Tobias gift of $5M to establish IU global development center

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Indiana University will establish a research laboratory focused on international development—including missions such as reducing poverty and inequality and addressing climate change—based on a $5 million gift from Deborah and Randall Tobias.

The Randall L. and Deborah F. Tobias Center for Innovation in International Development will formally kick off with a two-day conference Nov. 10-11 featuring experts on global development talking about combating HIV/AIDS, nation-building in Afghanistan, and developing metrics to measure development effectiveness.

The center will operate within IU's School of Global and International Studies in Bloomington and use existing university faculty in a number of disciplines to research a range of issues related to effective development and utilizing foreign aid, according to an IU spokesman.

Randall Tobias, the former CEO of Eli Lilly and Co. and AT&T Communications, has a long history of focusing on solving international issues. He previously served as the U.S. global AIDS coordinator under President George W. Bush. Later he served as deputy secretary of state and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

He served on the IU Board of Trustees from 2013 to 2016, chairing it from 2014 to 2016, and has served on the IU Foundation's Board of Directors since 1986.

Deborah Tobias retired as operations director for Juniper Networks, a technology firm specializing in networking equipment. She also previously served in executive roles at three technology firms.

The gift began to take shape in 2016 as Deborah Tobias talked with IU President Michael McRobbie about how she might celebrate her husband’s 75th birthday with a gift to the university that recognized his interest in international development.

McRobbie said “by advancing teaching and research activity related to such important issues as foreign aid, global public health and environmental protection, this new center will have an enormous impact on preparing a new generation of leaders in the increasingly vital field of international development.”

"On behalf of everyone at Indiana University, I want to express our deep gratitude to Deborah and Randy for their continued and remarkably generous contributions to IU that have furthered our missions of excellence in teaching, research and service to communities around the world,” he said in a press release.

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, who advocated for the passage of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, which Randall Tobias led, said that he “was a visionary, an entrepreneur with new ideas and new organizational possibilities.”

"I think that President Bush recognized that Randall Tobias had a great deal of business knowledge and talent," Lugar said in the release. "It was an ideal combination to attack a problem—HIV/AIDS all over the world—that was going to require a lot of imagination.”

At the center, the Tobiases imagine that faculty and students will “work on identifying best practices in delivery of international assistance while examining metrics to assess aid effectiveness and creating self-sufficiency for aid recipients.”

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