Distinguished Alumni Award


Brian Janssen

2014 Friend Award

Mike and Nicole Gerdin, 93BA, 94MA, Julie and Eric Durr, and Angela and Brian Janssen are sustaining a Gerdin family tradition of visionary philanthropy that helps change lives.

This tradition began more than three decades ago when, in 1980, Russ and Ann Gerdin—founders of Heartland Express, a nationwide company specializing in logistics and transportation—made their first gift to the UI. Since then, the Gerdin family has been a force for good in both the university and the community.

Russ and Ann Gerdin instilled the importance of philanthropy in their three children—Mike, Julie, and Angela—from an early age, and the power of this lesson is evident throughout the UI campus today.

The Gerdins established the Russell A. and Ann Gerdin Athletic Learning Center, which provides academic resources to 650 student-athletes each year, and the Russ and Ann Gerdin Family Athletic Scholarship Fund, which helps Hawkeye student-athletes who demonstrate excellence in academics, athletics, and community service. The family also recently contributed toward the construction of the UI Football Operations Center, set to open this fall. In addition, the Gerdins have supported the UI Athletics Hall of Fame and Visitors Center, which enriches the experiences of many loyal Hawkeyes who visit campus.

The family's passion for giving also extends to UI health care. In memory of Russ Gerdin, who died in 2011, the family helps advance the work of the J. Hayden Fry Center for Prostate Cancer Research. They also provide a home-like atmosphere for cancer patients and their families at the Russell and Ann Gerdin American Cancer Society Hope Lodge.

Most recently, the family made a $12 million donation—the largest gift received to date—for the UI Children's Hospital building campaign to help create a healthier future for the children of Iowa and beyond.

Like their parents—who received the UI Alumni Association's Distinguished Friend of the University award in 2006—the Gerdin children and their spouses all are active members of the community, volunteering their time and talents for numerous civic and charitable organizations.

Mike Gerdin is the chairman, president, and CEO of Heartland Express, and he provides valuable leadership on the Henry B. Tippie College of Business board of visitors. His sister Julie Durr, an events coordinator at Heartland, has enriched the community by donating her time to the Iowa Children's Museum board of directors, the Iowa Arts Festival, and the Solon Education Foundation board of directors. Angela is an enthusiastic and dedicated volunteer for the various Gerdin-supported projects on the UI campus.

"Mike, Julie, Angie, and their respective families (they have 12 children among them) are all remarkable in their work ethic, their dedication to family, and their resolve to make the University of Iowa one of this nation's best medical research and clinical care programs," say friends E.J. and Joanne Buresh. "The family continues to have a profound impact upon the quality of life for Iowans."

Through their loyalty and strong-rooted belief in giving back, Mike and Nicole Gerdin, Julie and Eric Durr, and Angela and Brian Janssen are helping Iowa shine.

The Gerdins are members 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.


Related Content

The inaugural event showcased artistic collaboration happening on campus and beyond.

The UI student-founded nonprofit has launched endeavors like the 10,000 Hours Show, Mission Creek Festival, and Quire.

With the start of a new year upon us, it's time to look back at your favorite University of Iowa stories from 2018. Here are Iowa Magazine's top 10 most-read articles of the year: The Nomadic Life (spring 2018) Hawkeye football favorite Paki O'Meara (10BA) finds ultimate freedom in backpacking around the world, taking photos that inspire a sense of wonder. PHOTO COURTESY PAKI O'MEARA Kinnick at 100 (summer 2018) This past summer marked two historically significant dates for Hawkeye fans: the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nile Kinnick (40BA), and the 75th anniversary of his tragic death. In memory of Iowa's favorite son, scholar, and Ironman, we look back on his life and legacy. Ahead of the Game (spring 2018) The Iowa football team becomes the first in the nation to equip the majority of its players with a state-of-the-art new helmet designed to improve player safety. PHOTO: MARK STASTNY Hollywood U (fall 2018) Alumni success in TV and film shines the spotlight on Iowa's? flourishing screenwriting program. ILLUSTRATION: FABIEN GILBERT / ARTISTIQUE INTERNATIONAL Mountain Roots (spring 2018) Nearly 80 years ago, an unlikely UI mountain-climbing club emerged from the cornfields of Iowa to become one of the most active in the world. Now the next generation of outdoorsmen continue in their Hawkeye family's footsteps. PHOTO COURTESY EBERT FAMILY The Secrets of Sleep (fall 2018) UI doctors and researchers work to shine light on the third of our lives we spend in the dark. Illustration: John Emigh Fry's Dream Team (fall 2018) FRYFest honors Hayden Fry's legendary 1983 coaching tree. PHOTO: UI ATHLETICS Going the Distance (spring 2018) UI-trained dentist Deb Carneol (92DDS) completes seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. PHOTO: MARK CONLON/WORLDMARATHONCHALLENGE.COM At 105, Our Oldest Hawkeye? (spring 2018) Catherine Shaw Shors (35BSC), who earned her business degree from Iowa more than eight decades ago, celebrated a milestone birthday in May. 1936 HAWKEYE YEARBOOK A Heroic Homecoming (spring 2018) Avengers: Infinity War director Joe Russo (92BA) receives a superhero's welcome at his alma mater. PHOTOS: Justin Torner

The mission of Senior College is to provide high-quality educational opportunities for seniors.

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.