The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust announced today at a luncheon meeting that it has given Marian University a $1 million grant to establish an endowment fund for the university’s environmental science laboratory known as the Marian University EcoLab. In the last decade, the Pulliam Trust has awarded nearly $2 million to the university. The first significant gift of $250,000 was for the initial restoration of the 55-acre historic landscape and protected wetland area known as the EcoLab. This is one of the largest Pulliam grants made to a single organization in Indiana.
“The Marian University EcoLab is a tremendous resource for the Indianapolis community and it is our intention with this grant to help the university establish an endowment fund that will ensure that this vital part of the White River watershed remain protected in perpetuity,” said Harriet Ivey, president and CEO of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. The grant will also ensure quality and consistency of programming, as well as continuity of staff. To honor the Pulliam trust’s longstanding commitment to the university, the laboratory will be renamed the Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab.
The goal for the endowment fund is $5 million; the Pulliam grant represents the lead gift and university officials believe it will encourage and inspire other donors to follow suit. “We value our longstanding relationship with the outstanding board and executive leadership of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Through a shared vision of what an ecology laboratory on a university campus can do to advance environmental stewardship, research, and quality science education, the Trust and Marian University is leading the way in creating a model of national significance,” said Marian University’s president, Daniel J. Elsener. The EcoLab site, which was originally a designed landscape created by famed landscape architect Jens Jenson for the James A. Allison estate known as Riverdale, is now a significant part of the university’s environmental research and serves as an outdoor laboratory year-round.
“The mission of the EcoLab is to develop more and better environmental citizens, and this applies to our academic uses of the EcoLab with our own students as well as to the larger community, especially our K-12 outreach,” said Dr. David Benson, associate professor of biology and director of the EcoLab. Students on campus are doing behavioral, hormone, and genetic research on beavers and birds, research on restoration ecology, and basic ecology as well. Other classes, like art, education, writing, photography, political science, and others use it as well. The 55-acre site also features the Nina Mason Pulliam Nature Center and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust Outdoor Classroom, a meeting space for groups to use, as well as a beaver cam.
“For students and the community, the leadership gift from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust will allow engaging, standards-based, hands-on educational science experiences to be enriched,” said Janice Hicks-Slaughter, director of K-12 outreach and programming for the EcoLab. Students participate in a variety of programs from environmental education experiences to programs for afterschool settings, classroom workshops, summer camps, science festivals, and more. The endowment will benefit students and the community by allowing us to focus on continuing and expanding programs and maintaining outstanding staff.
Kathleen M. Sahm, an elementary teacher at the Indianapolis Public Schools Key Learning Community, commented that her students’ experienced real learning about nature and science. "Our guide was quite knowledgeable and responded well to the students' questions and helped make connections to their science learning. All of the students loved the exploration aspect with the backpack full of science tools.” She also appreciated the pre- and post-field trip materials that helped her add value to her lesson plans.
One of the driving forces behind the grant to Marian University is the trust’s goal of supporting environmental funding requests that are firmly linked to programs that benefit the larger community through conservation, restoration, preservation, and promote personal stewardship. “We look for organizations and programs that connect people to the environment, and especially those that reach out to underserved populations,” said Ivey. Marian University’s urban location and existing outreach to inner city schools through programs like the Indianapolis Teaching Fellows and Teach for America were noted by the trust’s leadership as key reasons for expanding its funding of the university.
About the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust
The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust seeks to help people in need, especially women, children and families; to protect animals and nature; and to enrich community life in the metropolitan areas of Indianapolis and Phoenix.