Spirit of giving: Stead family motivated to help others

By Dana Larson

On the wall of the study in their home in Scottsdale, Arizona, Jerre and Mary Joy Stead have hung a photocopy of a favorite quote from Benjamin Franklin: “A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.”

For the Steads, those are words to live by. Jerre and Mary Joy have always been committed to living a life of purpose and generosity.

The high-school sweethearts were married while they were students at the University of Iowa and had two sons who were born at UI Hospitals and Clinics.

Today, as they look back on the humble beginnings of their married life, Jerre and Mary Joy can pinpoint a crucial decision they made to always do two things with their earnings: give and save. In fact, Mary Joy distinctly remembers some winter months when the couple lived in Minneapolis. The heating bills were high enough that the couple didn’t have enough money for savings. “But we always gave,” she says.

That decision to make helping others a priority has brought the couple immense joy.

“The wonderful thing about giving is the joy you get back,” says Jerre. “I’ve found that the more we give, the more we get. And so, the more we get, the more we give.”

Although they have lived and worked all over the world in the years since, they hold a special place in their hearts for Iowa.

“We still think of Iowa first when it comes to quality health care,” says Mary Joy. “Not only because of the leading-edge research that’s happening there, but also because everyone takes such care to make each patient’s experience personal—it really is like being part of a big family.”

That’s why the couple has made transformational gifts to support children’s medicine at the UI. To recognize the Steads’ visionary giving, the Stead Family Department of Pediatrics and UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital have been named in their honor. The word “family” was important to the Steads when choosing the name because their children and grandchildren were instrumental in the decision to support the hospital.

“We’re working hard today to make sure that our grandchildren have the same giving spirit that we have, and that we’ve instilled in our children,” says Jerre. “Philanthropy, to us, is not just about giving; it’s investing in the future.”