Richard O. “Dick” Jacobson

Richard O. Jacobson

In the business world, one big idea or innovation can set great things in motion. This certainly is true in the case of Richard O. “Dick” Jacobson, who founded Jacobson Companies in 1968 as a single Des Moines warehouse and grew it into one of the largest privately owned warehouse companies in the nation.

The former University of Iowa business student started his successful shipping and trucking business with just $3,500—money he had earned from his work with Monsanto Chemical Company, and as an agricultural chemical wholesaler, after college. Throughout the years, Jacobson expanded his business to include Jacobson Investment Company, Jacobson Packaging Company, Jacobson Logistics Company, Jacobson Staffing Company, Jacobson-Wilpak, and Jacobson-AWG, and he currently is chairman of all of these companies—which employ more than 5,500 people in 100 locations and 70 cities. In addition, he was a significant partner in establishing Hawkeye Renewables, which is the second-largest ethanol producer in the United States.

Jacobson is a member of The Presidents Club, which recognizes the University of Iowa’s most generous contributors, but his public-spirited generosity extends far beyond the UI campus. In 1976, Dick established the Richard O. Jacobson Foundation, which has contributed more than $40 million throughout the last three decades. Through his foundation, and his own visionary personal giving, Jacobson has helped fulfill his lifelong goal of “making money to give money.”

His generosity has helped create buildings bearing the Jacobson name at places such as The University of Iowa, Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa, Drake University, Grand View College, Exchange City, Youth and Shelter Services, Special Olympics of Iowa, Science Center of Iowa, and Orchard Place. 

In addition, he has made major contributions to more than 50 organizations, including the Belmond Public Schools, the Des Moines Higher Education Center, the Des Moines Public Library, the I Have A Dream Foundation, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation, the Institute for Character Development, the Mayo Clinic, Rock In Prevention, and the Variety Club.

His many awards and honors include a University of Iowa Distinguished Friend of the University Award in 2000 and a UI Hawk of the Year Award in 1995.

John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center The University of Iowa