Distinguished Alumni Award


Joseph A. Walder, MD, PhD

Friend Award 2020

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."


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.


Related Content

Why small movie cinemas and independent films are flourishing.

Alumni Hall presents unique fundraising and recognition opportunity for the Iowa Pharmacy Family. Rendering by OPN Architects. Construction of the new UI College of Pharmacy building began in fall 2016. The state-of-the-art facility is scheduled to open to students in early 2020. Collaboration and community are central components evident in the modern design of the UI College of Pharmacy's 210,000-square-foot facility that's scheduled to open to students in early 2020. Twenty-three learning spaces provide students and faculty more area to problem solve in a location that nearly doubles the size of the college's current building. A 128-seat, team-based learning center allows students to easily reposition in swivel desks for group work; an active learning center can transform from two 60-seat classrooms to a 300-seat seminar space by raising its hangar doors; and 16 collaborative laboratory science research 'hybrid' spaces can be easily customized with sliding walls to accommodate larger groups. This commitment to collaboration and community is also present in the building's universal design, which aims to serve all people by promoting an inclusive environment. Built-in hearing loops broadcast directly to a person's hearing device, and color-coded floors and thoughtfully placed signage with symbols ease navigation throughout the facility. Rendering by OPN Architects. The building's first-floor concourse will provide a gathering place for students, faculty, alumni, and friends. It will be named Alumni Hall if the minimum goal of $1 million is raised. The college hopes these values can unite in the building's first floor central concourse that will be funded by private support and named Alumni Hall if the minimum goal of $1 million is raised. This distinguished space would be dedicated to past, present, and future students of UI pharmacy, and would offer a gathering place for students, faculty, alumni, and friends. The hall would be used daily by members of the pharmacy family and provide a prominent location for receptions, presentations, and other events. Additionally, Alumni Hall would serve as a visible reminder of the efforts and contributions from many that invested in the College of Pharmacy?ensuring its tradition in excellence and innovation continues in its new, state-of-the-art facility. "We're a college family and that extends to a sense of collective worth," says Donald Letendre, dean of the UI College of Pharmacy. "When our alumni return to campus, I want them to feel like this is their home. This is a home that embraces every generation of pharmacists who have ever graced our halls." Once the College of Pharmacy raises at least $1 million in support to formally name Alumni Hall, it will recognize donors who give $1,000 or more toward the initiative. These contributor names would be permanently listed in the finished space. "It's a wonderful way to pay tribute to our esteemed alumni, to recognize their investment in the college, and for individuals visiting the college to visibly see their name up on a wall," says Letendre. The dean envisions a campaign built on the collective efforts and supportive nature of the UI Pharmacy family?1,000 or more alumni each committing at least $1,000 each?as an effective and fitting means of bringing the hall to fruition. This goal is made even more achievable through a pledge, which can be paid in installments over multiple years. As the UI College of Pharmacy nears the opening of its transformational facility, the Alumni Hall fundraising effort presents a unique opportunity for contributors. Rendering by OPN Architects. A 128-seat, team-based learning center with three 220-inch projection screens promotes collaboration within teams. "This is a chance for our alumni to leave an indelible mark in a space that will grow the college's tradition of excellence as one of the nation's elite pharmacy schools," says Letendre. "Reaching our goal through commitments from the Iowa Pharmacy family will speak to the nature of collaboration and community that are integral to our mission." To support the College of Pharmacy's Alumni Hall campaign, visit givetoiowa.org/pharmacy and select the Building Fund.

We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies in accordance with our Privacy Statement unless you have disabled them in your browser.