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October 21, 2002

ISU receives $20 million grant
from Lilly Endowment for NetWorks

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. Indiana State University has received a $20 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., the largest gift in the university’s history.   [Go to NetWorks announcement site]  [WFIU radio segment]

Click here for more on NetWorksThe four-year grant gives ISU the resources to create NetWorks — an outreach of the ISU School of Business to provide new directions in financial services for Indiana, the nation and the world. [Networks in Action]  NetWorks’ headquarters will be in Indianapolis, with satellite offices in Terre Haute on the ISU campus, Washington, D.C., and a yet-to-be-determined international location.

“We’re absolutely delighted to have the confidence of the Lilly Endowment and we appreciate their generosity,” said ISU President Lloyd W. Benjamin III. “It’s going to be an important generating force — not only on our campus, but in the community, state, nation and world.”  [audio]  [video]


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“For years Indiana has been known for its outstanding insurance and financial services sector. Lilly Endowment believes that NetWorks can play an important role in shaping the future vibrancy of this sector of Indiana’s economy through its educational and research programs,” said Clay Robbins, Endowment president. “We want more people in our state to believe that first-rate activities and resources can thrive in Indiana, and the Endowment hopes that this center will play an important role in affirming this belief.”  

“In formulating NetWorks, President Benjamin and his colleagues have covered every base and included the perspectives of students, the academy, the business sector and government. By so doing, they have significantly enhanced the center’s chances for success,” noted Sara B. Cobb, Endowment vice president for education.

The grant was announced jointly by ISU and the Endowment during a breakfast at ISU’s Heritage Ballroom and later at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis. 

The concept of NetWorks emerged from the work of ISU School of Business faculty who participated in a “quantum leap team,” as well as representatives of the financial services industry and the state’s political leadership. These individuals were charged by Benjamin to examine ways in which the School of Business could build upon its strengths to better serve Indiana. The result was the development of NetWorks — a shared vision designed to capitalize on the school’s history of providing leaders for the financial services industry.

Benjamin and Dean of ISU’s School of Business Ron Green will lead the NetWorks initiative, which is designed to build upon the educational innovations of ISU and the School of Business to provide a platform for the development of “reality-based, innovative approaches” to dealing with emerging issues and trends in the financial services industry.

“NetWorks will allow us to bring the brightest minds together, to bring faculty, students, scholars, practitioners and executives into an educational setting that can be expanded to deal with issues in the financial services industry as they arise,” Green said.  [audio]  [video]

The grant will mean profound changes for ISU, its faculty and students, Benjamin noted. It will create even more opportunities for students to gain knowledge and experience not only in the classroom, but in the financial services industry as well. It will also mean greater opportunity for faculty — in the School of Business and other academic units — to be engaged in the global economic perspective, research and product development and design.

One of NetWorks’ main functions will be to spawn focused Centers of Excellence. These centers may emerge from the issues presently confronting the financial services industry such as risk management or ethical leadership.

“The business community has gone through tumultuous change over the last year,” said Mike Alley, retired president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank of Indiana. “If you look at the scandals in industry, the questioning of corporate ethics, lack of confidence in our business community, the risk management issues which have arisen due to a variety of terrorist attacks, we truly have gone through dramatic change. I think now more than ever we need something to address that. NetWorks is a program that does indeed do that. It provides scholarly research that can be practically applied.”  [audio]  [video]

Providing ISU students and faculty with teaching and learning opportunities through various collaborations with scholars and practitioners from around the world is also a major focus of NetWorks, Green said.

“It is anticipated that these activities will give rise to Centers of Excellence across Indiana, the nation and the world,” Green said. “These centers will be designed to positively impact both education and professional practice.” 

Among other goals NetWorks is expected to achieve are:

  • providing research support for the development of scholarly innovation

  • providing scholarships, internships and research opportunities to students

  • providing faculty internships with industry

  • sponsoring annual conferences

  • developing continuing education programs and personal financial education materials to Indiana’s K-12 educators

  • providing support for professional development of ISU School of Business faculty and other ISU faculty contributing to NetWorks programs

Bill Wilhelm, assistant professor of business education at ISU, said NetWorks will not only be beneficial to students, faculty and professionals, but to members of the community as well.

“It’s interesting to note that credit card debt is rampant in our society these days, but credit cards are so easy to get,” he said. “It’s also interesting to note we’ve got interest rates that are the lowest in 40 or 50 years and we still have foreclosures that are at record levels. It speaks a little bit about what the public really knows about personal finance.”  [audio]  [video]

This initiative will have a focus on education for the K-12 schools, providing curriculum and symposia to also reach state legislators, superintendents, school board members, principals and parents, Wilhelm indicated.

The NetWorks program will complement and build upon other excellent programs on campus, Benjamin added, for example, the Gongaware Scholars program and the Department of Commerce regional office opening soon in the School of Technology. Those programs combined with ISU’s relationships with leaders in Morocco, Thailand, China and Western Europe provide ISU students with “incredible intellectual resources,” Benjamin said.

“NetWorks will enable us to think about policy, to put new lenses on issues that are critical to the world’s economy, and those ideas will now come from the Crossroads of America,” he said.


Ron Green, dean, ISU School of Business
(812) 237-2000 or

Jennifer Kearns, assistant director, public affairs
(812) 237-8037 or

ISU Public Affairs:
(812) 237-3773 or