Bequest contributes to major fundraising campaign

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Thursday, March 12, 2015
Donors Bill and Marilyn Van Sant sitting in a sunroom.
Bill and Marilyn Van Sant. Photo courtesy of the UI Foundation.

R. William “Bill” Van Sant and Marilyn J. Van Sant, of Bayfield, Wisconsin, have established a $3 million bequest for the University of Iowa College of Engineering that will have an impact across the college, supporting scholarships, faculty, and innovation.

This gift provides $500,000 to establish the R. William and Marilyn Van Sant Mechanical Engineering Scholarship, $1.5 million to create the R. William and Marilyn Van Sant Chair in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, and $1 million to establish the R. William and Marilyn Van Sant Engineering Innovation Fund.

Born and raised in Iowa, Bill Van Sant attended the UI, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1966 and his master’s degree in 1967, both in mechanical engineering.

UI College of Engineering Dean Alec Scranton says, “We are proud of Bill Van Sant’s many accomplishments since graduating from Iowa, and his successful career provides inspiration for students today. Bill and Marilyn’s generosity and vision will enable us to continue educating well-prepared graduates, attract top faculty and—through the innovation fund—meet new challenges and leverage new opportunities.”

Bill Van Sant received the Hancher-Finkbine Medallion, the UI’s highest undergraduate honor, in 1965. He served for 27 years in roles of increasing responsibility at Deere & Company, where he last served as corporate vice president of manufacturing and engineering and an officer of the company. Bill subsequently was appointed president, COO and director of the Cessna Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas, and later became president, CEO, and director of Blount Inc., in Montgomery, Alabama.

Following his service at Blount, he was appointed chairman and CEO, and a director of Lukens Inc.—the nation’s oldest continuously operating steel company and the third largest producer of plate steel. During his career, Bill was a long-time member of the National Association of Manufacturers executive committee, and also a trustee of the Manufacturers’ Alliance for Productivity and Innovation. He currently serves on the boards of two public companies, Graco Corp and H. B. Fuller Company, in addition to serving as senior advisor to two private equity firms. He is also a member of the college's Distinguished Engineering Alumni Academy.

“This visionary gift from Bill and Marilyn Van Sant will allow the UI College of Engineering to continue to prepare forward-thinking, innovative engineers for generations to come,” says Lynette Marshall, president and CEO of the UI Foundation. “Thanks in part to the Van Sants, we have reached $51 million toward the college's $55 million goal in our For Iowa. Forever More. campaign.”

“I was committed to giving back to the UI College of Engineering the moment that I walked into dean Hunter Rouse’s office, as the college’s newest student, in the spring of 1963,” says Bill Van Sant. “Following that warm welcome by the dean and his staff, and during my tenure as a student, I quickly learned to appreciate the superior quality of education that I received, and to value the unselfish and unending high level of support and nurturing that was given by the college’s outstanding team of faculty and academic staff."

He adds, “Without question, my decision to enroll in the College of Engineering marked a profound transformative event in my life’s journey. The educational experiences that I gained significantly influenced both the professional and personal achievements that I’ve enjoyed during my diverse career. In addition, Marilyn and I have enjoyed our continued association with the College of Engineering, now spanning several decades. In recognition of the many invaluable gifts that we’ve received from the college, we are extremely pleased to demonstrate our deep gratitude by granting this multi-faceted gift to the College of Engineering. We are honored to provide funding to help perpetuate the unique and standard setting teaching and learning experiences that are hallmarks of the college.”

About the UI Foundation

The UI Foundation’s mission is to advance the UI and fulfill the aspirations of those it serves. The university’s dedicated contributors fund a broad array of needs, from student scholarships, breakthrough research, and life-changing health care to innovative facilities, community outreach, and global education.

The UI and UI Foundation are conducting a historic comprehensive $1.7 billion fundraising campaign, For Iowa. Forever More: The Campaign for the University of Iowa, which will secure the UI’s status as a world-class institution for future generations.

The UI Foundation is the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the University of Iowa. For more information about the foundation and the campaign, visit the foundation website.