What do a Grammy Award-winning musician, a legendary college football coach, and a groundbreaking artist who explored themes related to race and feminism have in common? They're all Iowa alumni who've dreamed big and changed the world.
Each year since 1963, we've honored such UI luminaries with our prestigious Distinguished Alumni Awards.
Please join us in honoring the University of Iowa's 2020 and 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients. RSVP today.
Harold Bradley Jr. was a true Renaissance man. Whether it was his illustrious career as a Hawkeye and NFL football player or his time as an actor, artist, and music sensation, Bradley Jr. succeeded in everything he pursued.
Born in 1929 on Chicago's southside, Bradley Jr. enrolled at the University of Iowa in 1946 to study art and found mentors in Paul Engle (32MA), founder of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and Helen Lemme (28BA), Iowa City's iconic civil rights activist. While Iowa opened his eyes to the world and shaped his international destiny, Bradley Jr. also faced racial discrimination on campus. He was not allowed to live in the university dorms, and instead, resided in Lemme's boarding house.
Bradley Jr. excelled on the field in college and the NFL—earning Iowa football MVP honors in 1950 and winning two NFL titles with the Cleveland Browns. The arts, though, were his true calling. Bradley Jr. landed a scholarship to study in Italy and moved to Rome, where he painted and began a career as an actor—landing roles in more than 20 films, including starring alongside Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. His art studio eventually morphed into a music venue, II Folkstudio, which became a hub for hip culture in Rome and attracted the likes of Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger.
Though Bradley Jr. eventually returned to the U.S. for 19 years to work for the Illinois Arts Council, University of Illinois, and Illinois State Board of Education, he went back to Rome in 1987 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his music venue and never left—becoming a world-renowned ambassador to the Italian public on Black music styles and culture. Bradley Jr. would go on to record six albums later in his life and sing before individuals such as the Pope and Nelson Mandela.
Ted Wheeler (57BA), 1956 Olympian and former Iowa track and field head coach, was his college classmate. He said of Bradley Jr. who died earlier this year: "From the day I met Harold, it was obvious to me that this man was indeed a special person. Harold's commitment to excellence—to be the best he could be—was an inspiration to all who knew him."
Leslie D. Davis (92BA, 95JD, 95MA) is a pioneering executive leader, legal strategist, and civic proponent who advocates for diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice.
As chief executive officer of the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF), she supports diversity in the legal profession by developing career opportunities for leading minority- and women-owned law firms. Davis is the first Black woman to lead NAMWOLF, which consists of 205 law firms.
She is a key member of several civic, health, and educational boards and serves on the City of Chicago Community Development Commission. Throughout Davis' legal career, she represented Fortune 100 companies across various industries as a partner for three major law firms, including Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP, Drinker Biddle & Reath (now Faegre Drinker), and Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal (now Dentons).
Davis helped establish Legacy Charter School, an elementary school in the underserved Chicago community of North Lawndale. As a founding board member, she was instrumental in naming the school, hiring the inaugural principal and staff, and providing invaluable guidance and insight to the students, staff, community, and corporate business partners. A board member for Chicago's Sinai Health System, Davis champions the health care needs of urban communities, mentors children with diabetes, and is an avid fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association.
Davis' time as a Daily Iowan court reporter inspired her to pursue law school at the University of Iowa, where she earned degrees in law and journalism and mass communication. She remains active with the Black Law Students Association at Iowa, participating in the annual Back to Iowa event and mentoring Black law students.
"Leslie is a force of nature who shares candor, explains context, and offers clarity in complicated situations. She's a verb for public service and ethics," says Lisa Kenner, founding principal of Legacy Charter School.
Hickerson Regcognition Award
A business trailblazer, Sandra Davis has used her leadership position at Goldman Sachs to help chart new paths for women and underrepresented finance graduates following in her footsteps.
As co-head of global client marketing and communications for the Investment Banking Division in the firm's New York office, Davis helps to amplify thought leadership content and franchise activity for clients around the world.
While her 17-year career has involved intense professional demands, Davis helped create a job-sharing position that paved the way for a more flexible solution at Goldman Sachs. "Sandy is an advocate and a leader in the finance industry," says Amy Kristof-Brown, the Henry B. Tippie Dean of the UI Henry B. Tippie College of Business.
