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Chairman Emeritus

Chairman Emeritus

Bill Knapp was raised on a farm in southern Iowa where he learned the value of hard work and honesty. Being born just three years before the start of the Great Depression, he also learned to make do with limited resources and to make the most out of every opportunity. What he never learned was the ability to say “no” when asked to help those in need.

His tenacity, work ethic and generosity has served him well throughout his life, a life that has seen him become one of the great entrepreneurs but also one of the most respected philanthropists in the state. He is a man whose legacy continues to shape the face of Des Moines.

After serving two years in the U.S. Navy where he served at the Battle of Okinawa, Knapp attended and graduated from the American Institute of Business and formed Iowa Realty. Under his leadership, Iowa Realty became the largest real estate company in Iowa. He became a key player in transforming central Iowa with visionary projects ranging from the downtown Des Moines skywalk system to rejuvenation of the neighborhood around Drake University. At the same time, he began turning his success and good fortune into opportunities to give back – donating the land for the only Veteran’s Cemetery in the State of Iowa; developing a new site for the Bethel Mission and Meals from the Heartland; and providing and raising funds for the Homes of Oakridge Community Center, the Tiny Tots Day Care Center, and the Iowa State Fair, among other entities.

He has been heavily involved with the Central and Western Iowa Honor Flight organization, a nonprofit that provides free trips to Washington, D.C., for World War II veterans, and individually sponsored an Honor Flight in 2010. He has been given the “Humanitarian Award” from the Variety Club of Iowa; the “Distinguished Iowa Citizen Award” from the Mid-Iowa Council, Boy Scouts of America; the “Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser” award from the Central Iowa Chapter of the National Society of Fundraising Executives; the “Citizen of the Year” award for community service and leadership from the Des Moines Real Estate Board; the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year Award” – Central Midwest – Lifetime Achievement; and the “Iowa Award” – Iowa’s highest citizen honor in recognition of his service accomplishments within the Des Moines Community, the State of Iowa, and the United States. He has been inducted into the Iowa Business Hall of Fame. In 2014, Knapp was honored by Des Moines University at the Glanton Minority Scholarship Dinner.

Knapp is honored and humbled by awards and recognition, but what motivates him is a deep obligation to bettering the community. “If you have the means to do it, you owe a lot back,” Knapp said in 2013. This philosophy has allowed Knapp to build a legacy in Des Moines and throughout Iowa that goes beyond the buildings and land developments. Bill Knapp and his companies have built structures that have transformed the face of the area, but he has also nurtured the communities that work and live in those buildings. His generous giving, commitment to citizenship, and fight to make the region better are the principles that remain in Bill and in Knapp Properties, Inc.

“…Des Moines is pretty special,” Knapp said of his home. “We do seem to rise to the occasion.” From the farm, to the battlefield, to the boardroom, Bill Knapp has been rising to the occasion his whole life.

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