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Love of life, love of campus: UIndy announces $6M commitment to grow Ron and Laura Strain Honors College

Ron and Laura Strain

The University of Indianapolis today announced a major expansion of the Ron and Laura Strain Honors College thanks to another generous gift from Laura Strain—a $6 million commitment which will strengthen the college for generations to come.

The Strains have strong ties to the UIndy campus. They met as students and became college sweethearts before a 59-year marriage. Ron and Laura both joined the University’s Board of Trustees in 2013, where Laura continues to serve. The Honors College was renamed in their honor in 2015 as a result of their initial endowment, about 10 months before Ron passed away.

For Laura Strain, the University of Indianapolis campus still holds a special place in her heart in large part because it is where she met the love of her life. That love is what motivated the latest commitment.

“Ron would have wanted it,” Laura said. “He never forgot about what he learned at the University of Indianapolis—both inside and outside the classroom. He is smiling down on us and is so proud of what the Strain Honors College is doing for our students. ”

The Ron and Laura Strain Honors College currently houses more than 250 students in all different majors and disciplines across UIndy. The program provides students with opportunities for leadership, service, independent study and faculty-guided research—with the goal to create a community of scholars who welcome challenges and demonstrate academic excellence so that they are equipped to solve complex problems to serve as leaders and changemakers in a rapidly changing world.

“On behalf of the entire university community, I want to thank Laura Strain for her generous gift and continued commitment to the University of Indianapolis,” said University of Indianapolis President Tanuja Singh. “This gift expands the impact of the Ron and Laura Strain Honors College. It will enable us to strengthen our commitment to attracting and retaining motivated and talented students and prepare them for leadership, impact and a love for lifelong learning.”

“Laura’s generosity will have a lasting impact on the Ron and Laura Strain Honors College, and we are forever grateful,” said Christopher Plouff, executive vice president and provost for the University of Indianapolis. “This gift will allow for enhanced high-impact learning opportunities for our honors students, while also enriching our academic and scholarly community at UIndy.”

Group picture of Honors College trip to Toledo
A picture of James B. Williams and the 2022 Honors College trip to the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain.

Any incoming freshman entering the University of Indianapolis can apply for admission into the Strain Honors College. Other students may apply if they meet grade and credit requirements, with a continued emphasis to create a more diverse college which is more reflective of the University as a whole.

Honors College students have opportunities to participate in specialty programming and tutoring, study abroad trips and other experiences. Each student must complete an approved capstone project to graduate “with distinction.”

“This funding will have a dramatic impact on our students,” said James B. Williams, executive director of the Strain Honors College. “Graduates consistently tell us that their capstone as well as international trips, experiences and special classes that are available to them are quite formative and the highlight of their education. This new commitment will enable more students to live into our motto of ‘acquiring knowledge through self-discovery’ so that they can then go on to becoming the next generation of leaders worldwide.”

Student in front of Catedral de Leon in Spain
AJ Garrett in front of the Royal Palace of Madrid in Spain

Third-year chemistry student and current Honors Student Association president AJ Garrett enjoyed living in the Honors Living-Learning Community as a freshman because it gave her the chance to create deeper relationships with other students she often saw in class. She also relished the chance to take honors versions of classes in her major because it gave her more hands-on experience and practice solving problems creatively.

Garrett’s first real international travel experience was the 165-mile walk of El Camino de Santiago in 2022. She believes the trip’s impact on her life is impossible to articulate and is thrilled that more students like her will benefit thanks to the $6 million commitment. She is heading on another Honors trip to Turkey in March.

“The Honors College has provided me with so many opportunities and experiences I would never had the chance to do if I wasn’t involved,” said Garrett. “The Spain trip was so important to me. As you speak with others or walk in silence, you get to know yourself and what you value you most. It also made me realize how much I love traveling, especially on an international scale!”

UIndy alumna Kristen Rue-Parrish calls her time at the Honors College the “most cherished moments” of her time as an undergraduate and the most influential education experience she’s ever had. Her honors project explored how the threat of medical malpractice lawsuits influenced physicians’ everyday patient care. It proved to be a perfect precursor to attending law school, as well as the interview process.

“My Honors project is the gift that keeps on giving,” said Rue-Parrish. “It brings me so much joy to think of how this gift will allow for more students to participate in the Honors College. The Honors College allows for countless educational and social opportunities, and those opportunities will only grow with this gift. If even just one more student could benefit for conducting an honors project each year, it would a worthwhile investment. However, with a gift this large, the possibilities are endless in terms of what educational and social opportunities this could bring.”

As the program grows, the $6 million commitment will elevate the executive director position to become an academic dean-level, more in line with the responsibilities and oversight required by the role.

Ron Strain grew up in Indianapolis where he lettered in tennis at Indiana Central College, as it was then known, graduating in 1957 with a degree in business administration. He spent his career in finance leadership, including plant controller for an RCA plant in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, before retiring from Miller Brewing Company as the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer in 1993. They were longtime residents of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before moving to Naples, Florida, in retirement.

Laura Strain had a successful career herself, eventually retiring as Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for U.S. Bank. She is most excited with the knowledge that her $6 million commitment will result in many more international opportunities for students—experiences that she knows can mean a lifetime of difference.

“When Ron and I retired, we were able to travel the world. It really changed our perspective and opened our minds to other cultures,” said Laura Strain. “The Strain Honors College provides those opportunities to UIndy students at a point in their studies where it can change their lives forever. That is truly priceless.”

More information about the Ron and Laura Strain Honors College is available at