The world is a better place because of John and Mary Pappajohn.
His knack for business, her passion for art, and their mutual belief in giving back have brought some big ideas to life: a scientific "super quest" for a healthier society, a four-acre public sculpture garden in Des Moines, and a jump start for countless new companies. Such ideas started taking shape long before the two became a couple.
For John Pappajohn, it traced as far back as his kindergarten year in Mason City, Iowa. That's when his mother—a young Greek immigrant—enrolled in school, too. She did so to learn the language of her new country, but she also taught the future venture capitalist a lifelong lesson about the value of education.
"It took me six years to get through college. I didn't have much money, and I had to attend school on and off, while I worked. I had grown up in an immigrant family, and I'd never traveled, but the University of Iowa taught me so much. By the time I graduated, I had $2,000 in the bank and no debt—and I had learned more about what was going on around me."
- John Pappajohn
"She was my inspiration for going to college and supporting educational causes," says John Pappajohn, who took turns attending the University of Iowa with his two brothers, while they all ran the family grocery store after their father's death.
Like her husband, Mary Pappajohn believes in the power of education to change lives. She earned an art degree from the University of Minnesota and used this knowledge to help build the Pappajohns' personal art collection into one of the top 200 in the world. She says that, early on, "We didn't have furniture, but we did have art on the walls."
This understanding of the transcendent power of art and education is what has fueled the Pappajohns' exceptional legacy of giving. They are among the most generous benefactors in the state of Iowa—and at the University of Iowa.
"That is what money is for," he says. "Those of us who are lucky enough to be successful and make money owe it to society to give something back."
John Pappajohn supports many efforts on the University of Iowa campus. You can support what is meaningful to you by making a gift.