The generous individuals and organizations below enable the JPEC to provide a comprehensive program in entrepreneurship education for students and community members. 

View more information on the JPEC's generous supporters below, along with the opportunity for you to consider a contribution.

R.J. McElroy

R.J. McElroy

R. J. “Mac” McElroy enriched the lives of thousands of people in northeast Iowa as a pioneering radio broadcaster and as founder of the Black Hawk Broadcasting Company. The company grew to include radio and TV stations, the most prominent of which was Waterloo’s NBC affiliate, KWWL Television. McElroy’s final gift to the community was the establishment of the R. J. McElroy Trust, a charitable foundation designed to benefit deserving young people. Since 1965, the McElroy Trust has helped thousands of children and youth through grants and scholarships in northeast Iowa. 

Contributions from the R. J. McElroy Trust provide students with 24/7 access to physical incubator space upon admittance to the R. J. McElroy Student Business Incubator (SBI) program, fostering students' exploration of business ideas with the assistance of JPEC staff, business and consulting services and other professional resources. Visit the R. J. McElroy Trust website for more information.

T. Wayne Davis

T. Wayne Davis

T. Wayne Davis, founder of Control-o-fax Corporation and developer of the Control-o-fax system, was inducted posthumously into the Iowa Business Hall of Fame. Not only was Mr. Davis a consummate entrepreneur, but his accounting innovation, the Control-o-Fax billing system, aided hundreds of small firms and professionals to gain control of their accounting and billing systems, enhancing their own prospects for financial success. Davis was also an active proponent of his community, tirelessly contributing his time, energy, and money to numerous causes, both in the community at large and at the University of Northern Iowa. A $1 million gift was contributed in his memory for the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center and for an academic program in entrepreneurship at UNI.

Therese Stevens

Therese Stevens, a 2012 UNI alumna, embodies the transformative influence of the RJ McElroy Student Business Incubator (SBI) program at JPEC. Despite starting with a clear career goal in Public Relations and Spanish, fate led her to an unexpected entrepreneurial journey.

Originally aiming work with a NY PR firm, Therese’s job with an SBI student business altered her path. After her employer was acquired, she co-founded SEO Solutions, later merging it with another startup and selling the resulting firm to Mudd Advertising. Known for propelling startups to growth, Therese became COO at BraceAbility and most recently was CEO at JW Home Improvement.

Remaining tied to JPEC, Therese’s monthly consultations, board membership, mentoring, and guest speaking showcase her commitment. Alongside husband Grant, a Farmers State Bank Mortgage Underwriter and avid golfer, they donated $30,000 to JPEC. This donation will continue to aid student entrepreneurs with dedicated office spaces, expert resources, workshops, and funding access. Suite 13H in the Student Business Incubator is named in their honor, symbolizing their enduring impact.

grant and therese

Gary and Patsy Roling

Gary Roling, a 1976 UNI Accounting alumna, steered his career journey towards entrepreneurship by establishing and managing J-Tec Associates in Cedar Rapids, a venture he nurtured until its sale in 2021. Through this endeavor, he cultivated a passion for fostering startup enterprises. Evidenced by his unwavering commitment, Gary recently made a generous $50,000 contribution across multiple sectors within the university: JPEC, College of Business Dean’s Fund, Accounting Alumni Campaign Fund, and the Annual Fund. This remarkable gift, his largest to date, aligns with his 41-year tradition of supporting UNI.

With an enduring legacy of supporting student entrepreneurship, Gary’s contributions echo throughout the university. In recognition of his gesture, Suite 13CC in the Student Business Incubator will be named in the honor of Gary and Patsy Roling. 


Curbtender, Inc., in honor of Laurie Watje

The Curbtender was the first commercially produced ASL in the US Waste Industry. Developed in the early 1970’s, it quickly became the benchmark for performance. Its 2,000 pound lift arm capacity and 1,000 pound per cubic yard compaction rating set itself above the rest. In 2017, the company renamed this flagship product the PowerPak. The PowerPak is now equipped with an industry-best 5 year standard warranty.

In 2017, the company purchased the assets of Wayne Industrial Holdings LLC and named Kevin Watje as the Chief Executive Officer of Curbtender Inc. 

Laurie Watje, wife of Kevin Watje, served as the Director of UNI JPEC for 17 years prior to her retirement in early 2024. The Laurie Watje incubator suite is named in her honor. 


Incubator Suite Sponsors

The R. J. McElroy Student Business Incubator is an educational learning laboratory designed to inspire and educate students interested in entrepreneurship and small business. the sbj offers space for individual or group work, along with event accommodations

Founding Sponsors:

Kathy McCoy
H. D. "Ike" Leighty
R. J. McElroy Trust
Peterson Genetics, Inc.
Ross Christensen Family
Young Plumbing & Heating Co.
Central Iowa Power Cooperative
Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute
Jorgen and Camilla Heidemann
Robert and Margaret Bradford
Grinnell State Bank

Current Sponsors:

R. J. McElroy Trust
Eric and Kelli Schaefer
MidAmerican Energy
Farmers State Bank
Bill Berger
Greg and Gwen Jass



Annual Scholarships 

Annual scholarships provide the means for a students to follow their passion while investing fully in the growth and development of their business and/or career path. Our Annual scholarships are provided by the following sponsors.

John and Mary Pappajohn
Chad and Laura Chandlee
Grinnell State Bank

UNI Student Incubator Endowed Fund in honor of Laurie Watje

The UNI Student Incubator Endowed Fund in honor of Laurie Watje recognizes Laurie Watje's outstanding contributions during her 16 years of service to UNI’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC). This fund aims to make a lasting impact on the lives of students in need. With your support, this fund will continue to fuel innovation through competition awards, and provide crucial support and scholarships to the JPEC community. Your generosity can play a pivotal role in shaping the future of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Your financial commitment makes a difference to student entrepreneurs.

Interested in supporting JPEC programming?