Alumni Couple Invest in Future Teachers Through Scholarship

For Rich and Dee James, giving back is about making a difference in someone else’s future. And there’s perhaps no better way for them to do that than to support the Our Tomorrow campaign and an institution that holds so much meaning for them. 

Both graduating with education degrees in 1969 (Dee with early childhood, Rich with math), the couple say their connection to their alma mater is deep and varied. For one, they met at UNI at a campus social and have been married ever since.

“The fact that we are financially able to give back is because of our education,” Dee said. “And we do so in part because ‘our tomorrows’ of our 56 years together started at UNI.”

Rich said the Campanile is symbolic of his relationship with UNI. He explained that his father was born in 1910 and raised in a house that occupied the present day location of the Campanile. (The land was sold as the university expanded the campus to the west and they remained longtime residents of Cedar Falls.) His mother graduated from Iowa State Teachers College in 1933 with a teaching certificate. Rich and his two brothers, a daughter and son-in-law, a niece and a nephew would follow in her footsteps, earning UNI degrees. 

Dee also had a strong, early connection to UNI. At 13, she accompanied her older sister on a campus visit and decided then that she would earn a teaching degree at UNI.

Rich and Dee James with Rachel Wohlgemuth

For these reasons and more, the couple felt a duty to give back to support education students. Fifteen years ago, they established a scholarship to help bring the promise of a UNI education within reach for future teachers. The Rich and Dee James Endowed Math Education Scholarship has since supported more than a dozen high-achieving math education students who are Iowa natives.

“Helping a student with their dreams is important to us,” Dee said. “And I think that a stranger, somebody who doesn't know them, helping them hopefully says something about the importance of an education from UNI.”

Rachel Wohlgemuth is finishing up her semester of student teaching before moving to Mankato, MN to become a middle school math educator. Wohlgemuth said she has been “blessed” to receive the James’ scholarship multiple years while she was in school, and she even got a chance to have coffee with them and discuss their experiences at UNI. 

“It was incredibly meaningful to have someone invest in my education,” Wohlgemuth said. “Rich and Dee are incredible people.”

“Our support for UNI is driven by the quality of its programs and its leadership in areas like teacher preparation,” Rich said. “These programs are making a tremendous difference in the community, the state and the country as a whole.