Villafana to Receive Honorary UI Degree

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

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

The Iowa Board of Regents approved the degrees during its December 4 meeting.

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.

A committee of UI faculty receives nominations for honorary degrees and forwards recommendations to the university’s provost and president. The Iowa Board of Regents reviews and approves honorary degree requests.