Agriculture college will benefit from $1.5 million gift for student entrepreneurship program

AMES, Iowa -- A $1.5 million gift from Roger and Connie Underwood, Ames, will establish an entrepreneurship program for students in the College of Agriculture at Iowa State University.

Roger Underwood, CEO of Becker-Underwood in Ames, said the College of Agriculture's focus on entrepreneurship is one he and his wife, Connie, support. Both are Iowa State graduates. They were inspired to donate the gift after the entrepreneurship idea was proposed by Catherine Woteki, agriculture dean, at a meeting of the College of Agriculture Advisory Council.

The program will encourage visiting entrepreneurs to share their expertise, provide internships and fellowships, and emphasize the entrepreneurial message in undergraduate courses. The gift will be used to create an environment that encourages innovative and entrepreneurial thinking. Iowans will benefit as graduates pursue business opportunities that diversify and strengthen the business and agricultural communities.

Underwood, a 1980 Iowa State agricultural business graduate, chairs the advisory council and said he appreciates Woteki's vision and the council's focus on entrepreneurship. The council consists of 33 people from across the nation who are representative of the college's curricula, fields in which graduates work and sectors served by the college's research and extension programs.

"Incorporating more entrepreneurship learning into the college's overall curriculum will have a positive impact on Iowa's economy because it will produce graduates who are ready to pursue entrepreneurial activities," Underwood said.

Woteki said the gift is an investment in the future because it enhances opportunities for students and promotes entrepreneurship.

"We are very thankful for Connie and Roger's generous gift because it will provide our students with extraordinary opportunities," Woteki said. "This donation fits the college's vision as a vital force for opportunity and change. It also helps ensure that Iowa State is where students go to pursue their dreams."

Underwood is CEO and chairman of Becker-Underwood, an international specialty chemical company that provides a wide range of products to the agricultural, seed treatment, golf, horticulture, forestry and aquatic markets. Becker-Underwood currently has 261 employees and sells products in 54 countries and has nine offices or plants in seven countries on four continents.

Underwood also is a member of the ISU Foundation board of directors and chair of the development committee. Connie is a 1984 Iowa State graduate with a political science degree.

This gift was made through the ISU Foundation -- a private, non-profit corporation dedicated to securing and managing gifts and grants that benefit Iowa State University.