Guest Opinion: The ‘What if?’ power of Phil

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld writes of the impact Phil has on the UI.


David Harmantas

UI President Bruce Harreld speaks at the Chief Diversity Office’s 2019 Update on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the IMU on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

As students at the University of Iowa, you are on a path of transformation and change every day. You are learning new ideas, growing from new experiences, and working toward goals that a college education will fulfill for a successful life. Our faculty and staff are also working toward change every day, whether it’s in transforming our students’ lives, changing the world through new discoveries and ideas, or leading the university itself into the future as an institution. You could say that change and transformation define the university itself.

The change we practice every day at the university is powered by many sources, including the talent and intellectual curiosity of our university community as well as the resources we are able to put to work in service of our mission. One of the most potent sources of the power to change comes from Phil — the philanthropy that both supports and helps define our aspirations.

Private gifts have long played an important part in the UI’s funding mix, and they will continue to do so. But the change that philanthropy can bring to our university is not just about the resources. Philanthropy is also about vision and ideas. Philanthropy often asks the “what if?” questions as much as it helps us answer them: What if we were able to not just treat but cure a disease? What if talented students were able to pursue their artistic ambitions through scholarship instead of worrying about working outside jobs? What if the university had a facility that defined how we work at the leading edge of a discipline? The imagination that brings about transformation at our institution comes from many directions within the university community and beyond — from our faculty, staff, students, and leaders; from the people of our state; and from Phil.

As you continue your studies and as you move into your lives beyond the university, I encourage you not only to appreciate how philanthropy has played a significant role in the transformation of your education, but also to imagine how the spirit of giving can help you define the mark on the world that you will make. The power of Phil can change the university and change the world — and it has, many times over. Make Phil part of the transformation that you will create to make life better for everyone.

Bruce Harreld


The University of Iowa

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