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Iowa Business Hall Of Fame Honors Ray Cole, Robert J. Denson And Roger C. Underwood

February 12, 2024

GREATER DES MOINES, IOWA (Feb. 12, 2024) – The Greater Des Moines Committee will recognize Ray Cole, Robert J. Denson and Roger C.  Underwood as the 2023 inductees to the Iowa Business Hall of Fame. The inductees will be honored during the Greater Des Moines Committee’s Annual Induction Event on Wednesday, May 1 at The Meadows Events and Conference Center. The Iowa Business Hall of Fame honors the achievements of Iowans who have made outstanding contributions to the development and enhancement of Iowa’s business climate. 

Ray Cole

Ray Cole is an Iowa native and lifelong television broadcaster. He served as president and chief operating officer of Citadel Communications LLC during an executive career that spanned five decades. Cole retired from Citadel in October 2023. Cole held various leadership positions in the broadcasting industry while serving on the boards of the National Association of Broadcasters, the Television Bureau of Advertising and the ABC Television Affiliates Association. He served as chairman of the ABC board of governors from 2006-08 and continued in a chairman emeritus capacity until 2019. Cole served on the board of the Iowa Broadcasters Association and was recognized by that organization as “Iowa Broadcaster of the Year” in 2008, and was later inducted into the Iowa Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2015 and national Broadcasting + Cable Hall of Fame in 2023. He currently serves on the board of the Broadcasters Foundation of America. In 2019, Cole was presented the “Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award” from the Governor Robert D. and Billie Ray Center.  

Since moving to Des Moines in 1994, Cole has served on the boards of the Principal Charity Classic, Iowa Hall of Pride and Partnership for a Drug-Free Iowa, has served as the honorary chair for several major events and hosted the Coaches vs. Cancer Gala three times. Cole is a graduate of Briar Cliff University. 

Robert J. Denson

Robert J. Denson was appointed DMACC’s fourth President in 58 years on November 1, 2003. DMACC has grown from 20,734 to 36,861 students during his tenure and is recognized as a leader and innovator in post-secondary education, workforce and collaboration with business. He is the first native-born Iowan to be President of DMACC and is now the longest-serving DMACC President. 

Following a 19-year law career, Denson worked at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida and as President of Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar and Dubuque before joining DMACC.  

Denson is active on several community boards, including three years on the United Way of Central Iowa Board. In addition to his DMACC position, he serves on the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and Executive Committee and on the boards of Iowa Student Loan Liquidity, Future Ready Iowa, the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, the Iowa Direct Caregivers Association, the Iowa Rural Development Council, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Iowa Innovation Council, the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the SHAZAM Board and others. Denson earned a B.S. in Political Science and Economics and a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from Iowa State University, and is a graduate of the University of Florida Law School.

Roger C. Underwood

Roger C. Underwood is a lifelong entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. Underwood and his high school classmate Jeff Becker founded Becker Underwood in 1982 in Ames. Their goal was to create a specialty colorant for marking herbicide application to improve farming efficiency. The company expanded rapidly, reaching $265 million in sales by 2012, with offices in seven countries across five continents and 420 employees. In 2012, BASF Chemical Company of Germany acquired Becker Underwood for $1.02 billion. Underwood is currently an investor and Chair of Pivot Bio, a Berkley, California ag bio-tech company and a board member of KENT® Corporation of Muscatine, Iowa. 

Statewide, Underwood has participated in the Capitol Corridor Steering Committee and efforts to coordinate Iowa’s government, educational and financial resources to attract innovation related to Iowa’s leadership in Global Agriculture. One outcome of this was the establishment of America’s Cultivation Corridor. Underwood is a lifetime member of the ISU Foundation Board of Governors and chaired Campaign Iowa State in addition to receiving numerous honors from the university. In 2005, Underwood and his wife Connie provided a $1.5 million cash gift to establish the entrepreneurship program for students at Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. 

A native of Atlantic, Iowa, Underwood earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Business from Iowa State University in November of 1980.   

Inductees to the Iowa Business Hall of Fame are selected on merit rather than endorsement. Past Hall of Fame honorees under the leadership of Chair Dr. Teri Wahlig, CEO of ChildServe, serve as the selection committee. The criteria for selection are as follows: 

  • Business Leadership: The nominated individual should lead or have led a business that has provided valued jobs and economic development to his/her community and the state; creating both wealth and workforce opportunity. 
  • Community Development Impact: The nominated individual should have made an impact by improving the economies of the community and the state through their leadership in such organizations as chambers of commerce, economic development organizations or centers of education. 
  • Community Volunteerism/Leadership: The nominated individual should have personally given of their time and financial resources for the betterment of the community through support of charities and organizations. 
  • Strategic Leadership: The nominated individual should have contributed to community economic growth through visionary leadership, community problem-solving. 
  • Business Recognition: The nominated individual should be recognized by their peers as a business leader. 

To learn more about the Iowa Business Hall of Fame and register for the Greater Des Moines Committee’s Annual Induction Event on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, click here

About the Greater Des Moines Committee

The Greater Des Moines Committee was formed in 1907 by a group of 30 local business leaders. Today, the Committee consists of more than 100 members and provides an opportunity for business leaders to come together for an information exchange about important topics in the community, the state and the nation. The Committee founded the Iowa Business Hall of Fame in 1975 to honor the achievements of Iowans who have made outstanding contributions to the development and enhancement of Iowa’s business climate.

The Greater Des Moines Committee’s purpose is to encourage, promote, develop and protect commercial, manufacturing and other business interests of Greater Des Moines (DSM) and the state of Iowa. The Committee is comprised of CEOs, or in the case of professional firms, the senior managing partner of DSM companies that have a vested interest in the growth and development of our community and state.