Distinguished Alumni Award

Jane Downer

2015 Service Award

Robert "Bob" Downer, 61BA, 63JD, and Jane Downer are longtime advocates and ambassadors of the University of Iowa who have championed higher education, medicine, research, and the arts for decades.

An accomplished attorney at Iowa City's Meardon, Sueppel & Downer law firm, Bob Downer began his UI service as student body president in 1960-61 and never stopped contributing to his university's greater good. He is a highly respected leader in the legal community, with honors that include the Iowa State Bar Association's 2001 Award of Merit and longtime membership in the Iowa Legal Aid Hall of Fame. He also served as director of the Iowa Law School Foundation from 2000 to 2012 and recently completed his second and final six-year term on the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, this past spring—one of only a few regents in history to earn reappointment.

"I soon learned that service would enhance my own quality of life. The more you do for others, the more your own life is enriched."

Bob Downer's charitable legacy extends even further to include service as a member of the UI Health Care Board of Advisors and the UI Research Foundation Board of Directors, and he explains his community commitment through wisdom passed down from his maternal grandfather.

"Even though our family was not wealthy, I was raised with the belief that we were very fortunate—and that this good fortune carried with it an obligation to help others," he says. "I soon learned that service would enhance my own quality of life. The more you do for others, the more your own life is enriched."

Jane Downer has proven instrumental in her volunteerism with the Hancher Guild and its showcase, increasing the gift shop's annual profits to more than $120,000 in support of educational programs for children. She has also given generous time to activities benefiting UI Children's Hospital and as co-chair of "Arts & Minds: Building on Iowa's Creative Legacy," a $30-million campaign to rebuild the University of Iowa's flood-damaged arts campus, including Hancher Auditorium, the School of Music, and the School of Art and Art History.

"I was fortunate to meet Jane Downer in 1997, and I have been inspired ever since by her contributions," says Charles Swanson, 75BBA, 76MBA, Hancher's executive director. "Her passion for Hancher and the University of Iowa is contagious, and, because of her hard work, we have had many years of success with the showcase. I am truly grateful."

Adds Gail Agrawal, dean of the UI College of Law: "Bob and Jane are two of our most accomplished alumni and biggest fans. They are not only deserving of this award, but their receipt of it is long overdue."

Through their altruism and involvement, Robert and Jane Downer have done their part to preserve the University of Iowa's status as a world-class institution and actively demonstrate that "the purpose of life is a life with purpose."

The Downers are life members of the UI Alumni Association's Old Capitol Club and members of the UI Foundation's Presidents Club.

Jane Downer Volunteer Highlights
  • Hancher Auditorium Advisory Committee, liaison
  • Hancher Guild, board of directors
  • UI Children's Hospital Council member

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

An Iowa Writers' Workshop alumna uncovers a colorful piece of local history when she renovates her 19th century home.

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.