John George Pappajohn, 94, passed away April 22, 2023 in Naples, Florida with family by his side. John was born July 31, 1928 in Saint Luke’s, Greece to George and Maria (Zanios) Pappajohn. He attended the University of Iowa obtaining a BSC degree in Business in 1952. He established an insurance agency after graduation from college and subsequently organized and became Chair-man of the Board of Guardsman Insurance Investors, a public insurance holding company that owned Guardsman Life.
In 1969, John 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. John has been involved in over 100 start-ups, over 50 IPOs and has served as a Director in over 40 public companies.
John and his wife, Mary were well known philanthropists whose causes included 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. Mr. Pappajohn also organized and financed the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers at five different universities and colleges in the state of Iowa. These centers have helped create and launch over 1,000 new companies. The crown jewel of John and Mary’s philanthropy was the establishment of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in the Western Gateway Park in downtown Des Moines in 2009.
John has been the recipient of many awards including: Horatio Alger recipient, Trustee Pine Manor College, Boston, MA; 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; University of Iowa Distinguished Alumni Award For Service; Iowa Business Leader of the Year; Brotherhood Award from the Iowa Region National Conference of Christians and Jews; inducted into the Iowa Hall of Fame; Beta Gamma Sigma Medallion for Entrepreneur of the Year; 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; first Iowan to be awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award; Meredith Wilson Heritage Award; Central Iowa Business Hall of Achievement; Ellis Island Medal of Honor; 33rd Degree Mason Shriner; Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award; Listed in the “Top 200 Art Collectors” in Art News Magazine multiple years.
John was a parishioner of the Saint George Greek Orthodox Church in Des Moines and a supporter of the Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Mason City. He was a member of the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Fund, a major supporter of the Saint Nicholas Shrine at the World Trade Center and was an Archon of the Order of Saint Andrew. John loved life and he loved being an Iowan. He enjoyed entertaining friends and family where the menu frequently included farmers market vegetables, caviar and lobster, and the wine served was of the finest vintages from world renowned chateaus. His annual birthday celebration was always memorable. John looked forward every year to seeing his backyard in full bloom during tulip season and will be remembered by many for his lifelong commitment to PMA (Positive Mental Attitude).
He was preceded in death by his beloved wife Mary, his parents and brothers Socrates and Aristotle. John will be missed by his daughter Ann (RJ), and grandchildren Nicholas and Alexandra and many friends. May Papou John Rest in Peace and May His Memory Be Eternal.
Donations in memory of John may be made to the Des Moines Art Center.