Villafana to Deliver Engineering Undergraduate Commencement Address

Friday, May 16, 2014

The College of Engineering Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony will be held at 10:00 a.m. at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, Coralville: Manny Villafana, recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Science degree, will be the guest speaker. Graduates should arrive no later than 9:00 a.m.  A live video stream of the ceremony will be available at Archival video will replace the live stream shortly after the ceremony concludes.  No DVDs of the ceremony are available for purchase. Social media users can join the celebration online by using the hashtag #UIGrad14 with UI-graduation-related posts. Best posts will be shared via UI social media channels and on the IowaNow website at

Minneapolis business leader Manny Villafana will deliver the "charge to the graduates" at the May 17 College of Engineering commencement.  He also is receiving a University of Iowa Honorary Doctor of Science degree in recognition of his contributions to biomedical device development, biomedical engineering, civic leadership, and student success.

Villafana and his wife Elizabeth Elder Villafana—a UI Tippie College of Business alumna—are strong supporters of the College of Engineering. He helped develop the college’s biomedical engineering department into the nationally recognized program it is today, and provided gifts to establish the Elder Computer Laboratory and enhance facilities available to all UI engineering students.

“Manny Villafana rose from modest beginnings to become one of the world’s preeminent innovators in the area of medical devices,” said UI College of Engineering Dean Alec Scranton. “His amazing ability to identify and develop important new medical devices has touched countless lives.”

Villafana worked with companies Picker International and Medtronic before launching a career as an entrepreneur. In 1971, he launched Cardiac Pacemakers, Inc., which revolutionized the field with the long-life lithium iodine pacemaker, a technology that still makes up most of the market.

He also founded Guidant Corporation to focus on cardiovascular health care products; St. Jude Medical, which introduced the bi-leaflet mechanical heart valve; GV Medical, manufacturer of a device to open blood vessels; Helix BioCore (later ATS Medical), whose bi-leaflet valve reduced clots and improved blood flow; and CABG Medical to create an artificial graft for coronary bypass surgery.

In 2007, Villafana launched Kips Bay Medical, a medical device company that focuses on developing, manufacturing and commercializing its proprietary external saphenous vein support technology, or eSVS MESH®, for use in coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery. He currently serves as founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Kips Bay Medical.