just as my wife, Nancy, and I did — and they were the first people who taught me about the value of private philanthropy to the university. 

When they reached a point in their lives that they could share some of their accumulated treasure with others, they chose Iowa because of the effect the university had made in their lives. They appreciated the high-quality education they received here and came to understand that private giving (from alumni like them, as well as other supporters) would play an increasing role in maintaining and advancing the margin of educational excellence for which the UI is known. 

I watched as their philanthropic understanding and commitment grew throughout the years, and I brought that understanding with me when I came to the UI and earned an engineering degree. Like my parents, Nancy and I began giving back as soon as we were able. Our giving began modestly but increased as we could provide greater support in areas where private philanthropy makes a difference. We have learned firsthand how important private support is in today’s limited public-resource environment. Its impact can be found throughout the university in new and remodeled facilities, faculty chairs and professorships, innovative new programs in the various colleges, student scholarships, and more — many things that enhance the excellence and value of a UI education but might not be available without help from philanthropy.

Our giving has brought us closer to the university in many ways and helped us appreciate the impact private giving has on students during their years at Iowa. We have the pleasure of meeting student peer counselors at the Hanson Center for Technical Communication in the UI College of Engineering, whose mission is to help engineers become excellent communicators — supporting the college’s vision of educating students to be “an engineer … and something more.” I think of it as an investment in the future, with a return measured by what UI graduates and researchers contribute to society, now and in the future. I hope that, like us and like my parents before us, those UI graduates we help support will also become philanthropists in the future.

“Phil’s Day” is happening Thursday on the University of Iowa campus — and it’s a wonderful way to celebrate how philanthropy touches all aspects of the university.  It also reminds us that private support will continue to be essential in providing that margin of excellence we expect at Iowa.

For Iowa. Forever more.

Tom Hanson (1960 B.S.M.E.)
Vice Chairman, Board of Directors
University of Iowa Foundation

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