Davis completed her bachelor's degree at Iowa, with a double major in finance and marketing and a minor in Spanish. She was a member of the Hawkinson Institute for Finance, the Tippie College's undergraduate investment banking program, and maintains a close connection to her alma mater. She serves on its Finance Advisory Council, where she's championed diversity initiatives—and she also mentors and recruits students and speaks at campus events.
After graduation, Davis spent several years in Goldman Sachs' Equity Capital Markets group, guiding companies through their initial public offerings. She moved to her current role in 2015 and always has made it a priority to meet with Tippie College students.
Brian Richman, a Tippie College professor and director of the Hawkinson Institute of Business Finance, says, "There is a generation of Iowa alumni who owe, in part, the successful starts of their careers to Sandy."
Recent Graduate Award
Seung Min Kim (07BS) is an acclaimed national politics reporter in Washington, D.C., who also mentors and inspires journalism and political science students at the University of Iowa.
A White House reporter for The Washington Post, Kim covers President Joe Biden's administration, focusing on its legislative agenda and interactions with Capitol Hill. She previously covered the Donald Trump administration and worked for eight years at Politico, a political journalism media company, where she focused on the Senate and immigration policy.
An on-air political analyst for CNN, Kim has served as a guest for the National Press Club and appeared on several national television programs, including Face the Nation and Washington Week. She was recognized by the National Journal as one of 50 people changing the game in Washington and is an active member of the Asian American Journalists Association and Washington Press Club Foundation.
The Iowa City native deepened her interest in politics as an editor and reporter for The Daily Iowan, where she covered the 2004 caucuses. Kim majored in journalism and political science at Iowa and returns to advise students and speak on alumni panels about her experiences. She also serves on the university's Political Science Department Advisory Board, providing guidance to best serve the department's students.
Says Brian Lai, associate professor and chair of the UI Department of Political Science: "Kim's work has provided a vital service to the people of this country, and she has been a model alum with her willingness to engage our students."
John S. Westefeld knows all too well the importance of suicide awareness and prevention. A close friend of John's committed suicide many years ago—an event that played a significant role in John's career choice.
Throughout his 42-year professional career—including 25 years at the University of Iowa—John has been a passionate teacher, scholar, and leader who dedicated his life's work to suicide awareness and prevention. In 1991, he came to Iowa as director of the counseling psychology PhD program.
While at Iowa, John was a significant mentor—both personally and professionally—to many doctoral students who have gone on to a wide variety of careers. His mentorship culminated in being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Mentoring by the Society of Counseling Psychology (SCP). In both undergraduate and doctoral-level classes, he has taught students about how to work with suicidal patients, how to research the issue, and how to conduct suicide prevention workshops.
John has been a national leader in his profession, as well as a community advocate. He has served as president of SCP, written numerous pieces in leading academic journals, and spoken on the topic of suicide and suicide prevention at countless events, training seminars, and lectures. He has also advocated in multiple venues for increased suicide awareness.
John retired in 2016 as an emeritus professor and then worked until 2020 in private practice. Today, he continues to stay active in the university and psychological community through a variety of consulting activities, including providing suicide prevention workshops.
Daniel Clay, dean of the UI College of Education, says: "It is impossible to know how many lives have been saved thanks to John Westefeld and the ripple effect of students he mentored and inspired. John's work in the college and in the community is marked by passion for people, and he has a tremendous legacy of making a difference in the lives of so many."
Jeff Chapman (79BBA) is a highly accomplished attorney and dedicated civic leader in Dallas, Texas, who gives back to the University of Iowa and his community in numerous ways.
A co-chair of the Global Mergers and Acquisitions Practice Group at Gibson Dunn, he represents private equity firms and public and private companies in diverse cross-border and domestic transactions in a broad range of industries.
Chapman is consistently regarded as one of the top mergers and acquisitions lawyers in the country. Chambers USA has recognized him for many years in its most elite "Band 1" category, and in 2013, elevated Chapman to "Star Individual." He remains the only corporate lawyer in Texas history to be so designated.
