The Finkbine Dinner: A Family Legacy

The first annual dinner for representative Iowa men was held February 21st, 1917, with William O. Finkbine, 1878A, 1880L, of Des Moines, and Carl Kuhnle, 1881A, 1882L, of Denison, as hosts. In 1921 the first annual dinner for representative Iowa women, the Good-Will Dinner, was held with Dorothy Finkbine Sauers (daughter of W. O.) and her aunts Emilie and Marie Stapp of Massachusetts as hostesses. In 1972 the dinners were combined and designated the Finkbine Dinner of Representative Students.

The purpose of the dinners was to enable the hosts and hostesses to become acquainted with each generation of campus leaders and for these leaders to know each other, all to the end of cementing firm and lasting ties to the University. So successful did he believe these dinners to be, Mr. Finkbine provided an endowment to perpetuate them. Additional funding is provided through support from the University of Iowa Center for Advancement along with generous alumni and friends.

Mr. Finkbine hoped that the leaders of The University of Iowa’s constituencies: students, faculty, administration, and alumni would, on these occasions, come to have a better understanding of one another’s diverse interests and of their mutual concern for the traditions and vitality of the University.

The Founder, William Orlando Finkbine 

William O v3William Orlando Finkbine, known as “Will” to most and as “Billy” to his closest friends and family – the founder of the Finkbine Dinner. Mr. Finkbine earned his bachelor’s degree in 1878 at the University of Iowa, and his law degree two years later. Mr. Finkbine loved this university dearly, and it remained a large part of his life until his death in 1930.

In 1917, he hosted the first dinner for what he called “representative student leaders.” The students he invited (all men) had all been elected by their fellow students to positions of leadership—and so began the Finkbine dinners. Please note this was in an era when the men’s residence halls and the women were “safely” separated by the Iowa River.

Just four years later in 1921, Mr. Finkbine’s daughter, Dorothy Finkbine Sauers, along with two of her aunts, hosted the first of what were known as the Good Will Dinners for women leaders. So, every year, there were two dinners, usually on successive evenings. The formats were much the same, and they were all about recognizing outstanding qualities of leadership.

In 1972, the Finkbine Dinners and the Good Will Dinners were combined, and since then we have recognized men and women at the same dinner.