The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Philanthropy as reality


By Alex Kramer
[email protected]

A crowd of more than 1,000 gathered to hear John Pappajohn inspire the next generation of philanthropists in the IMU on Oct. 9.

“Life is what you give back,” he said.

Pappajohn, 87, the son of Greek immigrants, graduated from the University of Iowa in 1952. During the lecture, he reflected on his time at the University of Iowa.

“When I came to Iowa, I didn’t know anything,” he said. “I matured and grew up here; I learned how to live with people and get along. I got smart here. I was able to work, and go to school, and benefit from it.”

Pappajohn grew up during the Depression, and his father essentially shaped his passion for philanthropy. He owned a store in which “store credit” turned into “charity,” Pappajohn said.

“His father would essentially partake in philanthropy by giving to people who had no money and knowing he wouldn’t get anything in return from these people,” said Anthony Lehnertz, the head of the Student Philanthropy Group at UI.

Lehnertz said Pappajohn’s speech resonated with him.

“Even at 87 years old, he still works and chooses to work not because he wants to accumulate that huge mass of net worth but because he wants to earn money so he can give it away,” Lehnertz said. “This way he can decide where the money goes and who he’s helping,” he said. “He has a passion for the university and loves to give back.”

His message and final donation were a very captivating way to make college students aware of the importance of philanthropy and also to make them feel as though they’re having an effect on it around campus, said Emily O’Brien, a member of the UI Student Philanthropy Group.

“Sometimes it’s too hard for people to understand what philanthropy is, but there’s a building here because of philanthropy and your scholarship being due to philanthropy” she said. “Those were great ways to engage our student population.”

Within the last few years, the brand of PHIL and the culture of philanthropy at the University of Iowa have grown incredibly, Lehnertz said.

“The ‘Life with Phil’ talks have been so much more than could have expected a couple years ago,” he said. “We’ve had Henry Tippie, Jerre Stead, and now John Pappajohn as our last three speakers — three of the most influential people at the University of Iowa.”

Big names make students, faculty, and community members want to listen, driving them to feel more passionately about philanthropy, Lehnertz said. “It was incredible to see such a great turnout for John’s speech, especially knowing he was able to touch that many students.”

Pappajohn didn’t just talk the talk, however. He gave everyone in the audience the chance to be a “philanthropist for the day” by passing out envelopes containing $10 bills — totally $10,000 — and a card stating where in the University of Iowa the money would be donated.

“We all believe in helping people,” Pappajohn said. “Philanthropy is a way of life. And, if you incorporate it in your DNA, it becomes part of your persona.”

It was entirely the audience members’ choice to give the money to a department at UI or to keep the money for themselves.

“You don’t have to give it away. If you want to go to the Airliner and buy beer with it, OK, but your conscience is going to bother you,” he said. “Imagine: philanthropist for the day or a couple of beers.”

Pappajohn also challenged the students to begin giving annually at a rate of $10, stating that he would match that number.

“That’s twice as much as I started giving when I was a student,” he said.

Pappajohn left the audience with a reminder that a successful life includes service to society:

“That’s what philanthropy is all about, and it’s not just one day; It’s every day.”

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