Hawkeye history in the making

Sept. 4, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa — For three decades, Russ and Ann Gerdin of North Liberty, Iowa, have been extraordinarily generous friends of University of Iowa student-athletes and the UI athletics program. Now the couple have extended their Hawkeye legacy with the largest athletic scholarship gift in University history: a $5 million commitment to the UI Foundation to establish the Russ and Ann Gerdin Family Athletic Scholarship Fund, which will provide multiple scholarships each year for student-athletes in football, men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, and other men’s and women’s sports on a rotating basis.

Russ Gerdin is the founder and chief executive officer of one of Iowa’s most successful businesses, North Liberty-based trucking company Heartland Express, Inc. He and Ann are leading philanthropists in the state of Iowa. At the UI, they have supported the Russell A. and Ann Gerdin Athletic Learning Center, the UI Athletics Hall of Fame and Visitors Center, the J. Hayden Fry Center for Prostate Cancer Research, athletic scholarships, and the renovation of Kinnick Stadium.

They have also supported the Russell and Ann Gerdin American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Iowa City and have provided millions of dollars toward educational pursuits of Heartland employees and their children through their company’s family college tuition program. These are just a few examples of their philanthropic leadership regionally and nationally. In short, the Gerdins are generous, compassionate, and civic-minded. Just as important, they are also avid Iowa Hawkeye fans.

“We are so pleased to support both the academic and athletic goals of University of Iowa student-athletes,” Russ Gerdin said. “We believe that high-quality education is essential for our state’s and our society’s future prosperity and growth, and we have been Hawkeye fans for decades. With this gift, we are able to support both of these passions, and we couldn’t be happier to make this commitment in the name of our entire family.”

UI Director of Athletics Gary Barta said the Gerdins’ gift will help bring even greater success to the Iowa Hawkeyes and the University.

“When Hawkeye student-athletes commit to wearing the black and gold, we want to make sure they have every opportunity to succeed in the classroom and in competition,” Barta said. “The Gerdin family’s historic gift for athletic scholarships will help the UI provide a first-rate education, boost our recruiting efforts, and enhance our program’s financial stability. On behalf of President Sally Mason, our coaches, our staff, and especially our student-athletes, I say thank you to Russ and Ann and the entire Gerdin family.”

The Gerdins’ family includes their son, Mike Gerdin, the president of Heartland Express, and his wife, Nicole; daughter Julie Durr, events coordinator at Heartland Express, and her husband, Eric; daughter Angela Janssen and her husband, Brian, director of operations for Heartland Express; and nine (soon to be 10) grandchildren. All of them live in Solon, Iowa — and all of them are Hawkeye fans through and through.

Now, for generations to come, all of the Gerdin family will take pride in knowing that they’ve played a key role in Hawkeye athletic history.