Scanlan Family Foundation gives largest gift in UI College of Education’s history

The Iowa Center for School Mental Health in the University of Iowa College of Education will be renamed the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health, after a $15 million gift from the Scanlan Family Foundation.

The name change is pending approval from the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, at its July 27 board meeting.

In addition to the new name, the gift will expand clinical support for school mental health in collaboration with the Belin-Blank Center, not only across the state but across the nation.

“This transformational gift from the Scanlan Family Foundation builds on the great work of the Belin-Blank Center, and strengthens the Iowa Center for School Mental Health’s clinical services and programs that support mental health needs,” said College of Education Dean Dan Clay, in a news release. “This gift will focus on serving schools and the needs of veterans, those serving in the military, and their families. We know military families often need additional supports around mental health and well-being.”

Mr. Clay adds in the release that he is grateful to the Scanlan family members for their vision and generous support, which will allow the center to expand the critical work assisting educators and students. “This gift will ensure that the work addressing social-emotional learning and mental health needs in schools and for military families will continue in perpetuity—we know this public health issue will be a challenge for the years ahead,” Mr. Clay says.

This is the largest donation the University of Iowa College of Education has received in its 175-year history, according to the release.

“Many people, and especially our youth in Iowa and across the country, are struggling with mental health issues,” said Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan, a Des Moines native, and Patrick Scanlan, in the release. “Our family foundation recognizes the extraordinary work at the University of Iowa and wants to help scale those efforts to help more people.”

The purpose of the center is to provide social, emotional, behavioral, and psychological services to schools, not only to aid in COVID-19 recovery, but to build capacity for immediate and future delivery of mental health supports across the state.

The center will bring together educational partners, policymakers, and mental health professionals to serve as a national hub for research-to-practice implementation related to mental health.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds first announced the Iowa Center for School Mental Health in 2021. The Iowa Department of Education designated $20 million in federal relief provided in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) Fund within the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act to help support the center’s work.

The Scanlan Family Foundation will help ensure that the critical services, research, and support already being provided to students and educators across all of Iowa’s 99 counties can not only continue but expand to help others at a national level through rigorous clinical research, professional development, and training.

“The University of Iowa has a notable history of studying and promoting the psychological and physical well-being of children,” said Iowa President Barbara Wilson, in the release. “By continuing their long tradition of philanthropy, the Scanlan family will make a real difference in the lives of school children and their families.”

Experts during a June 2 Board of Regents presentation expressed concern that the K-12 mental health crisis in Iowa is getting worse, and is affecting students and teachers alike.

“When you’re looking at teachers leaving the workforce, that’s an indicator things are getting worse,” said Kari Vogelgesang, director of professional development for the center, during the meeting. “When we look at [exit] survey data and we’re asking them ‘why are you leaving?’ mental health is one of the first things they list. It’s always in the top three [reasons].”