November 2, 2012

Making history

Marian University in Indianapolis celebrates 75th anniversary and $153 million in gifts

Franciscan Sisters Rita Vukovic, from left, Jan Kroeger and Jacquelyn McCracken raise their hands as they sing “The Blessing of St. Clare” with other sisters at the conclusion of Marian University’s 75th anniversary awards dinner and celebration on Oct. 19 in downtown Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Franciscan Sisters Rita Vukovic, from left, Jan Kroeger and Jacquelyn McCracken raise their hands as they sing “The Blessing of St. Clare” with other sisters at the conclusion of Marian University’s 75th anniversary awards dinner and celebration on Oct. 19 in downtown Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

By Mary Ann Garber

“Marian’s miracle” will continue in Indianapolis thanks to the generosity of corporate and individual donors who celebrated the Franciscan university’s 75th anniversary with $153 million in gifts to “Make History” and extend its mission of providing quality Catholic higher education well into the future.

Daniel Elsener, Marian’s president, thanked the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg and more than 2,000 supporters at the Oct. 19 anniversary dinner and celebration in downtown Indianapolis during an emotional speech in which he pledged to further grow the university’s enrollment and expand its liberal arts curriculum while preserving its Catholic values. (See a photo gallery from this event)

“I have been simply overwhelmed—sometimes to tears—to see the generosity, and what people will sacrifice to do something great,” Elsener said. “… I just greatly appreciate the goodness I’ve found in so many people.

“So it’s really not amazing that we’ve been successful,” he said, “because we have a successful city, and an alumni corps behind Marian that understands where their gifts and talents come from and the rewards of sharing [them].”

Making history

“We know we have more to do [at the university] to live up to the heritage of the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg,” Elsener said, which dates back to 1851 when Mother Theresa Hackelmeier traveled from Europe to found the order and a school in south eastern Indiana.

In 1937, Mother Clarissa Dillhoff moved a Catholic college for women operated by her order in Oldenburg to Indianapolis, the state capital, in the midst of the Great Depression.

“That’s the legacy we stand on,” Elsener said, praising Marian as “a dynamic Catholic university” that is committed to educating students from all economic backgrounds in the spirit of the Franciscan sisters who founded it.

On July 1, 2009, the college’s name was changed to Marian University.

This academic year, Marian’s enrollment is nearly 2,600 students.

As a result of the successful “Make History” capital and endowment campaign, Marian’s new College of Osteopathic Medicine will be the state’s second medical school, Elsener said, and in the next 10 years the university will begin a principals’ academy that will be among the top 10 in the nation.

Elsener thanked Sister Maureen Irvin, congregational minister of the Oldenburg Franciscans and vice chair of the university’s board of trustees, and all the sisters for courageously founding Marian College three-quarters of a century ago then making it a coeducational institution in September 1954.

“You and your predecessors laid the foundation of Marian University,” he said, “and all the successes we have enjoyed during the first 75 years have been possible because of you sisters.

“Without the sisters’ faith and courage, this great institution would not exist,” Elsener said. “… The sisters have kept us grounded in our faith, our roots and our sense of service to all humanity.”

Marian University plans to renovate St. Francis Hall and rename the building for the Sisters of St. Francis, he said, calling it Oldenburg Hall to honor the sisters for their vision and ministry.

Franciscan blessing

Sister Maureen accepted a framed architectural rendering of the historic campus building from Elsener and acknowledged the audience’s extended applause on behalf of the sisters.

“Thank you so much to all of you for being here this evening,” she said. “This has been such a wonderful celebration of Indianapolis and of Marian University. It’s an honor for over 60 of our sisters to be here this evening. They have come from Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Montana and New Mexico.”

Standing near the stage, the sisters sang “The Blessing of St. Clare.” She was a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy in the 13th century and first woman Franciscan.

“This blessing is taken from her writings and was put to music by our own Sister Mary Gloria Gallagher,” Sister Maureen said. “The Sisters of St. Francis use this blessing on special occasions.”

Special honorees

In addition to recognizing the exceptional leadership of the Franciscan sisters, Marian University also honored the Lilly family and Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein for their distinguished support of Catholic education.

