$15 million donated to UNI teacher education by DSM businessman - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

$15 million donated to UNI teacher education by DSM businessman

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

The University of Northern Iowa is getting a major boost to the College of Education. 

Wednesday, Des Moines businessman Dick Jacobson donated $15 million to UNI.  The gift is the single largest donation in UNI's history.  It also comes as the one-year anniversary of significant budget cuts at the university approaches.  Those cuts severely affected the college, most notably the closing of Price Lab School, the place where teachers underwent classroom training.

Sarah Korte's always wanted to be a teacher.  As a Cedar Falls native, there was no question:  UNI was the school for her.

"I think you can't get much better than UNI for education if you want to be a teacher, and I've had a wonderful experience here and learned so much," Korte said.

But Korte admits the past year hasn't been easy.  Budget cuts to the teaching department took away one of its most valuable assets:  Price Lab School.  Korte did get to complete training at Price Lab, but many of her classmates did not.  Since then, the college has been trying to make do by creating partnerships with other local schools.

"I think the university's done everything they can to make the experience here at UNI just as great, if not greater, just to get students the experience in the field," Korte said.

The UNI College of Education will now be able to help those programs even more, thanks to the biggest donation in school history.  Fifteen million dollars will be invested into everything from literacy programs, to fellowships, research programs, and even scholarships designed to recruit people into the teaching profession.

"It's teaching young people to be educators and educators are what teach all the people.  If I didn't have any education, I would be nothing," donor Dick Jacobson said.

For the college that trains a quarter of Iowa's teachers, his donation is a pretty big deal.

"-We have severe shortages in Iowa in fields of special education, science, mathematics, early literacy and foreign languages.  So these are the places we want to incentivize scholarships--to have these scholarships to incentivize students to be in these critical needs areas," said Dwight Watson, dean of the UNI College of Education.

And for UNI students like Sarah Korte, the gift is just the shot in the arm the department needed to improve its already stellar reputation , maybe even erasing some of the damage done from past budget cutting measures.

"It's a blessing for me as a student to know that people, who are outside the community, believe in UNI as a school and university,but also that they believe in the students here, so we can go out and impact lives across the state of Iowa, across the nation and the world," Korte said.

This is Jacobson's third and largest gift to the College of Education. Gifts from the Jacobson Foundation to UNI have totaled $30 million and have been focused on teacher education programs.

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