Chambers USA reports, "Chapman is widely acknowledged as the superstar of the Texas corporate legal market and provides clients with service that is truly exceptional in every regard."
He and his wife, Kim Engman Cain Chapman, support the UI Henry B. Tippie College of Business, UI athletics, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Chapman also established the Gordon Chapman Memorial Athletic Scholarship for men's tennis in honor of his father and the Sheila Rivin Chapman Memorial Scholarship for women's soccer in memory of his late wife.
Chapman has served as a civic leader for several organizations, including chairman of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center President's Advisory Board and as coordinator of the Governance Review Task Force for the board of regents at Baylor University.
Says Michael Frankel, an attorney and former colleague: "Jeff embodies the character traits and values that best reflect all that is good about the University of Iowa."
As section chief and director of dental education at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa, Hayley Harvey (94DDS, 96MS) has been a champion for increasing access to dental care and improving the oral health of underserved populations.
A native of Detroit, Michigan, and daughter of an Army veteran, Harvey came to the University of Iowa and discovered a passion for improving oral health and access to care for at-risk and rural populations. After earning two degrees from Iowa, Harvey—who served for a decade in the Army National Guard—practiced dentistry and later became the dental director for Baldwin Family Health Care. Her clinic provided dental care to at-risk populations in Baldwin, Michigan, which resides in one of the poorest counties in the state.
She returned to the Hawkeye state as the public health dental director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, which then led her to a position at Broadlawns Medical Center. Harvey has helped Broadlawns establish a new $24 million facility with 22 operatories—six of which are for extramural rotations of University of Iowa dental students. Through her work at Broadlawns, she ensures that future generations of dentists will have a solid understanding of the dental and health disparities facing Iowa's low-income populations.
Harvey is a wife and mother of two daughters, Hannah and Hadley. She is active in many community organizations and serves on the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation Board of Directors. In 2019, Harvey was awarded the University of Iowa Dental Alumni Service Recognition of the Year honor.
Peter Damiano (82BS, 86DDS), one of Harvey's professors from her time at the UI College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics, says: "She represents all that we would want in a Distinguished Alumni Service Award recipient: passion for her field, a lifetime commitment to using her UI education to help those less fortunate, and a continuing role in educating Iowa's students."
Hickerson Regcognition Award
Jeffrey Parsons (89BA) is a third-generation Hawkeye who is a tireless and passionate advocate for his alma mater.
A native of Burlington, Iowa, Parsons graduated from the University of Iowa in 1989 with a theatre degree, and he credits Iowa for helping him continue to achieve his dreams. In addition to 16 years with United Airlines, he launched IGC & Associates, Inc., in 2007, a consulting firm focused on leadership and organizational development. His firm supports a range of global industries—from Fortune 20 to nonprofit.
Parsons also has been dedicated to advancing the mission of the Chicago Iowa Club by expanding it beyond game watches—all in an effort to build an inclusive, welcoming network of Hawkeyes in the Chicagoland area. He joined the Chicago Iowa Club Board of Directors in 2018, and after serving as its vice president, he now acts as a club consultant.
As a Chicago Iowa Club volunteer, Parsons has supported 14 official Chicago Iowa Club event locations through promotions and business development; served as guest speaker for a number of university events in Chicagoland; formed the Women In Business network and has helped build other network groups; led and participated in club business development strategy, outreach, and partnerships; and has coordinated and promoted arts outreach in the city. He also has partnered with the university's more than 60 Iowa Clubs to share best practices for increasing business networking opportunities.
On campus, Parsons has become an active contributor and facilitator with the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center within the UI Henry B. Tippie College of Business.
Says Lenee Wolf (89BGS), Chicago Iowa Club president: "Jeffrey is more than a fan or an alum. He's an ambassador to all things Iowa. He lives, breathes, and loves as a Hawkeye should. He embodies Once a Hawkeye, Always a Hawkeye."
Mark Stinski, PhD, devoted his career at the University of Iowa to the study of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), a pathogen that can cause birth defects and infections in the immunosuppressed.
