Daily Iowan: Engineering Alumnus Hanson, Faculty Member Schnoor Deliver Guest Opinions on Philanthropy

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

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.


By Jerry Schnoor We Are Phil co-head Professor and Allen S. Henry Chair UI College of Engineering

Giving is a surprisingly complex notion. Why we give is the subject of numerous Ph.D. dissertations in psychology and the social sciences. Certainly one reason we give is because it feels good. It is also a way we can show our appreciation for a person or institution that means a lot to us. To deprive us of this opportunity would take away that outlet to feel good. And so, we celebrate philanthropy through Phil’s Day.

Philanthropy at the UI is shown by alumni, faculty, staff, and patrons who fondly remember, and deeply appreciate, what the university has done for them. During their time at the UI, whether past or present, they may have acquired the skills for a successful career or put those skills to work, met their spouse, or appreciated the chance to excel in sport, academic, or creative endeavors. For many, their time at the UI is truly a life-altering experience — people grow and become better here as a result of their scholarly pursuits, as well as extracurricular involvement. When and where else in your life can you devote almost all your time to growth and learning, just thinking and becoming?

You don’t have to be rich to be a philanthropist.  Often the people who have the least income give the most, proportionately, of what they have — and I think this is because those who do not have much are frequently the most compassionate and grateful for what they do have. In the words of the late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, who wrote The Road Less Traveled, “A grateful heart is a gift from God.”

Yet, I can also cite several examples of those who have given millions to the UI, and sometimes it has been virtually their entire life savings. The sum total of all this philanthropy allows the university to support student scholarships, faculty, and infrastructure improvements that might not be possible at a time when state appropriations (as a portion of the general-education fund) are falling.

I am excited to co-chair the “We Are Phil” campaign because it is all about participation. We are trying to raise awareness so that more people who work at the UI will understand how important philanthropy (“Phil”) is at the university — and that they might give back, even a little bit, and feel good about it. There are so many good things for which one can donate money.  This is one of them.  Lives are changed here every day.