UI interim president took $10,747 flight to secure Children's Hospital donation
Trip came one week before new president's hire
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A week before Bruce Harreld was named University of Iowa president, interim UI President Jean Robillard took a $10,747 chartered plane to Colorado to meet with longtime donor Jerre Stead about a $5 million donation and the possibility of naming the new UI Children’s Hospital in his honor.
Both Robillard and Stead had served on the 21-member presidential search committee that netted Harreld as a finalist, and both had personally interacted with Harreld during the search process — either over the phone or in face-to-face meetings.
But officials said Robillard’s Aug. 25 chartered flight to Denver was solely related to securing an additional $5 million gift from Stead, a UI alumnus and longtime donor, and to discuss the hospital’s desire to name the new $360 million Children’s Hospital after the Stead family.
“Jerre Stead’s schedule is pretty impossible,” UI Foundation spokeswoman Dana Larson said about the need to charter a flight. “He had a window come up.”
Robillard went with one UI Foundation staff member on a plane out of Jet Air, Inc., in Galesburg, Ill. It was a half-day trip that cost $10,747.83, according to records obtained by The Gazette through a public records request.
The trip was paid for with UI Health Care operating funds, which are not taxpayer dollars, Larson said.
“Every year, they separate some of their operating funds out specifically for fundraising,” she said. “Those funds were used for that.”
Stead and his wife Mary Joy Stead, in the end, committed the additional $5 million to the hospital — bringing their cumulative giving to the university over the past 30-plus years to $53.9 million.
The Board of Regents at its meeting last week unanimously agreed to name the new 14-floor hospital the Stead Family University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.
“They have been great, great supporters for the Children’s programs over the years,” Robillard told The Gazette at the time. “We thought that they were representing what the people of Iowa are in many respects.”
To UI children’s medicine specifically, the Steads have given $25 million, and the UIHC in 2013 honored them in the naming of its pededriatrics department the Stead Family Department of Pediatrics.
Stead, a Colorado businessman, was selected earlier this year to represent the UI Foundation on the search committee convened to identify finalists for a new UI president. Although Stead said he didn’t suggest Harreld as a candidate, he recognized his name when it appeared on a list of prospects.
Stead told The Gazette he first encountered Harreld earlier in his career, in 1993, while he was working for National Cash Register and Harreld was with Boston Market Inc. Although Harreld told The Gazette he didn’t initially want the job, he agreed to visit Iowa and meet with Robillard and Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter in early June after Stead reached out to him and asked that he consider the opportunity.
Harreld was introduced as one of four finalists for the UI presidency Sept. 1, and — despite dismal support among faculty, staff, and students for his candidacy — the Board of Regents named him president Sept. 3.
Despite the timing of Robillard’s trip to Denver to see Stead in August, Larson said it was unrelated to the presidential search.
“Dr. Robillard has had a tremendously long relationship with the Steads — more than 30 years,” Larson said. “He was acting as a vice president for the medical center when he went there to ask for that donation.”
The $10,747 trip was part of the combined $50,000 spent on travel since Jan. 1 for Robillard, former UI President Sally Mason, and Harreld — all of whom acted as head of the institution in some capacity during that time.
Travel expenses for Robillard, who continued serving as vice president for medical affairs of UI Health Care during his time as interim president and head of the search committee, have tallied $25,140.93 to date in 2015, according to records provided to The Gazette.
That total included outreach trips in early March to Phoenix, Ariz., costing $2,677.18, and in late June to Denver, Colo., costing $1,196.98.
Larson said Robillard during the Arizona trip attended two separate outreach events in the area and met with individual donors. During his Denver trip, he visited two separate donors — although Larson didn’t disclose the names of those donors because she said the UI Foundation doesn’t share information related to potential gifts.
Travel expenses for Mason to date in 2015 have totaled $17,513.18 — including $1,517.59 spent after her tenure of president ended July 31.
The university spent $748.35 in non-general-education-fund dollars to bring Mason back to Iowa City in October for a meeting with the Wynn Institute for Vision Research board — on which she still serves. And it spent $769.24 in non-taxpayer dollars later that month to send her to New York for a donor outreach event.
Non-taxpayer dollars can include, but are not limited to, gift funds, return-on-investment dollars, and patient care revenue, UI officials said.
Mason also attended the Arizona outreach events — like Robillard — in March at a cost of $1,619.56.
Travel expenses for Harreld to date in 2015 have totaled $7,278.44 — including $5,709.04 spent before he officially took office Nov. 2. Almost all of that money was spent bringing Harreld to campus for pre-presidential or presidential activity, and almost all of it was non-taxpayer dollars.
The earliest UI-funded trip was Harreld’s visit to campus as a finalist in late August. He paid for all previous travel to Iowa during the search process, officials said.