His laboratory discovered the CMV promoter, a mammalian gene expression enhancer that dictates the fate of HCMV infection. The CMV promoter has been used by research laboratories around the world and by pharmaceutical companies to facilitate high expression of proteins. The first successful therapeutic protein was Rituxan for the treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The CMV promoter patent generated more than $160 million. The patent's royalties helped the UI recruit at least five professors, retain senior faculty members, and establish the Mark Stinski Endowed Chair in Microbiology and Immunology and the Stinski Undergraduate Research Fellowship.
Stinski, who published peer-reviewed articles in top journals, was elected Fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He also received the Alexander Von Humboldt Award from Germany and conducted research at the Institute for Clinical and Molecular Virology in Erlangen, Germany.
The success of his teaching and mentoring is evident in his mentees, who have become leaders in biomedical research at academic institutions and biotech companies.
One of those trainees, Eain Murphy, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at SUNY Upstate Medical University, says: "Mark instilled a scientific ethic and sense of quality in each of his mentees. This led to a generation of Iowa-trained virologists who have made major contributions to a broad range of scientific fields."
A brilliant scientist with the spirit of an entrepreneur, Joseph A. Walder, MD, PhD, has helped everyone from farmers and scientists to physicians and patients thanks to his breakthroughs in biological research. Along the way, he also has inspired colleagues and championed the University of Iowa, where he launched his illustrious career.
After earning his MD and PhD degrees from Northwestern University, Dr. Walder joined the UI in 1978 as an assistant professor of biochemistry. He eventually became a full professor and conducted cutting-edge biochemical research that included developing anti-sickling compounds and a hemoglobin derivative blood substitute.
In 1987, Dr. Walder established Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT) through a seed grant from Baxter Health Care, which was interested in his work on hemoglobin and sickle-cell disease. Before selling the company in 2018, he grew IDT into the world's leading provider of synthetic oligonucleotides—or short DNA fragments—that benefit researchers in a range of disciplines.
Known for his creative solutions in the field of molecular medicine, Dr. Walder's notable honors include CEO of the Year from the Technology Association of Iowa and Entrepreneur of the Year from the Iowa Biotechnology Association.
Though he left the UI in 1994, Dr. Walder remained a loyal supporter of the UI Department of Biochemistry. His company also invested in biochemistry graduate education and donated $1 million to create a sibling play space in UI Stead Family Children's Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.
A visionary researcher, innovative thinker, and transformative philanthropist, Dr. Walder embodies the best of Iowa's values. As Charles Brenner, the UI Roy J. Carver Chair and Head of Biochemistry, says, "Dr. Walder's accomplishments in biotechnology and philanthropy have made him a living legend at the University of Iowa."
Recent Graduate Award
Cori Zarek (01BA, 05JD) is a public interest technologist and lawyer whose role in helping governments maximize technology and strive for greater transparency has taken her to the White House—and around the world.
An expert on everything from technology strategies and digital rights to freedom of information, Zarek has worked to transform both government and the private sector. She also has assisted numerous countries in crafting policies related to technology, transparency, and press freedom.
Zarek graduated from Iowa with degrees in journalism and mass communication, political science, and law. As an undergraduate, she rose from reporter to editor-in-chief of The Daily Iowan, and after law school, she became a legal fellow for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Washington, D.C. She eventually became that organization's freedom of information director before accepting a role as attorney advisor for the United States National Archives and Records Administration in 2009.
She joined President Obama's White House in 2013, first as senior advisor for open government and then as deputy U.S. chief technology officer. While there, Zarek helped improved how the federal government uses data and technology to deliver its mission.
In addition, she led the nation's involvement in the Open Government Partnership, a global collaboration that empowers citizens, combats corruption, and harnesses new technologies. As part of that initiative, Zarek represented the United States at global summits in Mexico, South Africa, and France, and she also traveled to more than a dozen countries to advise on open government and technology. Such efforts earned her induction into the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame in 2016.
Today, Zarek is on the faculty at Georgetown University and serves as director of data and digital for its Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation. In that role, she helped create the U.S. Digital Response organization during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also is president of the board of MuckRock, a nonprofit news organization.
"Cori's name is synonymous with freedom of information and open government," says Randy Evans (72BA), executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. "She's an outstanding University of Iowa representative and has lived and worked in a manner that combines service, leadership, and humility."