Distinguished Alumni Award


Mary Joy Stead

2008 Friend Award

Mary Joy Stead knows that with the right help, people can learn to soar. This was true for her when she fulfilled her dream of becoming a licensed pilot. And it also was true of the journey she and her husband, Jerre Stead, 65BBA, made from early years of hard work and sacrifice to a life of professional success and personal philanthropy.

During their humble beginnings as college students in Iowa City, the Steads lived in the Forestview Trailer Court while Jerre completed his B.A. degree in business at the UI. During this time, Mary Joy also took classes and worked hard to help support her family and raise two young sons. After Jerre's graduation in 1965, the high school sweethearts and Maquoketa natives set off for achievement and adventure.

Throughout their years of travel for Jerre's various CEO positions, Mary Joy busied herself with making a home for their family—and establishing community connections—in diverse locations from Minneapolis to Brussels, Belgium.

No matter where they lived, the Steads never forgot about the University of Iowa, and they have continued to be passionate volunteers and philanthropists. Mary Joy is a loyal friend who has devoted generous time and resources to the UI. Not only did she serve as vice chair of the national steering committee for the university's $1 billion, seven-year fund-raising campaign that ended in 2005, she and her husband also made one of the campaign's most generous gifts and one of the largest ever to the UI: a visionary $25 million commitment to benefit the Henry B. Tippie College of Business.

Part of this record-breaking contribution was an outright gift of $2.5 million for several areas, including the establishment of an endowed, named chair in honor of former College of Business dean and former interim UI president Gary Fethke, 64BA, 68PhD; ongoing support for the Stead Technology Center, which provides computer services and related programming within the college; funding for the Kloppenburg-Stead Speaker Series, which will bring prominent speakers to the college's executive M.B.A. program; and continued enhancement and maintenance of the John Pappajohn Business Building. Besides their loyalty to the business school, the Steads also support other areas of the university, including the UI Alumni Association and the Old Capitol Museum.

As a volunteer, Mary Joy has occupied many valuable roles, including membership on the UI Foundation's board of directors and in other educational and civic organizations.

Indicative of her broad interests and generosity, Stead is an officer of Operation QT (Quality Time), which funds educational programming for middle and high school students in economically disadvantaged areas. She has supported the Alzheimer's Institute at Banner Health of Phoenix and the Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, where she and Jerre made a $6 million gift to create the Stead Center for Ethics and Values. She is also involved with a computer learning program in Denver that provides funding for computer education for elementary and middle school children.

In all that she does, Mary Joy Stead lives a life of purpose, generosity, and commitment. Her unwavering friendship has not only opened educational doors for countless students, but has built a stronger University of Iowa.

Mary Joy Stead is a gold-level member of the UI Foundation's Presidents Club.


About Distinguished Alumni Awards

Since 1963, the University of Iowa has annually recognized accomplished alumni and friends with Distinguished Alumni Awards. Awards are presented in seven categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty, Staff, Recent Graduate, and Friend of the University.


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Thought to be the only national literary honor selected by students, the prize is accompanied by a $10,000 award for the first time this year thanks to a new partnership between the UI Nonfiction Writing Program and the Kyle J. and Sharon Krause Family Foundation. Shawn Wen, winner of the 2018 Krause Essay Prize, is the author of A Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause. Her writing has appeared in The New Inquiry, Seneca Review, Iowa Review, White Review, and the anthology City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis. This year's Krause Essay Prize recipient is Shawn Wen, a San Francisco-based multimedia artist and the author of A Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause (Sarabande Books, 2017), a book-length essay on the life of French mime Marcel Marceau. Wen, whom students selected from a pool of 14 nominees, accepted her award at a ceremony in September in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber. Nicol?s Medina Mora Perez, a third-year MFA student from Mexico City, was among the prize judges in the spring seminar taught by author and Nonfiction Writing Program director John D'Agata (98MFA). Perez said that beyond discussing the merits of the nominated essays each week, class conversations revolved around how they define essay writing and the type of nonfiction they wanted to champion as representatives of the UI. By serving as judges, Perez says, students had the opportunity to read a broad selection of contemporary nonfiction that they may not have otherwise sought out. "By the end of the semester I had a clearer idea of the sort of work that people are publishing today, which includes stuff that I'd like to imitate and stuff that I'd rather not," Perez says. "I guess it's a bit like watching the World Cup with your soccer teammates: You see moves that you think are cool and want to steal for your own gameplay, but you also notice pitfalls that you should learn to avoid." 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To give class discussions a sense of consequence, D'Agata had students evaluate each piece at the end of the semester and select a single award winner. Author Aaron Kunin received the inaugural Essay Prize, as the award was previously known, and it soon became an annual tradition. D'Agata's seminar students spend the semester dissecting the pieces, giving presentations, and writing critiques for the The Essay Review, the Nonfiction Writing Program's national magazine. Over the years, the class has crowned winners as varied as poet?Claudia Rankine, science writer Oliver Sacks, performance artist Sophie Calle, and the producers of Radio Lab. A current group of 14 writers and artists from around the nation serve as the nominating committee, includes luminaries like Roxane Gay, Leslie Jamison (06MFA), and Kiese Laymon. 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The UIVA Alumni Organization serves and connects alumni and students who share the common bond of military service.

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