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Philanthropy Lunch Recognizes, Celebrates Impact of UIndy Supporters

Panoramic photo of 2024 Philanthropy Lunch

Written by Troi Watts

The University of Indianapolis recently hosted its Eighteenth Annual Philanthropy Lunch (formerly known as Donor Scholar Luncheon) to celebrate the impact of donors who generously provide scholarships, awards and opportunities for UIndy students. Donors and the students they impact have an opportunity to connect at the lunch and students are able to provide updates on their journey with UIndy.

“It has been a true privilege to coordinate this tradition for our donors,” said KaLeigh Lee, Director of Donor Relations in the Office of Advancement, who organized this year’s lunch. “The new name reflects our goal of showing how all types of gifts – endowed funds, scholarships, awards, and special initiatives – can shape the growth of our next generation of Greyhounds. Philanthropy is deeply rooted in the University’s everyday operations, and all aspects deserve to be recognized.”

The lunch opened with students, representing every UIndy college and school, presenting their research projects, which ranged from exploring their art to educating the next generation of Greyhounds. Brooklyn Harpold ‘24 (Music Therapy) presented her research on the perceptions of music therapy by high school music students. Mallory Barnes ‘24 (Nursing), a student of the Ron and Laura Strain Honors College, presented her efforts to improve UIndy nursing students’ understanding of implicit bias and its effects on Black obstetric mortality rates.

After the presentation of student projects, Vice President of Advancement Philip Thornton welcomed donors and students by highlighting UIndy successes over the past year, including the impressive rankings of UIndy’s psychology and engineering programs by the U.S. News and World Report, UIndy’s appearance on the College Tour, the $4.1 million legacy gift from the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation, and the inauguration of UIndy’s tenth president, Dr. Tanuja Singh

Thornton also shared exciting new developments in philanthropic efforts at UIndy, such as the establishment of the Rev. Joseph A. Cummins Scholarship and the Dr. John A. Cummins Scholarship and the naming of the Joan V. Persell Executive Suite.

Through the generosity of donors, UIndy is able to offer over 425 endowed scholarships and awards to students of various majors, years, and backgrounds.

For Evan Porterfield ‘26, recipient of the Joseph Cathcart BUILD Scholarship, earning a scholarship to UIndy endowed him with the confidence to persevere and seek a college degree. From a young age, Porterfield was told that college would not be an option for him due to his severe dyslexia and ADHD. Thankfully, his family refused to let the naysayers dictate Porterfield’s future, and they enrolled him at Fortune Academy, which used a personalized approach to education to help Porterfield succeed. Porterfield would go on to graduate high school with a 4.0 GPA. Then it was time to take the next step: apply to college.

And Porterfield did what so many had said would be impossible.

“When I was accepted to UIndy, my heart soared,” recalled Porterfield. “The long battle that I had was now over. Not only did I get accepted to college, but I received multiple scholarships. I was recognized for the effort I put in, and that was priceless to me.”

Porterfield has thrived at UIndy. Over the past two years, he helped found two registered student organizations, served as an account coordinator for Top Dog Communications, and earned the role of director and editor of two UIndyTV programs. 

“UIndy has supported me more than I ever could have imagined,” continued Porterfield. “Being here has helped showcase my skills to my fullest potential. I am forever grateful for the resources that UIndy has given me to become the person I am today. I’m excited to continue to thrive thanks to UIndy and its supporters.”

Porterfield’s gratitude was echoed by Barbara Morris ‘70, creating donor of the Barbara Huttsell Morris and Clay B. Morris Endowed Scholarship, as she recounted her experience as an “unconventional” student at Indiana Central College (ICC). 

Transitioning to college life is never easy, and Morris’s experience was no exception. A difficult first academic year followed by a severe illness resulted in Morris being ineligible to return to ICC for her third year. While it was disheartening in the moment, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The year off allowed Morris to be with her mother as they both grieved the passing of Morris’s father that fall and gave Morris the time she needed to grow. She secured a teaching position at a parochial school and worked with sixth and seventh graders for some time before returning to ICC.

“The difference in me was that I had functioned as an adult for a year and not as a college student,” explained Morris. “I found a niche in a major in humanities, in a program designed for people who were interested in YMCA, Scouts, and other organizations like that.”

After graduating from ICC in 1970, Morris would go on to own and operate her company, Smooth Transitions, which helped seniors downsize and move. After 25 years of operation, she sold the company. Now, she has even more time to connect with the lifelong friends she met at ICC.

“I still consider my formative years at ICC, now UIndy, to be a big part of who I am today,” said Morris. “Perhaps not a scholar, but a decent armchair Jeopardy player. In 2021, Clay and I established our own scholarship at the University and add to it every year. By creating our scholarship, we hope that we’ll enable another student to reach their own dream and make their own lifelong friendships.”

To learn more about how your gift could impact UIndy and its students, visit