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.


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