The University of Iowa Eight Over 80 Awards

As Hawkeyes, we give back throughout our lives. We're leaders in our professions. We're generous with our time and talent. We're passionate about things we love—especially anything black and gold. And some Hawkeyes make an impact well beyond retirement.

That's why we honor Iowa alums, age 80 and over, who carry the Hawkeye spirit of achievement and continue to help others. You can do your part by nominating an extraordinary alum who, at 80 and older, is making an impact.

Nominations are currently closed for 2024. The recipients will be celebrated during Older Americans Month at a luncheon on May 17, 2024.

You can still nominate a deserving Hawkeye for future consideration. To nominate someone, you will need to share:

  • The nominee's name, as well as yours.
  • Your relationship to the nominee.
  • The nominee's graduation year and age, if known.
  • One or two paragraphs about how this individual continues to impact their community through their passions, profession, or volunteerism—proving that age is really just a number.

2024 Eight Over 80 Award Winners

Tom Brokaw (10LHD)

Before he became one of the nation's most respected network news anchors, Tom Brokaw spent his freshman year at the University of Iowa. It was an experience he never forgot, and throughout his life, Brokaw has remained a proud Iowa supporter.

The longtime NBC Nightly News anchor and managing editor has narrated documentaries about his alma mater and the Hawkeye football team—and served on the steering committee for the Iowa Endowment 2000 fundraising campaign. In 2002, Brokaw and his wife, Meredith, established a scholarship for Iowa students, and the university commended his accomplishments with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1997 and an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in 2010.

After covering a half century of news and authoring numerous American histories, Brokaw received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama in 2014. Obama called Brokaw "the chronicler of the Greatest Generation," saying, "We celebrate him as one of our nation's greatest journalists."

In 2016, Brokaw donated his papers to the UI Libraries Special Collections and Archives. He shipped more than 90 boxes of appointment books, artifacts, letters, speeches, photos, press passes, and notebooks to the archives. This collection, the Papers of Tom Brokaw: A Life and Career, provide a comprehensive view of his storied professional life.

The year he turned 80, Brokaw mentored journalism students on the Daily Iowan staff during their coverage of the 2020 Iowa caucuses.

A loyal Hawkeye at heart, Brokaw's legacy of kindness and generosity will endure on campus for generations to come.

Dr. William J. "Bill" Daniels (64MA, 70PhD)

Throughout his long career in judicial politics and public law education, William J. "Bill" Daniels has been an unwavering advocate for peaceful conflict resolution, receiving numerous accolades for his community service and leadership.

Daniels was a professor and dean in the Rochester Institute of Technology's College of Liberal Arts, where he worked for 16 years and established a summer program in Croatia. He also co-founded a congressional internship program while at Union College and was a founding member of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, of which he was president. In addition, he served as vice president of the American Political Science Association and held numerous fellowships, including a Fulbright Fellowship and another for a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

In 2005, Daniels became a certified mediator in the state of New York, working with the Center for Dispute Settlement. At this nonprofit community-resolution center, he holds numerous arbitration and mediation certifications, including specializations in divorce, special education, Lemon Law, and other categories. The center honored him with the Janus Peacemaker Award in 2014 and named him Volunteer of the Month in December 2023.

Daniels dedicated his time and leadership to a wide range of nonprofit and municipal organizations, chairing the board of directors for Hillside Children's Center, where he served for 15 years, and for the Urban League of Rochester, New York. Additionally, he mentored high school students, arbitrated housing disputes, and served as a member and chair of a civilian review board for local law enforcement.

He is the recipient of several distinguished volunteer service awards, including the United Way's Howard Wilson Coles Community Leadership Award.

Robert M. Fleming (56BS)

A native of Burlington, Iowa, Robert M. Fleming has parlayed his business acumen into a lifetime of community service and board leadership.

After winning three terms on the Burlington City Council, he likely was the oldest person, at age 82 ever to serve the city. Today, at 91, he continues to work as a substitute teacher and a mentor for local leaders.

