Franklin College lands $2M gift from former Eli Lilly executive

Franklin College has received a $2 million donation from former Eli Lilly and Co. executive and philanthropist Douglas Tillman, the university announced Thursday.

douglas TillmanDouglas Tillman

The money will be used to create a super endowment that will generate cash for immediate projects and help fund future projects in perpetuity, Franklin College President Thomas Minar said.

“A super endowment is a unique, creative gift instrument and very unusual in higher education,” Minar said in written comments. “The sole purpose of its annual income distribution is to fund new endowments forever, each with distinctive funding objectives. This is a gift that will usher continued transformation of the college and help support and provide financial flexibility for the needs of the college now and in the future.”

Tillman graduated from Franklin College in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and economics. After earning a law degree, he built 33-year career with Lilly as an executive in the corporate personnel and general counsel departments.

The Indianapolis resident has served on the Franklin College board of trustees for 27 years.

Tillmann has volunteered, donated to or served on boards for several area arts and cultural organizations, including the Indianapolis Zoo, the Indianapolis Art Center, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the American Pianist Association and the Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis.

“Doug serves as a role model for current and future donors,” Minar said. “I have an enormous amount of gratitude for his generosity, leadership, insightfulness and vision. His impact on future generations of students will be felt at Franklin College forever.”

Franklin, founded in 1834, has an enrollment of just over 1,000 students and offers 50-plus majors in 24 academic disciplines. Its 207-acre campus is in Johnson County, about 25 miles south of downtown Indianapolis.

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