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Alumni couple gives $1 million to boost undergraduate research at the UI

September 28, 2014

Gift contributes to For Iowa. Forever More: The Campaign for the University of Iowa

A new pilot program in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will enhance research opportunities for selected undergraduate students in science.

A $1 million gift to the University of Iowa Foundation from Robert J. and Sue B. Latham, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will empower selected undergraduate students to use scientific research to engage in global issues with a group of peers. The Lathams’ gift helps move the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences closer to its $140 million fundraising goal as part of For Iowa. Forever More: The Campaign for the University of Iowa, the UI’s $1.7 billion comprehensive campaign.

The UI alumni couple’s gift was inspired by a desire to attract and retain more undergraduates in the sciences and to help increase placement rates of those students in world-class graduate programs in their disciplines.

“From my undergraduate days in the sciences at Iowa to teaching at Penn State, and by following the careers of our children and numerous others, I have observed undergraduates with strong science backgrounds choosing not to graduate, or pursue graduate training, in the sciences,” says Robert Latham. “This is a great waste when we know great, important opportunities exist for world-class scientists.”

The pilot program will be housed in the Department of Biology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Its purpose will be to create an academic community of students and faculty mentors who share a mission of addressing major issues in their respective disciplines through scientific research and innovative thinking. Leading the initiative as executive director will be Bernd Fritzsch, who currently serves as director of the Center on Aging and the Aging Mind and Brain Initiative, and UI Department of Biology professor and chair. An advisory committee of faculty from different science departments will assist Fritzsch and his deputy director, Lori Adams, Ph.D., to guide the activities of the pilot program.

The selected students will conduct research in their respective laboratories for one full year, supported by a stipend. Throughout the year, students will receive guidance as they develop and implement a “broader impact” activity designed to engage the community in science. Students will also be challenged to work together to use scientific research and innovative thinking to confront societal challenges. Ultimately, the Lathams hope their gift helps position students of high scientific and creative ability for significant graduate work.
“If our gift attracts and keeps talented undergraduates in the sciences, provides them with strong support systems and research opportunities, and prepares them for placement in the best graduate programs worldwide, we will be very pleased,” says Robert Latham.

University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Chaden Djalali hails the Lathams’ dedication to, and belief in, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences students.

“Our college is always seeking ways to help our students creatively engage with issues facing our society, whether it’s on a local or global level,” Djalali said. “The Lathams’ gift will create a unique and innovative pilot program that will draw exceptional students to our college and enable them to develop outstanding academic portfolios. I can’t thank Bob and Sue Latham enough for their ideas and their generosity.”

Previous gifts from the Lathams have supported the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the University of Iowa Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, University of Iowa Health Care, and the University of Iowa Henry B. Tippie School of Business. Robert Latham earned his B.S. and M.A. degrees, as well as a Ph.D., from the UI. Sue Latham received her M.A. degree and her Ph.D., also from Iowa. The Lathams are members of the Silver Level of the University of Iowa Presidents Club, which recognizes the most generous contributors to all areas of the university.

About the University of Iowa Foundation

The University of Iowa Foundation’s mission is to advance the University of Iowa and fulfill the aspirations of those it serves. The university’s dedicated contributors fund a broad array of needs, from student scholarships, breakthrough research and life-changing health care to innovative facilities, community outreach and global education.

The UI and UI Foundation are conducting a historic comprehensive $1.7 billion fundraising campaign, For Iowa. Forever More: The Campaign for the University of Iowa, which will secure the UI’s status as a world-class institution for future generations.

The University of Iowa Foundation is the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the University of Iowa. For more information about the foundation and the campaign, visit the foundation website at http://www.uifoundation.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Dana Larson, executive director, communications and marketing, the University of Iowa Foundation; 319-335-3305 or 800-648-6973; dana.larson@foriowa.org