On April 25, 2018, Purdue University celebrated its fifth annual Day of Giving-and welcomed a $690,000 gift from Ron (Pharmacy 1970 and 2001) and Susie (Education 1970) Dollens for Purdue University's College of Education. Through a donor-advised fund at Purdue Research Foundation, the alumni couple created the Russell Kirts Teaching Excellence Award, which memorializes a beloved educator and aims to attract and retain outstanding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers to Danville (Indiana) Community High School and Middle School.
Russell Kirts was a personal hero of Ron Dollens'. The advanced placement teacher at Danville Community High School "was diligent in preparing his students to be knowledgeable problem solvers," Ron Dollens says. "He was held in the highest regard for his intellectual capacity, curiosity and commitment to a successful product: his students. One teacher can make a difference."
The generous contribution made by the Dollens family will make a difference as well. Their gift will provide scholarships for teachers at the Danville middle and high schools to pursue additional STEM coursework, either by earning a Master's of Science in Education (MSED) in Curriculum and Instruction at Purdue or by earning 18 college credit hours to become eligible to teach dual- credit in a STEM field. Educators seeking to teach dual-credit courses (which count for both high school and college credit) may take graduate courses through the Hoosier STEM Academy-a partnership between Purdue University, Valparaiso University, Ball State University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)-or other institutions.
Ron and Susie Dollens also started the C. Russel Kirts Memorial Fund at the Hendricks County Community Foundation to support the project. This permanent fund will make grants to attract, develop and retain STEM teachers at Danville through grants for continuing education tuition, student loan repayment and funding recruiting bonuses to attract new teachers. Ron and Susie Dollens also started a fund at the Community Foundation in 2003 that provides a scholarship to a Danville High School graduating senior who plans a career in education, science or engineering.
"The Dollens' gift brings the mission of the Purdue College of Education to Danville, Indiana, to positively impact and attract strong educators," says Maryann Santos, the dean of Purdue's College of Education. "Beyond providing resources for teachers, this gift will have the potential effect of helping hundreds of students become successful, knowledgeable adults."
"We hope others will join us in supporting this or similar endeavors to leverage the predictable equalizer: a great education," says R. Dollens. Ron and Susie are long time donors to Purdue and the College of Education. In addition to establishing this award in Kirts' honor, and many other gifts to Purdue and the community, the couple created the Jean Adamson Stanley Faculty Chair in Literacy in honor of Susie's mother, a former teacher; and the Maxine Stanley Davis Scholarship for Nursing.
"We are excited for our teachers and community", says Tracey Shafer, Superintendent of Danville Community School Corporation and three-degree Purdue College of Education alumnus. "This gift will allow us to recruit and retain the very best educators."
Susie is a retired teacher and reading specialist. Ron is the retired President and CEO, Guidant Corporation, currently Chairman of the Board, Halyard Health Corporation.