The Webster City Rotary Club welcomed University of Iowa President Sally Mason a meeting on Monday.
During her program, Mason discussed the ways the University of Iowa influences the community. She said the most powerful way the university does that is through educating students for productive, professional and civic lives. Currently, Mason said there are 36 students from Hamilton County who attend the University of Iowa. Among those students is Marilyn Keane, who was named to the President's List for achieving a perfect grade-point-average for two consecutive semesters.
Mason said Hamilton County is the home of 160 University of Iowa alumni. She mentioned several, including Tim Anderson, of Town and Country Insurance, Dr. Greg Maharry, and Dr. Subhash Sahai. Additionally, Mason said the University of Iowa supported 13 businesses in Hamilton County last year, with purchases totaling $27,017.20.
"We couldn't achieve all that we do at the university without our close partnerships with our alumni, our friends and the citizens of Iowa," Mason said.
Educational opportunities from the University extend further than Iowa City. Over the past few years, Mason said she has signed agreements with all of the community colleges in the state, such as Iowa Central Community College, to offer those opportunities. Through a combination of distance learning and on-site practice, Mason said those with a Registered Nurse degree can finish a bachelor's degree through community colleges and obtain a University of Iowa degree. Other programs include applied and liberal studies, entrepreneurial and nonprofit management and public health.
"These are all things that we do well at the University of Iowa so we're pleased now to be able to offer those out in a variety of communities," Mason said.
Mason also discussed a pilot program this summer called the Hawk Tuition Grant. Students in good standing with at least one year of courses completed at the University of Iowa will be able to take courses over the summer for free. Mason said the university is paying for scholarships to allow over 200 students to participate in the program this year.
To help pay for that program and many others, Mason said the university is undertaking its most ambitious and comprehensive fundraising campaign in the school's history. The For Iowa, Forever More campaign is looking to raise $1.7 billion. So far, $1.269 billion has been raised. Money from that fundraising effort will support education, athletics, arts and alumni programs and much more. It will also support the school's hospitals.
Mason said that 81 Hamilton County residents received service from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics last year. That included Kyleigh Burlingame, of Webster City. With the help of medical professionals, Mason said Burlingame was put on a ketogenic diet which helped control her seizures. Those Hospitals and Clinics are doing great work, Mason said. She said researchers at the University of Iowa are coming close to curing blindness stemming from certain types of genetically inherited eye diseases.
"That is so exciting to me. Maybe it's because I'm a biologist, but I think anyone who hears these stories or sees a four or five-year-old who literally was going blind or has gone blind who is regaining their sight because of some of the work that's going on at our hospitals and clinics, you can't help but feel absolutely great about the work that's going on here in Iowa and for the benefit of Iowans and for the whole world," Mason said.
Mason said she enjoys visiting Rotary clubs and other groups across the state. She said she likes to share stories about the impact that the University of Iowa has on not just its students and alumni, but also people across and beyond Iowa.
Mason said she first visited Webster City shortly after being appointed president seven years ago. She was invited by Dr. Subhash Sahai, the president of the Webster City Medical Clinic, a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa, and a member of the Iowa Board of Regents.
Mason said she remembers visiting Kendall Young Library during her trip, which she called a beautiful facility.