CONTACT: MARK JENNINGS
Senior Development Officer
UI Foundation News
500 Levitt Center for University Advancement
Iowa City IA 52242
Phone: (319) 335-3305 or (800) 648-6973
Release: Oct. 31, 2001
EDITORS: Please see next-to-last paragraph of this release for information
about past major gifts to UI Athletics, and note that jpg files of the original
letter from Nile Kinnick to Esther Smith are attached to electronic versions
of this release.
Smithsfriends of Hawkeye legend Nile Kinnick--leave major gift to
CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa men's and women's athletics will benefit
equally from a $1.78 million bequest to the UI Foundation from the estate
of the late Roland and Esther Smith, owners of Smith's Cafe, a longtime Iowa
City fixture, and friends of legendary Hawkeye athlete Nile Kinnick.
Foundation officials said this is the largest gift ever made to UI women's
athletics, and the largest unrestricted gift given to UI men's athletics.
According to UI Foundation President Michael New, gifts such as this, where
the donors have left the specific use of the funds to the discretion of the
UI program to which it was directed, are exceptionally valuable and offer
great flexibility to meet needs and opportunities as they arise.
Bob Bowlsby, director of athletics at the UI, said of the Smith bequest,
"We expect that up to half of these funds will be placed in scholarship
endowments for women and men. This will provide support for our program in
perpetuity and will keep the Smiths' name close to the Hawkeyes forever. Additionally,
we will look for future projects that are consistent with Mr. and Mrs. Smith's
interests in the athletics programs, and that will provide a visible and long-lasting
benefit to our student athletes.
"Roland and Esther Smith were tremendous friends of our university
and our athletics program," Bowlsby added. "They are missed, but
their generosity will serve our program long after those who knew them personally
New said of the Smiths' gift, "Roland and Esther Smith's generosity
and foresight in planning this major gift to the UI shows their deep devotion
to the community and to all UI students -- not to mention their love for UI
athletics. We are very grateful for their bequest, and for their trust in
the University of Iowa Foundation."
The Smiths employed many UI students at their downtown café, which
was in business from 1921 to the 1960s (though the Smiths sold it to new owners
in the early 1940s). The couple gave away countless free meals to students
during the Depression years and were consistent and generous donors to the
UIespecially the athletics programeven though neither Roland nor
Esther Smith attended the University of Iowa. Due to their longtime generosity,
and in their honor, the employee lunchroom in the Levitt Center for University
Advancement, where the UI Foundation has its offices, is named Smith's Commons,
and is decorated in a historical Iowa City motif.
Bob Sierk, president of Firstar Bank in Iowa City, knew both Roland and
Esther Smith, and Firstar Bank administered the Smith trust. He said, "The
Smiths loved our community, our university, and our Hawkeyes. It certainly
is fitting with their interests that they designated this money for the UI."
Firstar Bank has also passed on to the UI Foundation a letter, found among
Esther Smith's papers, that was written by the Smiths' friend, Nile Kinnick,
the late Iowa football star and scholar. Kinnick wrote the letter to Esther
Smith during WW II, when he was stationed in the U.S. and undergoing military
flight training. He thanked Esther for her gift of brownies and remarked,
"[Give me] the state of Iowa, where all the people are straightforward
and friendly... there will come a day when I'll sit in your living room again
and munch your delicious brownies, when we'll drive to C.R. in the rain or
out to the I.C. Country Club for dinner. That will be 'when the lights come
on again all over the world.'" It is expected that Kinnick's letter to
Esther Smith will eventually be publicly displayed in the UI Athletics' Hall
of Fame and Visitors Center, which is under construction west of Mormon Trek
Road in Iowa City.
"It seems that this letter should have its appropriate place with UI
memorabilia because of Nile Kinnick's place in the University of Iowa's history."
Sierk said, adding that Kinnick worked part-time at the bank (then First National
Bank) while attending the UI.
Prior to the Smith estate gift, the largest gifts made to Hawkeye athletics
were Roy Karro's $3 million contribution for the UI Athletics Hall of Fame,
currently under construction; $1.64 million from the late Roy J. Carver Sr.,
for Carver-Hawkeye arena; $1.1 million from the late Christian G. "Dutch"
Schmidt and Julia Schmidt to fund a variety of athletic scholarships; and
$1 million from Richard O. Jacobson for the Jacobson Athletic Building. The
largest donation made specifically to UI women's athletics was $250,000 from
John and Peg Slusher, to endow a scholarship for the women's softball catcher
The UI Foundation is the preferred channel for private contributions to
all areas of the university. Foundation staff work with alumni and friends
to generate funds for scholarships, professorships, facilities improvements,
equipment purchases, research and other UI initiatives.
For image of Kinnick's letter, click on following web address: