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The Capital of the New Midwest
Marian University
 
The Capital of the New Midwest 

President Daniel J. Elsener2012 marks Marian University’s 75th year in Indianapolis. During this very special anniversary year, we plan to acknowledge our past achievements, as they are the foundation upon which our future is being built. We have many celebrations planned throughout the year, and I invite you to visit www.marian.edu/75years regularly for updates. I hope you will mark your calendar for October 19, 2012. That evening we will mark the completion of our record-breaking comprehensive fundraising effort known as Make History—an effort that began with a $68.2 million goal and is now approaching $145 million. I would be delighted if you could be with us to share in our achievements and vision for the future.

We have a clear vision for our future that will allow us to be an even more profoundly transformational force in Indianapolis, in our state, and around the world.

In his second inaugural speech entitled "A Capital Moment for Indianapolis", Mayor Gregory A. Ballard of Indianapolis made the point that the city has long been recognized for its human capital. In the past few years, it has become a “capital of thought in the areas of fiscal prudence, innovative partnerships, sustainability, and more recently, education reform.” Mayor Ballard has a vision for Indianapolis that we will become the economic capital of the new Midwest.

Recently, John Lechleiter, Ph.D., the chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Eli Lilly and Company, commented that "the most important seed of innovation is human talent." John and his wife, Sarah, are the honorary chairs of our corporate fundraising effort. They understand the role of higher education in making a vibrant city that attracts investment, fosters prosperity, encourages innovation, and creates a more civil society.

Indianapolis is home to five urban universities. In addition to Marian University, Indianapolis is fortunate to be the home of Butler University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Martin University, and the University of Indianapolis. Collectively, we represent a powerhouse that develops those seeds of innovation—our students—who become the engines of economic growth for our city and state.

And yet, an urban university strives to be more than the key to economic growth and preparing students to make a living; we also have a central role in promoting the common good. Scientific inquiry, novel research, artistic and cultural pursuits, explorations of faith, service to others, leadership, and civil discourse are essential to preparing students for a life worth living. Learning to understand themselves and the world we live in happens best in the challenging, engaging academic environments offered by exceptional faculty. At Marian University, we take this larger role very seriously; it has been a central focus during our 75-year history in Indianapolis as a liberal arts-based institution.

Looking forward, Marian University is committed to improving K-12 schools in our city and statewide. We have prepared thousands of teachers in our traditional programs; now we prepare even more through our partnership with Teach For America and The New Teacher Project/Indianapolis Teaching Fellows. More than ever, we are intent on preparing educational leaders to transform our schools.

We are also committed to improving the quality of healthcare and becoming a powerful force in Indianapolis’ health and life sciences sectors. For decades, we have prepared nurses. Soon, in addition to preparing nurses, we will prepare physicians. Marian University will open the state's second medical school in the fall of 2013. We also are committed to community partnerships. We have had a longstanding commitment to work with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and serve the Catholic Church’s human resource needs. Many of the ministers, social workers, and teachers in the Catholic schools are Marian University alumni. Most recently, we have expanded our efforts to revitalize this wonderful neighborhood in which Marian University is located. A prime example is the Lake Sullivan Sports Complex, home of the Major Taylor Velodrome, which Marian University now manages for the City of Indianapolis.

Of course, working to improve our K-12 schools, improve healthcare, and fashioning community partnerships does not make Marian University unique. In fact, here and around the country, it is common for urban universities to address these same issues. However, we each bring something different to the effort. Marian University brings willingness to deeply explore these efforts in context of a faith perspective and allow the Catholic intellectual tradition to inform our vision, mission, values, and initiatives.

On Thursday, January 12, 2012 Marian University began its historic 75th anniversary year with an all-campus Mass. It was a fitting way to welcome our faculty and students back to campus for the start of the spring semester. Prayer is an excellent way to start anything worth doing well.

"On the feast of the Epiphany, 1851, 24-year-old Sister Theresa Hackelmeier arrived at a log cabin in Oldenburg, Indiana." So begins the narrative of the history of the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, Indiana. This congregation of Franciscan women would establish schools in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Kansas before taking on their most ambitious project: the creation of a teacher education college that would eventually become Marian University.

When Mother Clarissa Dilhoff moved Marian College to Indianapolis in 1937, she called it "a preposterous venture." Moving an enterprise from the wilderness of southern Indiana to an unfamiliar city during the height of the Great Depression was one of many courageous decisions that Marian University has made in its history. Throughout their history, the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg returned to four central themes:

  • Prayer is a part of everything they do.
  • Purposefulness; they attend to the needs of the times. 
  • Make a commitment to excellence. 
  • Be creative and innovative with the resources available.

Church leaders, governors, and mayors have called on Marian University time and time again to take on bold, preposterous, and risky ventures because society needs us. They call on us because we are prayerful, purposeful, committed to excellence, and resourceful.

Our clear vision commits us deeply to academic excellence. Human talent grows and blossoms in hands-on learning experiences like internships and study abroad trips; scientific inquiry where hypotheses are investigating and novel research conducted; and mission trips and service work in our own community and abroad that expand students’ hearts and open their minds. Equally important to these experiences is the access students have to the knowledge and scholarship of our faculty.

Marian University is prayerful—and purposeful—in our commitment to making Indianapolis and Indiana the new capital of the new Midwest. We are destined to be a great Catholic university that not only serves Indianapolis, but the region. Throughout this entire anniversary year, I will share our progress with you.