After earning his business degree at the University of Iowa, Fleming returned home to grow sales at a startup manufacturing company. He helped develop a powerful distribution channel, the Winegard Company, that became the world's largest TV antenna maker.

The company's success, and Fleming's rise to vice president, allowed him to invest in community growth. He was a member of Burlington's development board for more than 25 years and was instrumental in bringing new businesses, and hundreds of jobs, to the area. He also served on the board of the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce for two decades.

In addition, Fleming was a board member for Great River Health for 35 years—and president for 28 years—before retiring at age 84. To recognize his many contributions, the hospital named its executive conference room in his honor.

Fleming and his wife value education and have supported the Burlington Catholic schools that their five children attended before Iowa. Fleming was a member of the school board and has been a substitute Catholic high school teacher and proctor for the last five years.

Dr. Jeffrey Knox (68MA, 75PhD)

Jeffrey Knox had a 40-year career as a speech and language pathologist and is a lifelong volunteer who finds joy in giving back to others.

He was at the forefront of technological advances in speech and language pathology as a member of the Technology Resource Group, which sponsored a yearly technology conference and published a monthly newsletter. Knox also offered guidance and professional development opportunities for speech pathologists throughout Iowa and the country.

In addition, he was assigned to several Eastern Iowa school districts during his career. He co-chaired the speech department of the Grant Wood Area Education Agency and helped create a master's of speech language pathology at St. Ambrose University. A leader in his profession, he published research while teaching, advising, and mentoring students in speech and hearing science.

Knox has invested in his community by encouraging active lifestyles, supporting education, and addressing issues of food insecurity. He coached youth sports when his children were in school and is a longtime volunteer for Iowa City Road Races Inc., which raises funds for area schools.

In addition, he has assisted with Hawkeye and high school track and cross country meets and was a volunteer assistant basketball coach at West High School for four years. He has been a volunteer in preschool classes in the Iowa City Community School District and taught computer programming to third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in each of his assigned schools as well as during the summer in Iowa City.

Knox also has devoted himself to various humanitarian organizations, working to ensure that families receive food and other resources through Table to Table, the Community Crisis Center, and Ronald McDonald House. Along with these activities, Knox was on the parish council for St. Thomas More Church. He was a Eucharistic minister, and counted weekly collection receipts, and he currently serves as an usher and funeral luncheon volunteer.

Luanne Puhl (64BA)

Luanne Puhl shares her love of history, health, and education with the Waterloo community through gifts of time and resources because, she says, "It simply is the right thing to do."

Puhl, who graduated cum laude from the University of Iowa's medical technology program and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, had a 38-year career in hospital and commercial laboratories. She led operations as the laboratory director and became program chairperson and Chicago chapter president of the Clinical Laboratory Management Association.

Following her retirement in 2001, Puhl volunteered for several Waterloo area nonprofits, including the House of Hope, Northeast Iowa Food Bank, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, and Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare.

She has been a member and executive of the Grout Museum District Board of Directors and board president and fundraising campaign chair for the Friends of the Grout Historic Houses. She enjoys cultivating gardens for the Grout Museum facilities as well as for her condominium association and church, where she also volunteers for fundraising events and funeral luncheons.

In recognition of her extensive community involvement, Puhl received the 2018 Waterloo/Cedar Falls Mayors' Volunteer Award.

Puhl believes "education is one thing no one can take away from you." This philosophy has inspired her to establish scholarships memorializing her parents and her niece, who was a graduate of the University of Iowa Henry B. Tippie College of Business.

Karen Spurgeon (64BA)

After 39 years of teaching music, Karen Spurgeon embarked on a second career as an award-winning newspaper editor and publisher. However, she still finds time to perform and direct music and to support fine arts and community organizations.

