The Presidents - Marvin Pomerantz
Marvin Alvin Pomerantz’s service to the Board of Regents is unique among the 21 individuals to serve as president. He was the only president to serve non-consecutive terms, serving as the 12th and 14th president between 1987 and 1996.
He was appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in 1987 to fill the unexpired term of President John McDonald. Pomerantz was immediately elected president of the Board and served as such until 1993, when he was reappointed but not confirmed by the Iowa Senate. Following a two-year absence from the Board, Pomerantz was appointed to fill the final year of President Marvin Berenstein’s presidential term, after Berenstein’s six-year Board appointment had expired. All told, Pomerantz served as Board president for seven years - the entirety of his time on the Board. He is the lone Board president with this distinction.
Born August 6, 1930 in Des Moines, Pomerantz was the eighth of nine children born to Alex and Minnie Pomerantz, who came to America from Poland. His father started a business that reconditioned used container bags and enlisted his nine children to help build it into a successful operation. Pomerantz worked for the family business from a very young age and continued to help expand his father’s business through high school and college. He completed a bachelor’s degree in commerce at the University of Iowa in less than four years despite his heavy involvement in the family business.
After college, Pomerantz married Rose Lee and started a family in Des Moines. Marvin and Rose had four daughters and built a home south of Grand Avenue in 1962.
Pomerantz worked for the family business until 1958 when his father passed away and left the company to Marvin and his eight siblings. Pomerantz used his piece to start Great Plains Bag Corporation, a plastic bag manufacturer, and Mid-America Group, an industrial and commercial real estate developer. Pomerantz also founded Gaylord Container Corporation and served as executive vice president of International Harvester.
With all of his business and personal success, Pomerantz valued the education he received at the University of Iowa and gave generously to the university. He was a member of the UI Foundation Board of Directors and co-chair of the campaign that resulted in the construction of Carver-Hawkeye Arena in 1983. Pomerantz already was a UI Distinguished Alumni Award recipient when Governor Branstad appointed him to the Board of Regents in 1987.
Pomerantz noted many times that quality undergraduate education was the Regents’ top priority under him. Despite budget cuts, Pomerantz was adamant in not cutting faculty positions, holding that top faculty is the best avenue to quality undergraduate education. He presided over the successful three-year, double digit faculty salary increase from 1988-91, designed to bring faculty salaries at Iowa’s public universities in line with peers.
Following his time as Board President, Pomerantz chaired Iowa’s Commission on Educational Excellence for the 21st Century to study the state's elementary and secondary schools and continued his philanthropic endeavors. His numerous gifts to the UI resulted in Pomerantz Center, which houses career and orientation activities, and the Pomerantz Family Pavilion at UIHC. The UI Tippie College of Business Library is named in his honor, as well.
The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, which honors the achievements of outstanding leaders who have accomplished remarkable successes in spite of adversity, welcomed Pomerantz to their ranks in 2001. The UI bestowed an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to him in 2007.
Upon his death in August 2008, UI President Sally Mason said “The University of Iowa would truly not be what it is today without Marvin Pomerantz's dedication to our public universities and his love for our institution. He was an example and inspiration to students, faculty, and staff alike.”