Tuesday, November 1, 2022
Cathy Zaharis headshot
Cathy Zaharis

Walk through the halls of the John Pappajohn Business Building and you’ll find Cathy Zaharis (BBA finance ’82) teaching both undergraduate and graduate level courses in finance. A lifelong supporter of the University of Iowa, Cathy Zaharis joined the faculty at the university 14 years ago after a successful career in the private sector. Her return to the university to teach, and her general curiosity for the world, is in part a product of her upbringing and her mother, Leona Zaharis.

“By the time I was 11 years old, I had been to all 48 states of the lower contiguous United States,” explained Cathy Zaharis. “My parents, they both loved traveling and loved everyone everywhere we went. My mom, she traveled to six of the seven continents in her lifetime.”

Leona Zaharis and her husband in Nepal
Leona Zaharis (left) and her husband in Nepal

Her parents traveled the world, her father experienced acupuncture in China and both her parents visited Mother Teresa's clinic in India, to name a few of their adventures.

After her father’s passing in the early 1990s, Cathy Zaharis also took her mother to visit Paris, a trip she had looked forward to for years. These experiences, along with the countless others throughout her lifetime, instilled in Leona Zaharis a passion for travel and a curiosity about the world.

“My mother, she was a woman of the world; an Iowan, yes, but a woman of the world,” said Cathy Zaharis. “She never got to go to college and after high school, was offered a job as a teller at a local bank. My grandfather, he wanted my mom to take the job, but my grandmother told my mom to go see the world and explore it. When I think about the outcome of my mother’s life, she loved the state of Iowa and wanted to live here, but she chose to see it all and explore the world too.”

Leona Zaharis visiting Southeast Asia
Leona Zaharis (center) visiting Southeast Asia

The passion for exploring has led Cathy Zaharis to start a scholarship fund in her mother’s honor, who passed away in 2022. The Leona Zaharis Scholarship Fund is being established to support students who, like Leona Zaharis, are curious about the world and want to study abroad.

"I think anytime we can get our students to see the world, they’ll make better decisions for the future, for themselves, and for others."

“I hope this scholarship fund lets students who wouldn’t have had this chance be able to see the world and understand that the world is bigger than their space,” said Cathy Zaharis. “Establishing this scholarship, it seemed like a great way to honor my mother; for someone else to have the opportunity to experience the world like she was able to.”

International experiences can help students enhance their degree, stand out to employers, and transform them into a global citizen. Studying abroad is a high-impact educational opportunity for students at the university.

Cathy & Leona Zaharis
Leona Zaharis (left) and Cathy Zaharis (right)

“I think anytime we can get our students to see the world, they’ll make better decisions for the future, for themselves, and for others,” said Cathy Zaharis. “I believe that broadening your horizons and seeing beyond your space is probably one of the best things you can do, ever. Going abroad, it’s like a masterclass in learning about the world.”

“I hope whoever gets her scholarship has the joy in their heart to see the world,” said Cathy Zaharis. “That would be the best legacy for my mother.”

You can find additional details about the Leona Zaharis Scholarship Fund here.



International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.