History of the FOE DRC

The Fraternal Order of Eagles partnership with The University of Iowa to establish the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center is truly historic—both organizations—and a vision that came to fruition through the work of many individuals.

When the center was formally established in September 2008, it was the first time The University of Iowa had partnered with a nearly million-person donor organization with a worldwide network of caring individuals. For the Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE), it is the largest organization-wide project ever undertaken in the group’s long history of giving to health-related causes.

The story of the FOE and UI partnership begins at the 2006 convention in Grinnell, Iowa, when then Grand Worthy President-elect Bill Loffer proclaimed to John Stokes, MD, a physician-scientist studying and treating kidney disease with UI Health Care, and member of the Iowa City Aerie #695, that the Eagles should fund a diabetes research center.

The timing couldn’t have been better. The University was planning the UI Institute for Biomedical Discovery—now the Pappajohn Institute—to house high-quality, high-reward interdisciplinary research for complex illnesses like diabetes.

Dr. Stokes connected the Eagles and the University. At that meeting, Loffer suggested the Eagles could raise millions of dollars for research in diabetes, which affects approximately one in three of the organization’s members. In turn, University officials suggested that the Eagles’ contribution could fully support innovative diabetes research if it were to be housed in the John and Mary Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building, which was being built with state, federal, University, and private funds.

Additional meetings with UI physicians, scientists, and patients helped the Eagles Board of Grand Trustees agree to a membership vote on establishing a partnership with The University of Iowa, including a commitment to raise $25 million by the end of 2013.

At the 2008 international convention in Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. Stokes and Dennis Gilhousen, co-chair of The Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center Fundraising Committee, made a final presentation to the membership, and more than 700 delegates unanimously endorsed the campaign for The Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center at The University of Iowa.

The partnership was formally announced at the site of the John and Mary Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building on the UI’s medical campus, on September 16, 2008. Since then, a series of FOE leadership groups have visited the UI to learn more about the diabetes epidemic and tour research facilities, including:

On October 3, 2009, October 30, 2010, April 1, 2011 and September 24, 2011, The Fraternal Order of Eagles presented The University of Iowa with $5 million installments toward their $25 million gift commitment. On April 1, 2011: Leaders of The Fraternal Order of Eagles and the University of Iowa dedicated the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles gift will fund endowed chairs and fellowships for diabetes researchers, provide seed grants for innovative research ideas and help recruit leading scientists in diabetes research and translational medicine.

Commenting on the Eagles historic gift, UI President Sally Mason said, “We are thrilled by this extraordinary commitment from The Fraternal Order of Eagles. This partnership demonstrates our shared vision to understand and ultimately cure diabetes by moving research findings into the clinical setting as quickly as possible.”

In late July 2014, the FOE Diabetes Research Center moved into its new home in the Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building.  The Center occupies office and laboratory space on the 3rd and 4th floors.