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UI Alumnus and Contributor Gary Seamans Delivers the Inaugural Phil’s Day Lecture

On a journey to philanthropy

University of Iowa graduate and longtime philanthropist Gary Seamans addressed a crowd of UI students, faculty, and staff in the Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences on the UI campus as part of the first ever Phil’s Day on April 24, 2012. During his lecture, titled “Life with Phil: Your Journey to Philanthropy,” Seamans detailed his own philanthropic journey—from being on the receiving end of support as a child, to the giving end for much of his adult life.

Seamans talked about the personal connections people have with philanthropy, telling stories from different periods of his own life—from his childhood in a family with limited financial resources, to a life of active and frequent giving. Phil—short for philanthropy—is something Seamans told the crowd they were all a part of, whether they knew it or not. “I’ve been on a path with Phil and to Phil since I was born—I just didn’t know it,” he said.

Seamans explained philanthropy as more than just monetary gifts. “Every one of you has an enormous set of resources right now, including your time, your intellect, and your spiritual resources,” he said. He referenced UI events like Dance Marathon, describing them as examples of philanthropy being “not just giving money, but creating it as well.”

He also told of his own first step in the direction of financial giving, which came one day as he bounced his infant son on his knee at home. The phone rang on that day, the call coming from a UI student-athlete seeking a donation to the university. Seamans made his first formal gift in the amount of $25 during that call. “At all stages of our life we can be involved in the notion of philanthropy,” he said.

Life is not about having the biggest and the best of everything, Seamans said, calling the chase for bigger and better a “fool’s game.” “Be happy where you are, gather your resources, and then share them,” he said. “Memories happen when you’re philanthropic with your resources.”

In discussing his own inspiration for giving so generously over the years, Seamans cites several sources—from the philanthropic example his parents set for him as a child despite meager resources, to the personal health-care his mother received at the UI Hospitals and Clinics. “The idea of doing good for others is powerful,” he said.

Seamans closed his remarks by urging those gathered to “give out, not in,” and to share freely of their resources, no matter what those resources may be.