Ted and Debbie Lilly accepted the Franciscan Values Award on behalf of Col. Eli Lilly, a community philanthropist who founded the international pharmaceutical company in Indianapolis in May 1876, and other family members who carry on his legacy of community service and stewardship through the Lilly Endowment and generous support of Marian University.

“Historically, the family has been involved in education, religion and the community,” Ted Lilly explained. “… We celebrate Marian University’s commitment to the city of Indianapolis.

“The Lilly Foundation … supports the new College of Osteopathic Medicine,” he said. “Lilly Endowment also supported the [university’s] ‘Rebuild My Church’ campaign. Thank you for this award on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Marian University.”

For health reasons, Archbishop Buechlein was not able to attend the dinner to accept the university’s inaugural John A. Purdie Innovator and Mentor of the Year Award for his nearly two decades of support of Catholic education.

Msgr. Joseph Schaedel, pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis and former vicar general, announced the honor and described Archbishop Buechlein as “a spiritual giant” who has led others by example throughout his lifetime of prayer and service.

“Archbishop Daniel always expressed and emphasized the importance of prayer,” Msgr. Schaedel said. “How many times did we hear Archbishop Daniel say, ‘If you pray every day in your own way, everything will be OK.’ And that’s true.”

In a videotaped message, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago praised Archbishop Buechlein’s 25 years of ministry as bishop of Memphis then spiritual leader of the archdiocese as well as his nearly 50 years of priestly service to the Church in Indiana as a monk, seminary rector and bishop.

“Archbishop Daniel has frequently said that his first responsibility is to be a man of prayer,” Cardinal George said. “This is perhaps his most enduring legacy. … But as many of you know better than I, Archbishop Daniel is also a man of action … [who made] many contributions to education, social welfare, and the moral and religious fabric of our society.”

When he retired for health reasons on Sept. 21, 2011, Archbishop Buechlein noted that strengthening Catholic education was his most important accomplishment after being named by Pope John Paul II to head the Church in central and southern Indiana in 1992.

In 1995, he launched the “Making a Difference” campaign, the first partnership between the archdiocese and corporate community in support of Catholic schools.

The first “Celebrating Catholic School Values” awards dinner in 1996 began an annual fundraiser that has raised more than $5.5 million to benefit Catholic schools and tuition assistance.

The archdiocese’s “Legacy of Hope from Generation to Generation” and “Building Communities of Hope” campaigns during the 1990s made possible the construction of two new center city Catholic school buildings, which were among the first built in the country in 40 years.

Under his leadership, more than 6,000 new students attended Catholic schools by the end of his first decade as archbishop.

Eight years ago, Archbishop Buechlein established the archdiocese’s Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary, which partners with Marian University for undergraduate education of seminarians.

Accepting the award on his behalf, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, who will be installed on Dec. 3, said “it is a great honor for me to stand in for a great man … who was keenly interested as well in the formation of future priests to serve the archdiocese.

“So I thank Marian University for the support of the seminary,” Archbishop Tobin said. “It was a dream of Archbishop Buechlein. In the name of the archdiocese and especially our [seminary] students, I would like to offer a check for $25,000 from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in honor of Archbishop Buechlein and as a sign of our gratitude for Marian’s support of our future priests. Thank you very much.”

Remarkable achievements

As part of the 10-year campaign, Marian University also raised $42 million for annual and endowed scholarships.

“Make History” concludes on Dec. 31, but the needs on campus total $210 million so the university will continue fundraising efforts to reach that new goal.

“On behalf of Marian University, the faculty, the staff, the alumni, the trustees and especially the students, thank you for helping [Marian] build a great Catholic university in our great American city,” John Lechleiter, chief executive officer of Eli Lilly and Co. and 75th anniversary celebration co-chair, told the gathering. “You truly have made a difference. Thank you.

“Thanks to the vision and hard work of president Dan Elsener, the board of trustees, the faculty, the staff and administration,” Lechleiter said, “we can all be very proud of Marian University’s remarkable achievements.” †

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