IBJNews

LEADING QUESTIONS: Marian prez rocks get-it-done mantra

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Leading Questions

Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about the latest developments in their industries and the habits that lead to success.

Growing up in football-crazy Nebraska, Dan Elsener played quarterback on his high school team and receiver during college. Tall as corn in August, the imposing Elsener now brings the same hard-charging, go-long attitude to his post as president of Marian University.



“You know ‘ready, aim, fire’? Some people accuse me of ‘ready, fire,’” said Elsener, 58, whose urgent, get-it-done approach has driven fundraising at Indianapolis-based Marian to stratospheric levels. “I don’t want to dilly-dally.

“I don’t promote being a fool. There is rational analysis that you want to do, and there’s experience to draw from. But I find a lot of leaders are frozen, writing one plan after another. I think you get in the game and you learn a lot.”

Elsener has been quarterback of Marian’s drive to recreate itself since joining the small Catholic liberal arts school in August 2001. Its enrollment has doubled to about 2,550, and the average SAT score of incoming freshmen has climbed about 90 points. Elsener has launched a variety of initiatives, including an adult education program, an entrepreneurial group within the school of business, and the Marian Academy for Teaching and Learning Leadership. To help underline the school’s growing ambitions, it upgraded monikers from Marian College to Marian University in 2009.

But, in particular, two radically different schemes have dramatically raised the profile of the school and created rallying points for students and donors. In the fall of 2007, Marian debuted a football team that this season boasts a 9-0 record and No. 2 ranking in National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics competition. And in 2010, the university announced plans for a $100 million college of osteopathic medicine, which will be just the second medical college in the state.

None of this would be possible without Herculean fundraising, and Elsener’s prowess in generating excitement for new projects and attracting big donations is nothing short of miraculous. With Elsener at the helm, annual fundraising grew from $2.4 million in the 2002 fiscal year to $6.8 million the following year. In 2007, the school launched a hail-Mary, $68.2 million capital campaign; now, a year before scheduled completion, the campaign has generated more than $140 million.

About $82 million of that total has been earmarked for the school of osteopathic medicine, dubbed the Michael A. Evans Center for Health Studies for a $48 million gift from AIT Laboratories founder Michael Evans. (Expected to open in fall 2013, the center also will house Marian’s existing nursing school.)

In the video at top, Elsenser outlines his damn-the-torpedoes attitude toward leadership, fundraising and executing aggressive growth plans. “People say, ‘Well, you might waste some money or you might make a mistake.’ I say, ‘Yeah, you’re right, and we’ll still do it. We’ll learn from that too.'”

In the video below, he recounts the initially fatalistic reactions to suggestions that the school start a football program. These indicated to Elsener that Marian needed to prove to itself it could meet a seemingly unachievable goal. “It told us that if we say we can do something big, we can do it, we’ll do it fast, and it will be excellent,” he said.



 

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Go
    Go President Elsener!
  • No Dilly-Dallying
    Marian is Indiana's number one Liberal Arts school...by far. The quality learning and independent thinking instilled in Marian students, contribute to making the collective community better. President Elsner's focus on the project, rather than raising funds, inspires people to join his vision for MU. No "dilly-dallying".
    • Interviews with Daniel Eisener
      Wow
    • Top Notch
      Marian University is the best school in the state...bar none!Top quality nursing program that only teaches the best of the best! Most hospitals hire Marian graduates as nurses before any others...oh yeah they have a GREAT football program too!

    Post a comment to this story

    COMMENTS POLICY
    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
     
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
     
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
     
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
     
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
     

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    ADVERTISEMENT

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
     
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. Sometimes majority rule is a good thing, such as in the decision of whether or not to unionize. From the comments I read on this topic, I get the impression that people think that a union forces itself into a workplace against the will of the workers. A union is only established if supported by a majority of the workplace's workers. And if a majority of the workers disapprove of the union, they can also vote to have it removed. But you can't expect to run a union where services are provided to all, but dues are voluntary just the same as you couldn't run a government that way. What would happen if payment of taxes were optional? Most people wouldn't pay, it's human nature, and government would collapse. If a union isn't serving its workers well, the membership can vote in new leadership. Right-to-work is simply a strategy to decimate unions and decrease the wage structure for workers to increase profits for corporations. Unfortunately, the strategy has been successful at gaining allies among workers by turning them against one another and by appealing to patriotic terms such as "freedom", "liberty" and "rights". America will not be a better place for the majority of citizens if and when the unions have been eradicated by the rich.

    2. I moved to Indy 15 years ago and have been a dedicated WIBC listener every day on my drive to and from work. Loved Steve Simpson. Can't stand Tony Katz. The WIBC brass and Programming Director are idiots. I now listen to other stations.

    3. From the story: “I don’t know that you’re seeing this type of cumulative sports success anywhere else in the country right now,” said Milt Thompson, an Indianapolis sports attorney and marketer, who serves on the board of the Indianapolis Indians and the Capital Improvement Board, which manages the city’s sports venues. ----- Do we really want the fox guarding the henhouse? We shouldn't be surprised if the Indians get a deal in a few years like the Pacers have.

    4. Didn't we just go through the same with hospital over-construction? Suddenly Indiana had some of the highest hospital rates. Not surprisingly the over-construction led to over-saturation and the inevitable cost cutting measures by hospitals.

    5. The value of any company is what a buyer will pay for it. As such, values are subjective. If you had 10 consultants they would give you 10 different values. It has to be impossible to prove unless government has specific e-mails indicating they purposely inflated the value. Surely, the government will extort the $10 to $15 M it is going to cost to defend then go away. What a crock!

    ADVERTISEMENT