Pappajohns to receive honorary degrees at Commencement

Drake University will celebrate the awarding of 1,485 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees at its 2011 commencement ceremonies to be held Friday, May 13, and Saturday, May 14, in the Drake Knapp Center, 2525 Forest Ave.

A highlight of the undergraduate ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday will be the presentation of honorary degrees to Des Moines philanthropists John and Mary Pappajohn. They were nominated for this honor in recognition of their extraordinary support of educational opportunities, entrepreneurial development and art appreciation initiatives.

John and Mary Papajohn

John and Mary Pappajohn

John, one of the most recognized business leaders in the Midwest and beyond, will receive an honorary Doctor of Business Administration. His wife, Mary, a community leader and ardent supporter of the arts, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

“The awarding of an honorary doctorate is the highest honor that a university can bestow, and Drake is proud indeed to grant the Pappajohns this acclaim for their extraordinary contributions to Drake University, to our community, the state and the nation,” said Drake President David Maxwell.

John Pappajohn has organized and financed the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers at five universities and colleges in Iowa (including Drake). These centers have helped create and launch more than 1,000 new companies.

Pappajohn’s family emigrated from Greece when he was an infant and settled in Mason City, Iowa. He worked his way through the University of Iowa, graduating in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in business. After graduation he launched his own insurance agency and subsequently founded Guardsman Insurance Investors, a public insurance holding company.

In 1969, he organized Equity Dynamics Inc., a financial consulting entity, and Pappajohn Capital Resources, a venture capital firm, in Des Moines. As one of the early venture capitalists, he has served as a director in more than 40 public companies.

A native of Minneapolis, Mary Pappajohn graduated from the University of Minnesota, where she earned a degree in related arts, a field similar to interior design. Drawn together by a shared love of art, John and Mary Pappajohn married in 1961. She has served in board positions and assisted acquisitions for both the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Des Moines Art Center. She also is a former president of the Goodwill Industries Auxiliary.

Her passion for the arts has not only resulted in countless charitable involvements, board positions and awards, but has made a tremendous impact in the community. In September 2009, the 4.4-acre Pappajohn Sculpture Park opened in Des Moines’ Western Gateway Park, made up entirely of pieces from the couple’s personal collection. It is considered to be one of the most accessible major sculpture collections in the country.

In 2009, the Pappajohns were named in the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Philanthropy 50, an “annual list of the most-generous people in America.”

Commencement ceremonies and activities to honor graduates

Drake’s Telemedia Center will provide live and archived streaming video coverage of all four ceremonies. Friends and family members of graduates will be able to watch all four ceremonies at http://www.drake.edu/stream/. Live coverage will begin approximately 30 minutes prior to the start of each ceremony. The schedule of events is as follows:

  • Friday, May 13 — Hooding Ceremony for Pharmacy Graduates, 4 p.m., 102 degree recipients. Jennifer Tran, teacher of the year in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences teacher of the year, will be give the keynote address.
  • Friday, May 13 — Drake Law School Commencement, 7 p.m., 155 degree recipients. Law School graduate Romonda Belcher, who was a respected prosecutor in the Polk County Attorney’s Office for 15 years before she became Iowa’s first female African-American judge last September, will deliver the commencement address.
  • Saturday, May 14 — The 130th Commencement Ceremony for Undergraduate Degree Recipients, 10 a.m., 819 degree recipients. Speakers will be Drake President David Maxwell; Samantha Haas, winner of the 2011 Oreon E. Scott Outstanding Senior Award; and honorary degree recipients John and Mary Pappajohn.
  • Saturday, May 14 — The 130th Commencement Ceremony for Graduate and Doctoral Degree Recipients, 2 p.m., 511 degree recipients. Drake Board of Trustees Chair Don Fletcher, retired president of Hallmark – North American and International Hallmark Cards Inc., will present the commencement address.

President Maxwell and his wife, Madeleine, will host the President’s Reception for all graduates and their families from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, May 13, in Parents Hall at Olmsted Center, 2875 University Ave. There is no charge, and the attire is casual.

A commencement lunch for graduates and their families will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 14, in Quad Creek Cafe, Hubbell Dining Hall, 1315 30th St. Tickets are $6.25 in advance or $7.25 at the door.

Additional information about commencement activities can be found online or by calling 515-271-3093 or 515-271-3901.

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