John Pappajohn emigrated from Greece at the age of nine months. He grew up in Mason City, Iowa. His father died when he was 16 years old…and it changed his world. He worked his way through college and alternated working and attending school with his brothers. It took him six years to get his degree. He attended Mason City Junior College (now North Iowa Area Community College) and then graduated with a BSC degree in business from the University of Iowa in 1952. He did not interview for a job. He wanted to own his own business. He established an insurance agency after graduation from college and subsequently organized and became Chairman of the Board of Guardsman Insurance Investors, a public insurance holding company that owned Guardsman Life.
In 1969, Mr. Pappajohn organized Equity Dynamics, Inc., a financial consulting entity and Pappajohn Capital Resources, a venture capital firm in Des Moines, Iowa. He was one of the early venture capitalists. Since this time, Mr. Pappajohn has been involved in more than 100 start-ups, more than 50 IPOs and has served as a Director in more than 40 public companies. Many of these firms remain in Mr. Pappajohn’s corporate portfolio. By establishing these firms, Mr. Pappajohn has contributed much to the development of biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and other innovations.
In the fall of 1996, Mr. Pappajohn established the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers at five Iowa universities and colleges – Drake University, Iowa State University, North Iowa Area Community College, The University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa. He has funded the various Centers for more than $30 million. These centers have helped create and launch more than 1000 new companies as of 2012. Although each entrepreneurial center has defined its own mission and serves the state in the manner consistent with its particular strengths, each Center has the same ultimate purpose: to enhance the effectiveness of Iowa’s entrepreneurs.
Mr. Pappajohn and his wife, Mary, have gifted more than $100 million to various philanthropic causes including the five entrepreneurial centers mentioned above, the John Pappajohn Business Building at the University of Iowa Business School, the Pappajohn Pavilion at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, the John and Mary Pappajohn Clinical Cancer Center and the Pappajohn Biomedical Institute Building at the University of Iowa. In 2001, he funded the NIACC Pappajohn Business Building in Mason City, IA. In 1997, he and his wife, Mary, funded a $5 million John and Mary Pappajohn Scholarship Fund for ethnic, disadvantaged and minority students. More than $3.5 million in scholarships have been granted. He and his wife committed $4 million to help finance the John and Mary Pappajohn Higher Education Center, a collaborative of seven universities and colleges in the state of Iowa.
He has been the recipient of many awards including: Horatio Alger recipient in 1995, Board of Directors Horatio Alger Association; past Trustee Pine Manor College, Boston, MA; since 1988, a member of the Anatolia College Board of Trustees, Thessaloniki, Greece; University of Iowa Foundation Board of Trustees, Iowa City; University of Iowa Board of Visitors; University of Iowa Business School Finkbine Award 2004; University of Iowa Homecoming Honored Guest 2002 and 2010; University of Iowa 1996 Recipient Distinguished Alumni Award for Service; 1993 Oscar D. Schmidt Iowa Business Leadership Award from the University of Iowa College of Business; Iowa Business Leader of the Year 1992; Brotherhood Award from the Iowa Region National Conference of Christians and Jews 1997; inducted into the Iowa Hall of Fame 1996; Beta Gamma Sigma Medallion for Entrepreneur of the Year 1997; over 20 year association with the JF Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.; former member of the Advisory Board, appointed by President Ronald Reagan; reappointed by President George Bush; presently active member of the National Committee of the Performing Arts; Member Trustees Council and Co-Chair Collectors Committee for the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Director of the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D. C.; Member of the National Committee for the Whitney Museum, New York; Honorary Trustee Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA; named by Art News Magazine as one of the top 200 art collectors in the world from 1997-2012; first Iowan to be awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award; Meredith Wilson Heritage Award, 1998; Central Iowa Business Hall of Achievement, 1999; Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipient in 2000; 33rd Degree Mason Shriner 2003; Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award 1997; Leadership 100 Board of Directors; Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Council member; Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Executive Committee 2001-2004; Greek Orthodox Archon Award 2000.
Mr. Pappajohn lives in Des Moines, Iowa with his wife, Mary. They have one daughter, Ann Vassiliou.