Monday, July 29, 2013
Grand Sierra Resort, Reno, Nevada


Greetings to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, such wonderful friends of the University of Iowa!

Yesterday and today are very important days in my own personal life and in the life of the University of Iowa. Yesterday, I was more than honored to be initiated into the Fraternal Order of Eagles Auxiliary. Over the past five years, through the Eagles’ generous and uplifting partnership with the university, I have come to know many of the truly amazing people in the Eagles organization, and I have been inspired by the partnership we have formed to combat diabetes. I am now honored—and more than a little touched—to be truly one of you, a full-fledged member of the FOE Auxiliary.

Now, I know a little something about being a woman in a leadership position. The Eagles Auxiliary does, too. On one of her visits to the UI campus, Bettie Williams Clark said that, in the Eagles, everyone knows that it’s the Auxiliary that makes things happen. And I know that the Auxiliary is critical to making the dream of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center at the University of Iowa come true. One of the times Bettie spoke at the university, she shared a great line with us:  “Ladies, put on our lipstick, and let’s get ’er done.” Well, I’m here today to let you know that we’re “gettin’ ’er done!” As well, my university colleagues and I are here to let you know how much we appreciate the vision and generosity of the Fraternal Order of Eagles. Back home, I’ll see to it that our recognition of that vision and generosity includes specific and deserved acknowledgment of the Auxiliary.  After all, I now have a personal stake in that myself!

Today is not just about me, though. For the University of Iowa as a whole, today is an incredibly significant day, as we are able to bring our progress and our vision for the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center at the University of Iowa in person to the international membership. Looking out on this large, impressive gathering of Eagles from all across the United States and Canada, I am more than inspired by the energy, goodwill, generosity, and optimism that I am feeling right now! Thank you again for inviting me and my University of Iowa colleagues to share this special time with you.

In the past five years, the University of Iowa and the Eagles have become great partners and friends. As I have gotten to know many members of the Eagles organization, it has become clear to me that the Eagles is a deeply committed group of visionary people. You are a positive inspiration to everyone on our campus who is joining this great undertaking, and to many others—especially our diabetes patients and their families.

The University of Iowa was founded in 1847 and is just 51 years older than the Fraternal Order of Eagles. We share many things besides a long history. The UI and the Eagles share a profound commitment to the people and communities that give us our strength. “People helping people” is your simple yet powerful motto. At the University of Iowa, “Better futures for all” is a phrase we have been using in recent years to capture our commitment to public engagement. Between those two mottos, we share much common ground.  And I could not be more proud that upon that common ground, we are building a remarkable world-class diabetes research center. The Eagles and the University of Iowa share a vision for a world where diabetes is not only managed and treated, but cured. You have been and continue to be the right organization to help move us forward in our quest to cure diabetes. The synergy of our mutual vision will lead to amazing accomplishments.

You know as well as I do that diabetes has become an epidemic, threatening the health and well-being of our population and our society as never before. We hear about the devastating effects of this disease daily on the news and, most tragically, from our own friends and family. Everyone knows someone who suffers from diabetes, and many of us have people in our lives who have suffered its consequences, which could include organ transplant, blindness, amputation, or death. This is a disease that not only must be controlled, but it must be stamped out—just as American science and ingenuity stamped out smallpox and polio years ago.

I feel strongly about this, and I know you share that passion. Together, we will find a way to end a terrible epidemic. That is a tremendous legacy that we at Iowa will be proud to share with the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

Daniel Burnham, the famous Chicago architect who designed the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and co-created the ambitious Plan of Chicago in 1909, once said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized.  Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.” That perfectly captures what we are doing together. We are making no little plans, taking no half-measures. The Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center has a goal nothing short of eliminating this disease. We are not just aiming high in our hope and work; we are shooting for the pinnacle of achievement—a cure for diabetes.

Our journey together began five years ago. One of the greatest days of my presidency of the University of Iowa happened just one year into my tenure, on a beautiful September morning in 2008. On that day, I had the great honor and pleasure of welcoming Bettie Williams Clark and Dennis Gilhousen to Iowa City. In front of a big crowd on the lawn outside the university’s medical research complex, we shared the stage with representatives from the Governor’s office, from the U.S. Senate, and from your own international, state, and local Eagles offices, aeries, and auxiliaries to announce the landmark partnership between the Fraternal Order of Eagles and the University of Iowa. This partnership—a pledge of $25 million from the Eagles and $25 million from the University of Iowa—was the first step in creating the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center at the University of Iowa.

Since that wonderful day in 2008, we have celebrated several other milestones: the official naming of the Center; the first round of FOE Diabetes Research Center research grants to fund four innovative pilot projects by young investigators; the selection of the first FOE Diabetes Research Center Faculty Scholar, Dr. Christopher Adams, an endocrinologist and associate professor of internal medicine; and most recently, the hiring of our new Center Director, Dr. E. Dale Abel.

These milestones will culminate next year in 2014 when we cut the ribbon to open the innovative, state-of-the-art, groundbreaking John and Mary Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building, which will house the FOE Diabetes Research Center. The Center will be an important anchor to our revolutionary Pappajohn Biomedical Institute. In a world-class setting, scientists from across the university will break new ground by pushing and crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries. Bench-to-bedside treatments and cures will happen faster than ever before. And thanks to the Eagles’ generosity and vision, diabetes will be front and center in the innovative discovery happening in this remarkable building.

