Philanthropic couple pledges $2 million to new building

Elizabeth Polsdofer

The agriculture pavilion project for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences gained a key amount of money needed for construction when they received a $2 million donation from Jeff and Deb Hansen. 

The Hansens run one of the state’s most successful agricultural businesses, donate to charities and food banks across Iowa, support projects in their hometown of Iowa Falls, and believe in supporting in higher education in agriculture and life sciences.

Jen Holtkamp, communications director at one of the businesses the Hansens own, Iowa Select Farms, described the Hansens as “a philanthropic couple” and “very generous.”

The Hansen family donated 600,000 servings of pork valued at $156,000 last December to food banks and pantries across Iowa. A hospital in Iowa Falls received a $1.5 million gift to help begin its planning and construction. Last May, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Iowa accepted $70,000 from Jeff and Deb Hansen to aid in finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma and other related diseases.

In addition to the charities, the Hansen’s have given several gifts to agricultural organizations and higher education. Funding scholarships and coaching endowments is not an unusual event for the Hansen family, but this time, they decided to take their contributions to Iowa State’s agriculture and life sciences programs up to the next level.

Because of their $2 million pledge to the pavilion project, the Hansens name will be given to the pavilion. The total cost of the pavilion is estimated at $7 million, with $6 million already raised from the Hansens and other private donors.

“We are happy to support this project, which will enhance teaching in animal sciences and agriculture,” Holtkamp said on behalf of the Hansen family. “We employ many ISU graduates in the areas of production management, business, information technology, agronomy/nutrient management and veterinary medicine — it’s a winning partnership and we’re happy to give back.”

Maynard Hogberg, professor and chairman of animal science, said the planning for the pavilion has been in the making for about five years. Since his arrival nine years ago, Hogberg has listed the building of the pavilion as something instrumental and essential to a strong college of agriculture and life sciences.

“We had talked to [the Hansens] several times about [donating to the pavilion],” Hogberg said. “I think it came down to the fact the business was getting very profitable last year and they had the money and saw this as being a wise investment on something that was positive toward agriculture, and looking at this as a long term ‘we need to create a more positive image on agriculture, and if we can do that this would be a good project to be involved with.’”

The completion of the pavilion is estimated for fall 2013. A gift of $500 will buy a seat overlooking the arena of the new pavilion, and $200,000 will build a classroom with the donor’s name on it.

“This contribution to Iowa State is just one of the many Jeff and Deb Hansen and Iowa Select Farms have made to support local and statewide projects that make Iowa a better place to live,” Holtkamp said.