When John Pappajohn heard that the University of Iowa wanted to raise a  record $1.7 billion in its upcoming campaign, his reaction was "wow."

"But I think they are going to oversell it," said Pappajohn, a big contributor to the university and one of three honorary co-chairs for the campaign. "I'm an optimist."


The university this afternoon announced the official launch of the campaign, called "For Iowa. Forever More: The Campaign for the University of Iowa." But the campaign has already raised $1.025 billion, with a goal to raise the rest by December 2016.


The $1.7 billion goal would be the largest for any fundraising campaign in university history. The previous record of $1.05 billion was set in the university's last comprehensive campaign from 1999 to 2005.


"For Iowa. Forever More" has three priorities: educating students through scholarships and faculty endowment; ensuring a healthier world by funding research and medical facilities; and enriching commerce, culture and communities for Iowans by supporting entrepreneurship, the arts and social sciences.


Pappajohn has given the largest gift so far: $32 million. That money went in part to fund the Pappajohn Biomedical Institute and the John and Mary Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building.


He sees the most important aspect of the campaign as helping make college more affordable for students. Student debt in Iowa is among the highest in the nation.


The university is also encouraging involvement from the business community. Pappajohn points to the notion that better state universities will lead to better employees entering the workforce.


"I think that the university and the business community are going to have to kind of work together," Pappajohn said. "And I think it's a '1 plus 1 equals 3.'"


Other large donors to this point of the campaign include:

-$25 million from the Fraternal Order of Eagles for a diabetes research center.

-$10 million from Jerre and Mary Joy Stead toward the UI Children's Hospital and research at the department of pediatrics in the Carver College of Medicine.

-$14 million from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust.

-$25 million from the Buresh family of Cedar Rapids.

-$12 million from the Gerdin family of Solon.

-$11 million from John and Susan Strauss.