When the building is completed, you will all be very proud of one of the most innovative research facilities in the country, and everyone who steps inside will see the Eagles’ name displayed prominently. And we are very pleased at the recent good news that the FOE Diabetes Research Center will occupy an extra half-floor of the Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building beyond what was originally planned. As I look out the window of my office in Jessup Hall, I have a straight-on view of the building’s progress as it rises above the trees across the Iowa River.  Believe me, it is an inspiring sight.  I hope you all are able to visit us on campus after it is finished and be inspired, too.

Of course, we are not waiting for the building to open to attack diabetes in partnership with the Eagles. This research center is not just a building of bricks and mortar. More importantly, it is a group of dedicated researchers and physicians who have a common goal, a shared vision with the Eagles, of curing diabetes. Already, the Eagles’ name is prominently linked to the studies and reports that our scientists are creating right now—studies that delve into how good cells go bad, how the heart of an unborn baby is affected by her mother’s diabetes, how the nerves in the kidney change with diabetes.

As I mentioned before, we have already awarded FOE Diabetes Research Center grants. Our young investigators are hard at work studying such diabetes topics as how diet alters the expression of genes, metabolic factors in diabetic mothers, insulin signaling, and muscle protein signals during exercise.

Our FOE Diabetes Research Center Faculty Scholar, Dr. Christopher Adams, and his team are studying the genetic factors that control metabolism among mammals. One of their major recent discoveries is how ursolic acid, which is found in high concentrations in apple peels, helps increase muscle size and strength, which may help address the muscle atrophy common to diabetes patients.

Twenty-four UI physicians and research faculty are currently studying diabetes, and upwards of one hundred are involved in research in related fields.

Although we have been conducting diabetes research at the University of Iowa for some time, what is revolutionary is combining our current strengths with the Eagles’ vision.  As a result, we will be able to move and expand our diabetes research into the forefront of discovery. The Eagles gift is providing for state-of-the-art laboratories, funding endowed chairs and fellowships for diabetes researchers, providing seed research grants, and helping recruit more leaders and rising young stars in diabetes research. Together, we are already creating a brighter, healthier future for millions of people who suffer from diabetes, as well as the families and friends who love them.

Of course, once we open the building and the Eagles complete their incredible $25 million gift, our partnership will not be over. In fact, we will have just begun. We are in this together for the long term. The Fraternal Order of Eagles and University of Iowa partnership will forge a future where the day-to-day lives of diabetes patients will be made much better through better treatments; a future where prevention awareness and programs will reduce the numbers of victims of the disease in the first place; and ultimately a future where diabetes is, plain and simply, wiped out.  A cure is the ultimate goal, and we will get there!

Today, you will learn much more about what we have done so far and what we will be doing together in the future at the FOE Diabetes Research Center. You will hear inspiring and touching stories from families who have been affected by this devastating disease. And you will also hear from Dr. Jean Robillard, the University of Iowa’s Vice President for Medical Affairs, and other members of our research center team.

We are especially proud and delighted that joining us today in Reno is Dr. Dale Abel, our newly appointed Director of the FOE Diabetes Research Center. Dr. Abel is internationally renowned for his research on cardiac dysfunction in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and type 1 diabetes. Through Dr. Abel’s leadership and vision, we will connect basic science discoveries from the Research Center with cutting-edge clinical care and education. Dr. Abel will carry on the work established by Dr. Daryl Granner, the founding director of the FOE Diabetes Research Center. We are extraordinarily grateful to Dr. Granner for his foundational leadership, and we are fortunate that he will remain on the faculty as advisor to Dr. Abel in his capacity as Founding Director Emeriti.

I wish that one very important person could have joined us today as well. Dr. John B. Stokes, himself a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles and one of the University of Iowa’s prominent diabetes researchers, was instrumental in helping us forge this visionary partnership. Sadly, Dr. Stokes passed away much too soon, almost exactly one year ago, due to complications of a brain tumor. John’s optimism and enthusiasm were infectious, and his vision was central to what the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center is all about. His words when we announced our partnership five years ago ring even more true today.  Dr. Stokes then said, “I can’t help but be proud of the Eagles, and I’m proud to be an Eagle. I can’t think of any better partnership to exemplify what the Eagles stand for—people helping people.” I wish he were here with us today so he could tell you that himself.

I would like to close my keynote today by sharing a video with you, a video that presents some of the stories and personalities that put a human face on how significant the FOE Diabetes Research Center is and will be to so many people today and in the years to come. [Show video.]

As I have said this morning, and as the video has so dramatically and touchingly illustrated, our hope and our goal is that our efforts at the University of Iowa—through unrelenting commitment, inspiring innovation, and boundless compassion—will lead to more effective treatments for diabetes and, ultimately, the greatest of our aspirations, a cure. We, indeed, are making no little plans. You, the Eagles, are the leaders who have brought us to this wonderful day and this remarkable point in our progress. Together, we have the remarkable opportunity to change the lives of millions of men, women, and children around the globe, in our communities, and in our own families. Together, we will create even better days ahead for a healthier society.

I am honored and humbled by your foresight, determination, and generosity, and I am grateful for this chance to express my appreciation to you personally. Let me close with the words that the video shared with you so simply and profoundly—thank you.