July 29, 2009 // National

Indiana Catholic university receives historic $6 million donation

By Carmen Blanco

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Indianapolis’ Marian University, the only Catholic liberal arts university in central Indiana, received its largest gift ever from an individual donor — $6 million.

“It is a day I won’t soon forget,” university president Daniel Elsener told Catholic News Service in a phone interview. “When you get a gift like this, you think of the donor and are instantly edified by their stewardship. They don’t talk about it, they simply do it. It is so edifying,” he said.

The June gift was given as a $1 million check and a 10-year annual pledge of $500,000. The donor, who wished to remain anonymous, also sent a letter expressing support for the recent progress made by the university and its recent name change from Marian College to Marian University.

In previous years, the school has received endowments of up to $3.5 million, but usually from businesses. The university has never received such a generous gift from an individual.

Elsener told CNS that when he received the letter and check he immediately “headed to the chapel and prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament to say, ‘My goodness, this person responded in faith to our need.'”

The donor was a former trustee and advised the college during its most difficult years, he said.

“From 1999 to 2001, the university served half as many students as it does now,” Elsener told CNS. “And in 2001, we had to run a budget deficit.

“During those years, we knew it was a terrible thing to let the school struggle and so we set forth a clear vision for the school and wanted to advance our mission to build a great Catholic university in central Indiana,” he added.

The university has made significant progress and steady growth since then. Enrollment has doubled and in July, the institution was named a university.

This year, the university has had numerous achievements. Several of the university’s teaching programs, such as Teach for America, were recognized by the state’s schools superintendent and board of education as part of the Spotlight on Learning Award. The school competed for the first time in the National Forensic Association tournament. Its speech team placed 10th in the nation among Division II colleges.

Elsener has not released any specific plans for how the money will be used but he told CNS the university has had a strategic plan in place for some time.

“In general, we would like to provide more living and academic space for our burgeoning student population, provide scholarships for them and provide more funding for the faculty,” he said.

Marian University is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis in Oldenburg, Ind., and is a private, coeducational school committed to providing a liberal arts education and teaching Franciscan traditions and values to its students.

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