The accounting student whose name is attached to the University of Iowa’s business college was first admitted there on a probationary basis.
A Belle Plaine, Iowa native, Henry Tippie grew up milking cows on the family farm, attended a one-room rural schoolhouse and made it to the university using the GI Bill after serving in World War II. He ended up excelling academically, graduating earlier than expected in 1949 — missing only one class, because he was sick and overslept — and building a successful business career on Wall Street.
The longtime UI donor and namesake of the Henry B. Tippie College of Business died Sunday at his home in Texas. He was 95.
Tippie enlisted in the Army Air Forces at age 17, serving as chief clerk for medical administration with the 20th Army Air Force headquarters while in Guam. The GI Bill made it possible for him to get the college degree that he otherwise would have been unable to afford.
“I’ve always felt that having the education there at the university did an awful lot to make a lot of things possible for me,” Tippie said in a 1999 Des Moines Register article.
He joined a small communications firm called John Rollins and Associates in 1953. By 2018, he was ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate its growth to a major pest control company and 50 years on Wall Street.
The university named the business college after Tippie in 1999 following his $30 million donation.
His continued financial contributions have been used to fund 900 student scholarships, several faculty positions, the creation of “Pat’s Diner” at UI — named for his wife of over six decades, who he met at a diner — a 175-seat auditorium and student lounge at the business college, and other initiatives.
The current dean of the UI business college, Amy Kristof-Brown, describes the man who she visited for the last time in-person in July as engaging, humble and soft-spoken. He was skilled at asking insightful questions that got to the “heart of the matter,” she said. While she was working as interim dean, Tippie would send her short notes of encouragement.
“Every time he would talk to me, he would say, you know, ‘I think you’re doing a great job’ and ‘I think the college is in good hands.’ It’s just very affirming, which is truly a gift, to have somebody who has that kind of confidence in you and tells you about it,” she said.
Tippie was active in his business and university relations up until the end of his life.
“Whenever he was in town, he would always come by (the business school),” Kristof-Brown said. “And there was nothing more fun than watching him walk through the halls, and having students recognize him and go up and take selfies with him.”
When he was still able to travel, Tippie would meet for lunch with every faculty member he supported. Kristof-Brown says he was always interested in what faulty were working on —not in a “I want you to do this, or I want you to do that,” way, but a “tell me about what you’re doing, I ‘m really interested, I’m so impressed,” way.
“He was engaged in that kind of way, which was really quite a gift,” she said.
Cleo Krejci covers education for the Iowa City Press-Citizen. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.