Indiana State University Newsroom

Chicago couple’s donation among largest in university history

April 28, 2017

Contributing among the largest individual gifts in Indiana State University history was a natural decision for alumnus Todd Osburn and his wife, Caroline Howe.

The couple has been actively engaged with the university for the better part of the past decade, including Osburn serving on the Indiana State University Foundation board of directors.

"The people we meet from ISU are genuine and passionate about ISU and the work they're doing -- whether it's building awareness of the school or educating students," Howe said. "They're sincere and hardworking individuals, who believe in, and work hard at, building relationships."

The $7.5 million planned gift is uniquely structured to both help the most financially strapped students -- those from middle-income families -- and to ensure their professional readiness upon graduation. The Caroline C. Howe and Todd A. Osburn Endowed Scholarship sets aside $5 million to assist Scott College of Business students, and $2.5 million will create the Caroline C. Howe and Todd A. Osburn Career Professional Readiness Fund.

Osburn said the financial challenges faced by students from middle-income families were highlighted during a foundation board presentation by President Dan Bradley. Higher-income parents can afford to pay for their children's college expenses, and low-income students can qualify for federal and state subsidies. The widest funding gap, however, is among middle income parents who don't earn enough to pay for their children's higher education.

"Middle-income families are really getting squeezed," Osburn said. "That really resonated. When we thought of the gift, we really wanted to target these students who have the biggest financial challenge."

Osburn and Howe, too, hope to inspire others to support Indiana State's endeavors. "If everyone continues to give back to those who follow in their footsteps, it can really make a difference," he said.

"One of the biggest gifts we can give ourselves or each other is education," she said, adding that Osburn often says education is one of the greatest equalizers.

College is more important now than ever before, Bradley said.

"The difference a college education makes in the earning potential of a person is continuing to widen. Recent studies have shown the annual earnings for full-time working college grads is nearly $20,000 greater than for those with high school diplomas only," Bradley said. "This kind of support will greatly enhance Indiana State's ability to provide a quality of education and career training to deserving students - and change their lives forever."

The middle class was once the leading reason why America led the world in young adults attaining a college education.

"The cost of education is a major hurdle for many students who are seeking the American dream - a college education," said Brien Smith, dean of the Scott College of Business. "This gift will be a difference maker for many students who want an accredited business degree but can't find a financial pathway. To say these scholarships will have a lasting legacy is an understatement."

Osburn, '85, of Chicago earned a degree in accounting and is a founding partner of Greyrock Capital Group. Howe earned a bachelor's degree in communications and development from Marymount Manhattan College in New York and a master's degree in education from Hunter College of The City University of New York.

Osburn says the decision to attend Indiana State was a natural one after graduating from Terre Haute South High School. While attending Indiana State during the day, he worked nights full-time at the Pillsbury plant (now the soon-to-be renovated ICON building) on the Wabash River.

That work ethic combined with people who invested in him has been a key driver to Osburn's success, he told students when he was the December 2014 commencement speaker.

"My first job after graduation was at Roadmaster Corporation, located in Olney, Ill. It was a terrific experience for me for a number of reasons, one of which was that the owners believed strongly in developing their employees through continuing education and brought in guest lecturers and numerous individuals to teach seminars on a wide range of subjects," Osburn said at the time.

Upon deciding how to structure the gift to the university, Howe said they asked their nieces and nephews what they wished they had learned in college. Their wish list included job readiness skills such as internships, interview preparedness, communication etiquette, general leadership and corporate social responsibility . Osburn and Howe hope to help Sycamores be "ready to hit the ground running" upon graduation.

"It's not just enough to graduate," Osburn said. "You have to be prepared for that next chapter in your life. ISU was the core thing that prepared me for the next chapter, which was work."

With this gift, the Career Center at Indiana State looks forward to further enhancing and deepening their efforts to prepare Sycamores for the real world.

"ISU is proud of our tradition of helping Indiana families transform their lives through education," said Nancy Rogers, vice president for University Engagement, which includes the Career Center. "This generous gift will make sure we help future Sycamores achieve their dreams -- and to be candidates employers dream of hiring -- by providing them the best career preparedness that we can."

Aside from an education, Osburn's most prized outcome from attending Indiana State is the people he met. "Some of my closet relationships today are those I built while at Indiana State," he said.

"Todd and Caroline are passionate about the transformative experience that Indiana State provides our students," said Ron Carpenter, vice president for development and CEO of the ISU Foundation. "As one of the largest single philanthropic commitments to our university, their gift is an important legacy not only for the couple, but also future generations of Sycamores. Their generosity will support our institutional commitments to affordability and career-readiness."


Photo: -- Indiana State University President Dan Bradley, Caroline Howe and Todd Osburn pose for a photograph on campus. -- Indiana State University President Dan Bradley, Caroline Howe and Todd Osburn pose for a photograph on campus.

Media contact: Libby Roerig, director of communications and media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or