Five million reasons to celebrate


Yvonne Shaheen gift to transform liberal arts at UIndy

Following the announcement of the gift at Commencement, UIndy Board of Trustees Chair Tom Martin and College of Arts & Sciences Dean Jennifer Drake celebrate donor and trustee Yvonne Shaheen (center).

Following the announcement of the gift at Commencement, UIndy Board of Trustees Chair Tom Martin and College of Arts & Sciences Dean Jennifer Drake celebrate donor and trustee Yvonne Shaheen (center).

A $5-million endowment gift from noted civic leader, philanthropist, and longtime UIndy trustee Yvonne Shaheen will fuel innovation in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Indianapolis, creating a pivotal opportunity to cultivate the liberal arts as the foundation for students’ professional and personal development. Shaheen is vice chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, which she joined in 1992. In recognition of her generosity as well as her ongoing leadership and advocacy, the college is being named the Riad and Yvonne Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences, honoring both her and her late husband. President Robert Manuel announced the extraordinary gift during the annual Commencement ceremony in Key Stadium on May 2, drawing an ovation from the crowd of thousands.

“Yvonne Shaheen is a true pillar of this city and state, providing her personal energy, financial support, and wise counsel to many efforts that enrich our community, and the University is grateful to be included among her priorities,” Manuel said. “Thanks to Yvonne, at a time when some question the value of liberal arts education, we can make an unparalleled investment in people and programs that prepare graduates not merely for a job but also for continuing growth and fulfillment in their lives as working professionals and engaged citizens.”

The Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences offers scores of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in a range of disciplines, including Anthropology, Art & Design, Biology, Chemistry, Communication, English, History & Political Science, Math & Computer Science, Modern Languages, Multidisciplinary Programs, Music, Philosophy & Religion, Physics & Earth-Space Sciences, Sociology & Criminal Justice, Social Work, and Theatre. Nearly half of UIndy undergraduates choose majors in those departments, which also provide important core courses and enriching electives to students majoring in such professional fields as health sciences, education, and business.

Funding academic enrichment

The new funding will support a broad range of programs and activities including scholarships, faculty development, and interdisciplinary initiatives, and further opportunities for faculty and students to collaborate on research. It also will bring important national and international figures to campus for lectures, performances, and events consistent with the mission and values of the college and the University. Jennifer Drake, dean of the Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences, noted that education in the fine and performing arts, the humanities, the sciences, and the social sciences nurtures the creativity, critical thinking, communication skills, and broad worldview that employers seek and that are vital to success in any endeavor. “We’re eager to explore the possibilities that this gift represents, in terms of sparking continued innovation in teaching, embedding transformative experiences throughout our curriculum, and promoting research, travel, and community engagement as key elements of undergraduate education,” Drake said. “By reinforcing our commitment to the vitality of the liberal arts and sciences, this funding will benefit all UIndy students, and ultimately the communities where they live and work, well into the future.”

Shaheen, a teacher by training, served 18 years as CEO and president of Long Electric Co., assuming the post upon her husband’s death and turning the family business into one of the state’s largest electrical contractors. Since retiring, she has distinguished herself as a community volunteer dedicated to advancing the arts, culture, education, and other vital causes in central Indiana. Among other leadership roles, she serves as chair of the WFYI Public Media Board of Directors, vice chair of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra board, and a member and former chair of the Arts Council of Indianapolis board. In 1996 UIndy recognized her with an honorary doctor of humanities degree and, in 2013, inducted her as an Honorary Alumna of the University. “I’ve seen the importance of strategic philanthropy in advancing the culture and enhancing the quality of life in this community,” Shaheen said.

“The University of Indianapolis plays an integral part in that process, and I am happy to support its efforts to prepare future generations of leaders for the important roles they will play in our society.”

Meet standouts of the newly named Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences

In making the gift announcement, President Rob Manuel singled out several students and faculty as personifying the vibrancy and variety found in the College of Arts & Sciences, and capturing the interest of Yvonne Shaheen, a staunch supporter of the liberal arts.

—Francesca Zappia graduated on May 2 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, minoring in mathematics. But she’s also a writer. On May 19, her debut novel, Made You Up, was released nationally in 448-page hardcover by a subsidiary of major publisher HarperCollins. Already she has deals for translations to be published in Germany, Brazil, and Taiwan, among others.

—Harleen Athwal graduated May 2 with a bachelor of science degree. She had performed research with UIndy faculty on Saponaria plants, then worked with scientists at UC Berkeley last summer to study selection in jumping spiders before publishing a paper on the study as first author. She earned the Best Paper Presentation award at a national conference in April for research on her honors thesis concerning 6,200-year-old dental remains. She also has been accepted in the University of Michigan’s prestigious joint DDS/PhD program.

—Kayla Sullivan was named Student Journalist of the Year by the Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

—Kevin Ellenberger majored in music and finance and, after performing a challenging classical piano repertoire, won the state’s highest honors from the Music Teachers National Association.

—Paula Romero Bermudez overcame fierce national competition to earn a coveted Google internship.

—Zak Mitiche, a sociology and philosophy double-major, is collecting oral histories on issues of race and gender among urban farmers, and he continued this line of work when he accompanied Professor Terrence Harewood on his spring term trip to Cuba.

—A new research initiative spearheaded by assistant chemistry professor Brad Neal and his colleagues has given students crucial experience with sophisticated equipment, such as a microwave plasma-atomic emission spectrometer, a photospectrometer, and gas and liquid chromatographs.

—Larry Sondhaus, professor and highly regarded World War I historian, had another book on the war’s naval history published (Cambridge University Press).

—Krista Latham, associate professor of biology and anthropology, has earned international recognition for leading two teams of students to Texas to exhume and identify remains of undocumented migrants. Now she has become one of only about 70 people in the world to earn the distinction of board-certified forensic anthropologist—a very short list that includes Stephen Nawrocki, Sease Distinguished Professor of Forensic Studies. UIndy is one of only five institutions in the U.S. that can boast two such scholars.