One of the country’s richest men was in Iowa this week. No, it wasn’t Warren Buffett, the "Oracle of Omaha." Nor was it Microsoft founder Bill Gates. It was someone whose name you might not recognize, but who is recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the country’s 400 richest citizens.
Drake president David Maxwell addressed this multimillionaire in public on Thursday afternoon. "Dwight Opperman came to Drake University as an undergraduate music major and he left with undergraduate and law degrees and set out on a remarkable career that I doubt even he could have imagined in Perry, Iowa," Maxwell said.
Opperman was at Drake on Thursday to hear the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court deliver a lecture, an event that was financed by a donation Opperman made to his alma mater. Opperman graduated from the Drake Law School in 1951, then took a job at West Publishing as an editorial assistant. The company published legal documents and Opperman rose to become the company’s chief executive in 1968. West Publishing was sold in 1996 and Opperman moved his assets into an investment company run by his son.
Over the years, Opperman has donated $50 million to Drake. "Drake has been truly fortunate to have Dwight D. Opperman as an undergraduate alumnus of Drake University and a graduate of Drake Law School, as a member of the Board of Trustees and a remarkably generous supporter," Drake’s president said. "He’s someone whose engagement at Drake has without question enriched generations of Drake students and faculty and staff." Drake’s law library and another building on campus have been named in Opperman’s honor. A campus plaza is dedicated to Opperman’s wife, who died in 1993.
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts paid tribute to Opperman on Thursday afternoon. "I will begin by thanking Dwight Opperman who made this lecture possible. As you’ve heard judges, lawyers and law professors know Mr. Opperman for his philanthropy, especially in support of legal education," Roberts said. "This lecture series has been extraordinarily successful among academic events in attracting members of my court. Eight of the past 10 lectures have been delivered by supreme court justices, including a majority of my current colleagues."
Opperman sat on the stage as Roberts spoke, but did not address the crowd himself. Opperman lives in Minnesota.