In 2015, Dr. Rose Mays, in honor of her late husband William’s legacy, created the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. This institute fosters a greater understanding of the ways in which underrepresented people are both inspired and informed donors by providing knowledge, education, and training. Recently, Dr. Mays sat down to explain the impetus behind the institute and how she hopes it makes an impact.
Dr. Mays experienced informal philanthropy earlier on in life. “My family always attended church, and we were always expected to give,” she said.
However, she explained that a large influence on her thinking about philanthropy was her husband, who was the founder of Mays Chemical Company.
“He didn’t just give money, he embraced service by giving his time as well,” Dr. Mays said. “He was dedicated to and deeply involved in multiple ways with organizations that he served on, such as chairing the United Way’s annual campaign. He embraced the whole role and that’s when I really began to see us as philanthropists.”
The Mays’ have had a special heart for Indiana University. Mr. Mays received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from IU Bloomington, while Dr. Mays earned her master’s degree in pediatric nursing from IUPUI. Upon receiving her master’s degree, Dr. Mays received the Outstanding Graduate Student award from the alumni association and a check for $100.
“I remember Bill saying that we needed to start giving back to the school, right after I received that check!” Dr. Mays laughed.
Their giving supported many different schools and scholarship programs at IU Bloomington and IUPUI. Wanting to encompass the whole concept of philanthropy and giving time, treasure, and talent, Mr. Mays also served on the IU Foundation Board and the IUPUI Board of Advisors. To honor him and his legacy, friend and local attorney Lacy Johnson suggested that Dr. Mays create an institute within the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
“When he told me the idea and I reflected on it, I was certainly on board,” Dr. Mays said. “Part of Bill’s essence was the whole philanthropic giving back to the community, so the idea of forming this institute certainly resonated with me.”
So, she established the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy, including in the name the couple’s daughters, who have also embraced the idea of philanthropy and service to the community, and their families.
An academic, Dr. Mays sees the power of philanthropy in higher education.
“Philanthropy provides that edge of excellence for a university,” she said. “When I was a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, they had 10 endowed professors. Those endowed chairs allowed for them to become one of the top schools in the country. It’s due to philanthropy. It’s incredibly powerful in academia.”
As a professor at IUPUI, Dr. Mays also worked on fundraising campaigns within the IU School of Nursing to establish the school’s first endowed professorship, and saw the continual benefits of philanthropy in higher education.
What does she hope to see from the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy?
“Much of our giving has focused on advocacy, especially advocacy for marginalized groups or groups that have been left out of the mainstream,” she said. “We look at equity, diversity, and inclusion. We need more diversity in terms of faculty and students. I also think that a key aspect of the institute will be research. Research informs practice and practice generates questions and so I hope that this is a catalyst for generating questions about that work and teaching it to the students being trained and educated here. Philanthropy isn’t just about writing checks anymore. Staying on top of those changes in philanthropy and its methods and trends will make a powerful impact.”
She also hopes that more people are inspired to give.
“When Bill gave, he would ask others to contribute as well, or use peer-to-peer fundraising,” Dr. Mays said. “One of the last things he did before he died was appear on WTLC radio during their Mozel Sanders Thanksgiving Dinner drive to challenge listeners to give. He was a role model to others to be philanthropists in their own ways. I agree; I think we’re all philanthropists and we should all be giving.”
Abby Rolland is the blog content coordinator for the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.