Education

Iowa, Iowa State unveil private gifts amid tough funding landscape

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette/file photo)
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette/file photo)

Iowa’s public universities have leaned more heavily on private donors in the wake of state funding cuts, a tighter federal grant landscape and shifting student demographics, and the University of Iowa and Iowa State University this week unveiled progress in pulling in more private support.

The UI Center for Advancement — the institution’s independent fundraising arm — on Tuesday announced the Richard O. Jacobson Foundation has given $4.5 million, in part, to create two endowed chairs in the UI Stead Family Department of Pediatrics, inside its new Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

A portion of that gift — half a million dollars — will go toward expanding specialty pediatric services the UI offers in the Des Moines area in collaboration with Blank Children’s Hospital, according to Dana Larson, communications and marketing executive director for the Center for Advancement.

The gift is aimed at addressing a shortage of pediatric specialists in Iowa, along with advancing “our goal of creating a statewide system of care that provides comprehensive health care for all children,” Raphael Hirsch, UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital physician-in-chief, said in a statement.

“This gift will help us attract and retain national leaders who will grow our pediatric programs,” said Hirsch, who also serves as chair of the UI Stead Family Department of Pediatrics.

Iowa has about half the pediatric specialists that are needed in the state, according to UIHC spokesperson Tom Moore. Three-quarters of the pediatric sub-specialists in Iowa are based at the UI Steady Family Children’s Hospital.

Most of the Jacobson Foundation gift — $4 million — will go toward creating an endowment to support two Richard O. Jacobson Foundation chairs in pediatrics.

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Additionally, the UI has been working with Blank Children’s Hospital to provide pediatric kidney care since September. UI pediatric nephrologist Aura Arenas Morales has been seeing kids at Blank, and Moore said the Jacobson gift will expand the UI-Blank collaboration, supporting training and recruitment of pediatric specialists to the state.

Through the gift, according to Blank Children’s Hospital President and Chief Steve Stephenson, Iowa is building the infrastructure to support an increase in pediatric experts “so that families of children with complex medical conditions do not need to travel out of state to receive care.”

Iowa State gifts

In support of “innovative research and learning opportunities” at Iowa’s Ames-based university, the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust has committed $1.1 million to be split among three separate endeavors.

The biggest chunk — $745,545 — already is at work in the construction of a new zebrafish research facility in the Advanced Teaching and Research Building on the ISU campus, according to the Iowa State University Foundation.

Jeff Essner and Maura McGrail — genetics, development and cell biology professors — have received Carver Trust support previously in their pursuit of gene-editing research through the zebrafish model, and the newly announced gift will replace the aging zebrafish space.

“Dr. McGrail and I have developed cutting-edge gene-editing methods to identify therapeutic genes in zebrafish and applied this knowledge to large animal models, with improving human health the ultimate goal,” Essner said in a statement. “This is the optimal time for the Carver Trust to make an investment to further develop Iowa State’s zebrafish research facility.”

The Carver Trust also is giving $161,290 for a wavelength-dispersive spectrometer in the Office of Biotechnology and $200,000 toward the transformation of Parks Library’s first floor “into a hub for student services,” according to the ISU Foundation.

The university, as part of its state funding request for the upcoming budget year that starts July 1, asked for $10 million to modernize Parks Library with a learning hub. It forecast another $16 million request for the subsequent budget year, but Gov. Kim Reynolds did not include any funding for that project in either year, according to her recent proposed budget.

Iowa State, under the original plan, was to contribute $2 million in university or private funds.

Beth McNeil, dean of ISU Library Services, said the Carver grant will “ensure the library remains relevant to students in a digital era” and brings it closer to Iowa State’s “ultimate vision for a 21st century library.”

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Last month, the ISU Foundation announced HNI Corporation of Muscatine was committing $1 million toward construction of the campus’ rising Student Innovation Center. Construction of that 140,000-square-foot project — which began in March 2017 with state and private funding in hand — did receive the governor’s support to keep up with $10 million contributions in each of the next two years.

The project is expect to wrap in January 2020.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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