A seven-figure gift from a prominent Des Moines couple to Drake University will help address critical issues facing rural America as well as provide a big boost for Drake’s athletic programs. 

Retired DuPont Pioneer President Paul Schickler and his wife, Claudia Schickler, this morning announced their gift of $5 million to Drake. The Schicklers designated $2 million of the donation to address social, economic, development and conservation challenges facing rural America. 

The couple, who are avid supporters of the Drake Bulldogs, are committing the remaining $3 million of their gift to Drake University athletics. Of that amount, the Schicklers are directing $1 million to the Drake University men’s basketball program and $2 million to “elevate the fan experience” through upgrades to the Knapp Center.

Paul Schickler, who retired from DuPont Pioneer, now Corteva Agriscience, in January 2017, received both a management degree and an MBA from Drake and currently serves on the university’s board of trustees. 

Access to quality education, legal services, broadband, health care and even food security are some of the issues that the couple envisions Drake’s resources — led by the Drake Agricultural Law Center — can help address, Paul Schickler said during a news conference. 

“I don’t think there’s any place better to provide that leadership than Drake University, if you think of the set of assets that are here,” he said, noting the presence of centers such as the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement on the Drake campus. “The issues that rural America faces, and what we need to do to strengthen rural America, is a major issue that’s going to take many people and many organizations to look at and bring together solutions to improve things for the future.” 

Initiatives toward sustaining and rejuvenating rural America are one of the “Big Ideas” for the university’s future direction that Drake’s board of trustees has been developing for the past year, Drake President Marty Martin said. 

“This institution has educated tens of thousands of rural Americans over time and has been led by many of our colleagues who are from rural communities, so we’ve got a connection and a passion for it,” Martin said. 

Specific plans for facility enhancements to the Knapp Center are being developed and will be released at a later date, Drake Communications Director Jared Bernstein said. “The goal, dependent on future fundraising, is to start construction this summer on the first phase of the project,” he said. 

Drake Athletic Director Brian Hardin said the improvements will center on improving the home court advantage for its teams and creating greater community pride for the center, which is widely used for many schools’ commencement events and other ceremonies. 

"We are so grateful to Paul and Claudia for their generosity to Drake University," Hardin said. "The impact their investment will make for our student athletes that compete in the Knapp Center will be felt for many years to come. Paul and Claudia share my belief that their gift will inspire others to invest in our vision for Drake athletics and the Knapp Center."