The University of Iowa

Don Guckert retires, August 1, 2020

Don Guckert retires after 17 years of service with FM

Don Guckert portrait

During his career in University of Iowa Facilities Management, Don Guckert oversaw many changes in the department and brought national attention to the university for its innovative practices and its ability to recover from the devastating flood of 2008.

Guckert, associate vice president and director of Facilities Management (FM), retired Aug. 1 after 17 years of service.

When Guckert first joined UI Facilities Management in 2003, FM was much different than it is now, including the department’s name and guiding philosophy. Guckert drove a shift in culture bringing together highly collaborative teams that once were siloed throughout various units. Guckert also developed a strategic leadership process that laid the groundwork for FM to become an innovative and industrious organization, recognized by industry peers for award-winning processes and programs that ultimately led to efficiencies and increased effectiveness across the department.

He drove the development of strategic plans that shaped the organization for success, including shifting from a printed and shelved master planning document to a continuous master planning process that included collaboration with university leadership, and transformed the capital project delivery organization.

Under Guckert’s leadership, FM became a pioneer for innovative programs such as the Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) program and the Energy Control Center. These programs paved the way for further innovative technologies in building operations. Iowa is viewed as a leader in these areas by other higher education institutions, private business, and government agencies.

With FM’s focus on sustainability under Guckert’s direction, the department become an industry leader. The 2007 Energy Conservation and Management Strategic Plan reoriented FM’s approach to sustainability and enabled the development of Iowa’s 2020 Vision for Sustainability. FM created Iowa’s biomass program, including a groundbreaking partnership with Quaker Oats to develop an oat hull byproduct as a fuel source, and growing miscanthus grass as an energy crop.

Guckert’s leadership helped FM prepare for the unimaginable, like the devastating 2008 flood. During the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s largest natural disaster declaration for a higher education institution, Guckert served as a primary university spokesperson and led UI’s response and recovery. Guckert also shared his expertise beyond UI, spotlighting the university a respected institution nationally and sharing lessons learned on the flood.

During this same time, Planning, Design & Construction (now Design & Construction) managed an unprecedented capital construction program that dramatically transformed the campus during a period that spanned from the opening of Art Building West to the College of Pharmacy Building and Psychological & Brain Sciences and also included renewal of a substantial portion of the campus (like the Library Commons and Dentistry), not to mention athletics facilities.

FM has been recognized by APPA (formerly the Association of Physical Plant Administrators) for its innovative approaches to facilities management, earning APPA’s Innovative and Effective Practices Award for multiple projects. Guckert served as the president of APPA in 2019 and is recognized as an APPA fellow.

Guckert and coworkers on building site
Before coming to the UI, Guckert served as the director of planning, design, and construction at the University of Missouri for 16 years. Additionally, he served for nine years in the design and construction industry for the U.S. Steel Corp. and the engineering and construction firm Kennedy Van Saun.

Lynne Finn succeeds Guckert as associate vice president and director of FM.

When reflecting on his career at Iowa, one accomplishment stands out to Guckert: the success of his co-workers.

“I have enjoyed witnessing the growth and advancement of careers, the personal rewards of making a difference in contributing to the university, and the joy of having fun in a workplace of choice,” Guckert says. “None of that could have been possible if we had not collaborated, inspired, and supported each other’s efforts. Witnessing the building of this incredible organization has, by far, been my most rewarding experience.”

For more on Don's career:

How the University of Iowa Recovered From the 'Unfathomable' Flood That Ruined It, The New York Times

Flood of 2008: The University of Iowa, Buildings Magazine

APPA Service, Publications and Awards