Jeff and Sheila Chapman
Iowa Hawkeye fans are accustomed to great come-from-behind victories. Every fan has his or her favorite memory of when their heroes in the black and gold used gritty determination to bounce back from seemingly certain defeat to clinch a triumph.
The story of Gordon Chapman, however, must surely rank as one of the most heroic Hawkeye comebacks of them all.
In 1951, when Chapman was a junior on the UI tennis team, he was stricken by polio. In those days, polio was a devastating international plague, and contracting the disease almost certainly led to paralysis, if not death.
In true Iowa spirit, though, Chapman refused to succumb. He went on to not just graduate (with a business degree in 1952), but to compete for the Hawkeyes as a senior in the 1952 Big Ten tournament. He and his doubles teammate captured second place—and the hearts of people around the state who were inspired by his courage and conviction.
“My dad was a wonderful human being,” says Gordon’s son, Jeff Chapman (1979 B.B.A.). “He didn’t have an enemy in the world. And aside from his family and his faith, what he loved most in the world was The University of Iowa.”
Gordon died in 2005 at the age of 75, after a long, active life and a successful insurance career. To honor his father’s memory, Jeff established the Gordon Chapman Memorial Athletic Scholarship through a gift to the UI Foundation.
Knowing that Hawkeye student-athletes will be supported in Gordon’s name is a great comfort to Jeff, an attorney in Dallas, Texas, and his wife, Sheila (1981 B.S).
“He was the first in his family to go to college,” Jeff says of his father. “He was so proud of his Iowa degree. His favorite place on Earth was Kinnick Stadium. And the best times of my life were in Iowa City with my dad. I’m very happy to remember him this way.”
Thanks to Jeff and Sheila, Gordon Chapman will always be there in the black and gold, urging young people to overcome obstacles and compete with honor. There could be no finer tribute to this true Iowa ironman.