Rich and Robin Porter

Rich and Robin Porter

Indiana State University has received a $250,000 gift to create a cancer research center, which college officials say will provide a "transformational boost" to the university's work on the disease.

The gift is from Rich and Robin Porter, and the center — which will be named after them — is to be located in laboratory space on the second floor of ISU’s Science Building.

ISU trustees approved the naming of the center during a meeting this afternoon conducted electronically via Zoom.

 "Cancer touches everyone," said Rich Porter, a 1977 ISU graduate in business management and former hurdler on the track team. He and his wife decided cancer research was an area where they wanted to make a difference, and they have been involved in similar efforts at Ohio State University.

"Cancer will be cured one discovery at a time, and our hope is that one of those discoveries will be made by an Indiana State University student," whether the discovery takes place at ISU or at some future point in the students' careers, Porter said.

The donation will support five research fellows — internationally competitive graduate students — and allow them to focus their time and attention on research. 

In talking to ISU representatives, the Porters learned about cancer research being done through ISU's genomics program. The donation "elevates the profile of ISU's genomics program within the state of Indiana," Porter said. "It also allows ISU to be competitive with other national programs to recruit the best and brightest minds."

In a news release, ISU president Deborah Curtis said, “This is a visionary program that will put our university on the map nationally as a competitive graduate program in the field. We are so grateful for our alumnus Rich Porter and his wife Robin, who have been generous donors to ISU in the past and now have given us the means to advance our cancer research tremendously.”

Porter, who has had a  40-year career in the manufacturing business, serves as chair of the board of directors for the James Cancer Center at Ohio State University. 

Christopher Olsen, dean of ISU’s College of Arts and Sciences, called the Porters’ gift to ISU  “incredibly generous.”

“Their passion for supporting cutting edge cancer research is inspiring, and hopefully leads to the great breakthrough that we all want,” Olsen said. “Their generosity will allow us to advance cancer research by recruiting top graduate students from around the world."

 Porter Research Fellows will have the financial support they need to work all year on cancer research in the lab, collaborating with ISU faculty, Olsen said.

For the past 13 years, Rich Porter has worked in private equity, building a platform of manufacturing companies in Ohio and New Hampshire. He is President of TE-CO Manufacturing in Union, Ohio. Porter’s professional career has spanned 40 years with companies including Kimball International, Rockwell International, and Ingersoll International. 

The Porters have a history of giving to ISU. In 2015, Rich Porter played an instrumental role in the donation of $500,000 in software to the College of Technology from Hurco Companies, where he serves on the board of directors.

In 2018, the Porters donated to create an interactive display for the track and field program. They added a $25,000 gift to name the track and field conference room in honor of Porter’s coach and mentor, Bill Malloy.

The Porters' gift is a term endowment that will fund the center for five years.

2021-2025 priorities

Also at the meeting, trustees approved priorities for ISU's next strategic plan that will guide the university from 2021-25.

The four priorities are as follows:

• Prepare the workforce for Indiana and beyond.

• Impact lives and communities.

• Ensure equity and inclusiveness.

• Increase institutional vitality, sustainability and performance.

“We are excited to embark on this planning process during a critical time of significant change for higher education,” Curtis said in a news release.

Over the coming months, campus leaders will work with governance units and campus stakeholders in developing the new plan, which will include goals, initiatives and performance measures. Brad Balch, dean emeritus and professor of Educational Leadership at Indiana State, will lead the strategic planning process.

A draft of the full plan will be shared with campus stakeholders and trustees in February 2021 for feedback. In May 2021, trustees will be asked to endorse the final plan.

The current, five-year strategic plan runs through fall 2021. The new plan will cover four years because of the rapidly evolving landscape of higher education and the anticipated reduction in the number of traditional college-age individuals.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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