Despite a long career in a busy profession, Robert Downer has always been an outstanding example of tireless community involvement. Bob is the senior partner and now in his 56th year at the Iowa City law firm Meardon, Sueppel & Downer, having been there since graduating from the Iowa Law School in 1963.
Throughout his professional life, Bob has been committed to education at all levels, to starting and advancing local businesses and organizations, and to serving on countless boards with an eye toward the betterment of the community and state.
In the words of nominator Stephen West, of West Music: “There are few people who have given more time and expertise to community organizations, boards and commissions. Robert Downer has had a very active legal career but has always found time to not just serve on other boards and commissions, but also to be an extremely active member of every board that he has volunteered for locally or statewide.”
Bob’s commitment to education was reflected in his service on the Board of Regents for 12 years and his involvement in the Midwest Higher Education Compact.
In addition to education, Bob’s community service has extended deep into his community and across the state.
He served as president of the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce and the Iowa City Area Development Group.
Bob’s leadership abilities were described by nominator Patricia Heiden, former executive director of Oaknoll Retirement Residence, in Iowa City: “Bob has that extraordinary quality that transforms ideas into action. In 2000, Bob was one of the founding members of the Community Foundation of Johnson County and was responsible, along with another local attorney, for drafting the articles of incorporation, bylaws and nonprofit status of this organization.”
The mission of that foundation is to serve Johnson County by growing endowments and distributing funds for the greater community good. To date, grants totaling $11.8 million have been distributed to benefit many n0t-for-profit organizations and the municipalities of Johnson County.
The list of local and state boards that Bob has served on is long. A Highlights include: Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce Board (president, 1979), Rotary Club of Iowa City (president, 1988-89), Chair of the Iowa City Area Development Group, Iowa City Public Library Board of Trustees (president, 1973-74), Oaknoll Retirement Residence Board, Community Foundation of Johnson County Board, Hoover Presidential Foundation Board of Trustees (president, 2016), Midwestern Higher Education Compact (chair, 2010-11), Board of Advisers of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and the University of Iowa Research Foundation Board