Russell and Ann Gerdin have left an indelible mark on the University of Iowa for their commitment to the institution and, in particular, its student athletes.
As founder, president, and chief executive officer of one of Iowas most successful businesses, the Coralville-based trucking company Heartland Express—named one of Americas 200 best small companies by Forbes magazine in ten of the last 13 years—Russ Gerdin has generously shared his own achievement to help ensure the future success of UI students. A former teacher, Ann Gerdin continues to make a difference in the lives of students and others through her philanthropic and community service efforts.
Those familiar with the UIs efforts to ensure that its students-athletes have access to the best possible education are well aware of the Gerdins primary legacy to date on the UI campus: the Russell and Ann Gerdin Athletic Learning Center, which the couple made possible with a leadership gift of $4 million.
To ensure that the universitys commitment to preparing young people for meaningful careers remains front and center, the privately financed, state-of-the-art Gerdin Center—opened in 2003 with a library, tutorial spaces, computer laboratory, and more—enables the UI Athletic Student Services office to fully integrate the athletic and academic development of more than 600 Hawkeye studentathletes each year.
The Gerdins have long combined their commitment to education with their love for the Iowa Hawkeyes. In addition to their extraordinary gift for the learning center, the couple made a $1 million commitment to support the UI Athletics Hall of Fame and have given annually to the UI athletics scholarship fund for more than 20 years.
Director of UI Athletics Bob Bowlsby notes, The quality of our athletics program relies upon first-rate student-athletes who are as strong academically as they are athletically. Russell and Anns gift for the learning center has enabled us to focus even more on the athletic development of our young people and offer potential recruits the best of what the university has to offer. The Gerdins gifts for the learning center and the Hall of Fame are far-reaching, as they touch each and every student athlete who enrolls at the University of Iowa.
The Gerdins' other philanthropic interests are a testament to their belief in the power of education to transform society for the better. Recipients of their generosity include Iowa State University, where the Gerdin Business Building houses the business college; Russs alma mater, Minnesota State University; and various local community initiatives. They have also provided more than $2 million toward the educational pursuits of Heartland employees and their children.
With the Russell and Ann Gerdin Athletic Learning Center, the Gerdin name will be forever connected to academic and athletic excellence at the University of Iowa. Even more important, however, is that the Gerdins hearts are with the UI as it pursues its vital mission of educating the young people who will become future leaders in Iowa and beyond. True Hawkeyes—and true friends of the university—the Gerdins are clearly deserving of this Distinguished Alumni Award.
Russ and Ann Gerdin are members of the UI Presidents Club.