Tom Halupnik didn’t know anyone outside of work when he moved to the Memphis area more than 40 years ago as a recent UI grad. All of that changed when he saw an ad in the newspaper—sponsored by the eventual Memphis IOWA Club founders—inviting Hawkeyes to a local football game watch.
A club supporter for over 30 years, Halupnik is now in his third year as president and he and club members are seeking more ways to engage young alumni through new events and gatherings. He fondly remembers the camaraderie he found in his early days in Tennessee and wants to share that with others. “It’s an opportunity to be with really good people from Iowa,” says Halupnik. “The club gives everyone an opportunity to replicate my experience and quickly build a broader range of friends with the experiences we share.”
The Memphis IOWA Club, now more than 60 members strong, gathers on fall Saturdays for Hawkeye game watches at Ty’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que—filling nearly the entire restaurant with black and gold. At the end of the first quarter, attendees join in on “The Wave,” and spread the Hawkeye spirit to any other patrons on hand. The club also supports UI students and gives back to the community. Each year they host a fundraiser to generate donations for the club’s now endowed scholarship fund. The event typically includes a speech by an accomplished Memphis-area UI grad, door prizes, and Memphis- and Hawkeye-themed silent auction items. The club’s first local student scholarship was presented in 1997 for $250 and has grown to $3,000, including a $1,000 match from the University of Iowa.
Over the past several years, the Memphis IOWA Club has supported a group of 15 to 20 UI students, who have traveled to Memphis for a week of community service—known as Alternative Spring Break. Last year’s visit was again highlighted with a trip to Ty’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, which included a few plates of the area’s trademark barbecue nachos. The club has expanded its community involvement, aiding food drives for a local food pantry and purchasing Christmas gifts for children and families in need through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. In 2017, the Memphis IOWA club recorded over 630 hours of volunteer work.
Whether gathering for a game watch, supporting a current UI student, or helping others in the community, Halupnik and the Memphis IOWA Club embrace the opportunities to spread the Hawkeye spirit. “There’s a growing sense of service and awareness of how we support the community and represent Iowa—both the state and the university,” says Halupnik. “It’s about the fellowship and maintaining ties to the university.”
To learn more about IOWA Clubs and how to get involved, visit our IOWA Clubs homepage.