Guest Opinion: Phil is right here


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I remember seeing the black-and-gold “PHIL WAS HERE” signs for the first time when I was a freshman, walking across the Pentacrest. Back then, I did not know it was Phil’s Day, who Phil was, or where Phil had been. Three years later, as I sit typing this piece in a beautiful university building made possible by private support, and as we anticipate the fourth annual Phil’s Day event all over our campus, I can’t help but look around and think, “Phil is right here.”

Phil is here in the buildings, the scholarships, helping faculty, and so much more. Phil is a fire burning in the hearts of UI students such as  me, who are proud to call themselves Hawkeyes. I have had the outstanding opportunity to be part of the largest student philanthropic organization on campus — the University of Iowa Dance Marathon — and this year I served as the executive director of the organization. This experience has changed my outlook on philanthropy forever.

It is difficult to describe what it is like to be a part of a group of thousands of college students coming together on behalf of a cause that they care deeply about. Students who work tirelessly in order to help better the lives of kids and families fighting pediatric cancer right here in our community. Students who give of their time and talents to raise millions of dollars. Students who, by dancing for 24 hours, provide emotional support that lets these kids and families know that they are not alone. Students who have made a $5 million commitment to support the UI Children’s Hospital to make an impact on their campus, and in the lives of these families, for many years to come.

All of these accomplishments that UI students are proud to claim are possible because of the private support that we ourselves have received — whether through scholarships, beautiful and modern buildings to meet and learn in, or support for the faculty that helps us every step of the way.

I have truly seen philanthropy come full circle in my college experience. To be both the beneficiary as well as the benefactor of philanthropic support is a remarkable thing. Private support at the UI has started a chain reaction. I am honored to continue this chain reaction, and I am confident that I will be able to because of the foundation that I have built as a Hawkeye.

Happy Phil’s Day.

Erin Larsen
Class of 2015, Leisure Studies: Child Life Emphasis
2015 Executive Director, University of Iowa Dance Marathon

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