Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana conferred a Sagamore of the Wabash award to Marian University’s president, Daniel J. Elsener, on October 13, 2011. Rarely given during Daniels’ tenure in office, the award is bestowed upon those citizens who contribute greatly to the state of Indiana. Elsener has served on the Indiana State Board of Education for six years and was recently appointed to the board of the Indianapolis life science initiative known as 16 Tech. “Marian University has been a stabilizing force on Indianapolis’ west side for more than 70 years. I am very pleased to witness its dramatic growth into a powerhouse for Indiana,” said Daniels.
On the same day, Bill Eckman ‘74, chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees and chief financial officer of GEO Specialty Chemicals, announced that Elsener had agreed to a 10-year contract. “At a time when several Indiana universities have announced leadership changes, I think this is a fitting recognition of Dan’s extraordinary contributions to our institution, to our community, and to the state of Indiana,” said Eckman. In the photo from left to right are Bill Eckman '74, President Elsener, and John Cardis '63.
The contract ensures the continuity of leadership that has been a vital part of the university’s success. Elsener commented that his service to the university was more than just a job. "Marian University is part of who I am. I AM a Knight now, and will be forever."
Elsener, one of the longest-serving university presidents in Indiana, celebrated his 10-year anniversary with Marian University in August. He has been instrumental in leading the university’s extraordinary growth in enrollment and financial stability. He initiated an ambitious, five-year, $68.2 million fundraising initiative in 2007 called Make History: Advance the Mission of Marian University that currently totals over $140 million. The campaign will conclude in 2012 on the 75th anniversary of the university’s relocation to Indianapolis.
“President Elsener’s 10 years of service are marked by several key things, foremost of which is that he has forged an incredibly strong leadership team led by Dr. Thomas Enneking, our provost, the academic deans, and our faculty,” said Marian University trustee John C. Cardis. “Everything that the university has achieved in the last decade stems from this leadership core and Dan’s great vision,” he continued. Cardis is a former national managing partner of Deloitte and a 1963 graduate of Marian University who was tapped in 2007 to serve as the chairman of the Make History campaign.
Under Elsener’s administration, enrollment at Marian University has more than doubled; this fall over 2,500 students were enrolled. Construction projects like the Steffen Music Center, St.Vincent Health Field, and University Hall totaling more than $100 million, have dramatically transformed the campus, located on the near northwest side of Indianapolis. On August 24, 2011, the university broke ground on its latest building project, the Michael A. Evans Center for Health Sciences. The building will house the university’s School of Nursing and the new College of Osteopathic Medicine; the medical school project was kick-started by a $48 million gift from AIT Laboratories founder and CEO Michael Evans. This is the largest of several multi-million gifts that have been given during his tenure, and a strong indicator that Elsener’s leadership is raising awareness of the university's mission and transforming its reputation throughout central Indiana and across the country.
The Sagamore of the Wabash award was presented to Elsener during the university’s largest fundraising event, the annual Mary McNulty Young ’47 Opportunities for Excellence Scholarship Dinner. Eckman presented the award on behalf of the governor.
Elsener is the latest member of the Marian University community to receive a Sagamore of the Wabash. Trustee Jerry Semler, construction partner Michael Browning, and graduates Alice Davis ’53, Berton O’Bryan ’63, and Frank Velikan ’65 have all received the award previously.