Spurgeon earned a bachelor's degree in music from the University of Iowa in 1964 and a master's degree in music education from Northeast Missouri State University in 1975. She began her first career in 1965 as Davis County Schools' general music and middle school choral music teacher.

After retiring in 2004, she worked as a substitute teacher and assisted at The Bloomfield Democrat, an independent newspaper she and her husband, Gary (64BA), owned. Following his death in 2013, Spurgeon worked with her son to keep their newspaper—the only one in Davis County—in operation.

She has excelled in her roles as the Democrat's publisher and editor. Among her many honors includes the 2023 Iowa Newspaper Association (INA) Master Editor Publisher Award. She also has made a profound impact on community news throughout the state, thanks to her work as a member—and then president—of the INA board.

Spurgeon enjoys performing as a church choir director, a pianist and organist, and a municipal band saxophonist. She also is a board member for the Davis County Fine Arts Council and the Spectrum Center for the Arts, and she is a committee member for Bloomfield Main Street and Davis County Tourism.

In 2014, Spurgeon received the Iowan of the Day Award at the Iowa State Fair, in recognition of her numerous volunteer contributions. As an arts patron, musician, and community news reporter, she has provided unwavering community service for 58 years and counting.

Pamela Willard (79MS)

Pamela Willard is a true community servant whose advocacy for public health, nursing, and lifelong learning has helped change lives.

After serving as a community nurse in New York City, Philadelphia, and California, Willard came to Iowa City to work for Johnson County Public Health. She then earned a master's degree in preventive medicine from the University of Iowa. In 1985, she began teaching clinical nursing at the UI College of Nursing, and she remained in this role until 2004.

During that time, Willard helped modernize public health systems in the Slovak Republic, after the fall of the Soviet Union, and she has hosted and mentored Croatian nursing scholars. In recognition of her exemplary contributions to public health nursing, the Iowa Public Health Association honored Willard with the Lillian Wald Award in 2004.

She then joined the UI College of Public Health, where she worked as a mentor for a decade, connecting graduate students with practicum opportunities that aligned with their interests and helping them hone their critical-thinking skills. Willard also has been a board member and chair of the Johnson County Board of Health and served on committees for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Willard remains involved with many community organizations, including the Iowa Women's Foundation, the UI Retirees Association, the Center for Worker Justice, the League of Women Voters, and the Johnson County Interfaith Coalition. Additionally, she is a valued committee member and treasurer of the UI Senior College Committee, which offers dozens of classes to her fellow retirees.

Robert "Bob" Wubbena (66BS, 68MS)

Since his student days in the University of Iowa College of Engineering, Robert "Bob" Wubbena has generously shared his engineering expertise. The civil and environmental engineer remains an active water and wastewater consultant and has established scholarships to help others follow in his footsteps.

After becoming the first in his family to receive a college degree, the Bristow, Iowa, native began his career with Washington state's Drinking Water Program in 1968. There, Wubbena helped develop a 50-year water use strategy, and 10 years later, he founded Economic and Engineering Services, a regional consulting firm that grew to include 5 offices and 75 employees. He served as the company's chief executive officer through 2006, then continued as an executive for three years, following a merger with HDR Engineering.

Throughout the last five decades, Wubbena has been a global leader in improving water quality. In 1972, he helped found the International Association of Operator Certification. He also was the international president of the American Water Works Association in 1996 and remains active with Rotary International, Transform International, and other organizations. From 1990 to 2024, he traveled the world and managed water projects in 10 developing countries. In addition, he provides pro-bono engineering services for camps and churches in the Pacific Northwest. Wubbena received the 2013 Rotary International Service Above Self Award.

Wubbena and his wife established two scholarships at Iowa: One is for first-generation students, or those with financial need, in the area of South Puget Sound, and the other—the Bob and Joan Wubbena UI Graduate Engineering Fellowship—supports water-quality research. The Wubbenas are proud parents of three children who also pay it forward.

Learn more about our past winners.

Questions? Please contact Erin Brokel at or 319-467-3668.

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