Dr. Fran Huehls has been a longtime employee and faculty member of the then-Center on Philanthropy, the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and the Joseph and Matthew Payton Philanthropic Studies Library. After 30 years working with the school and library, Dr. Huehls retired last December. Learn more about her experiences and how she’ll continue to stay busy.
Background: “I worked in nonprofit accounting, but when I moved to Indiana in the 1980s, I realized I wanted to earn a master’s degree in library science. While I was working on that degree, they were looking for people to work on a new publication called the Philanthropic Studies Index through the new Center on Philanthropy. I started working on it through the Center, and never left!”
After completing her master’s in library science, Dr. Huehls continued on to earn her master’s in philanthropic studies and doctorate in higher education.
Different experiences with the Center, school, library: “I continued with the library until 2000 and then became the full-time librarian. I also worked for two years as a research associate for the Center on Philanthropy.”
Dr. Huehls has worked in teaching, research, writing, editing, advising, and other tasks associated with the library.
Job responsibilities: “I selected materials for the Payton Library and evaluated gift donations. This program has a lot of in-class instruction on library skills, so I worked with students individually on assignments. I attended conferences and wrote and edited articles and books, including co-authoring a book called Fundraising and Institutional Advancement: Theory, Practice, and New Paradigms. I taught a research methods course for five years and worked on the master’s advising committee. I also acted as head of the Ruth Lilly Special Collections & Archives.”
Favorite part of the job: “I really liked working with students and helping them figure out what it is they need to know. I also enjoyed working in administration and problem solving.”
How things have changed: “The Internet has really changed everything. Back in the early ‘90s, we were producing this index and it took us months to accumulate enough information for it. Now, with the advantage of the Internet, the amount of information that you can discover has continuously increased. Now, it probably wouldn’t take us more than a week to gather the information for the index. The Internet has changed the whole nonprofit sector.”
How the school has stood out: “It has a unique approach to the field. In terms of academia, we’re the only school of philanthropy in the world. The education here gives you a broad, humanist perspective and the ability to understand the nature of giving and receiving. I think it’s important in the field of philanthropy and nonprofits to be able to mentally step into someone else’s shoes.
“In addition, the students are phenomenal. They’re all standouts. The enthusiasm for the work has always been there. It’s also been remarkable to see this community of people who have really tried to create something different.”
Students who have stood out: “There are many. (Dr.) Sarah Nathan gives me credit for bringing her here. They used to send potential master’s students to speak with me. When she came, it was a beautiful day outside and I asked if she wanted to go for a walk. We walked over to White River State Park and she decided at the moment that Indianapolis was a place she could live and so she decided to come here. But there are so many other students who I’m still in touch with as well.”
Transformation from a Center to a school: “We all imagined right from the beginning that it would become a school. All of us wanted it to keep going and reach that goal.”
What she’s proud of: “I’m proud of the collections we have here, which includes about 25,000 books on philanthropy and the Robert Payton personal collection, which is another 15,000 books. We’ve been able to help define the field in terms of philanthropic literature. I’m also proud that from the beginning, we were able to integrate library experiences directly into the curriculum. We have a robust program in terms of library exposure for students in all programs. They’re exposed to primary sources and archival collections from day one. They work with records and learn about nonprofit organizations from that angle, which is unique and special.”
Looking forward to in retirement: “I’m really interested in improving cities for walkers and bikers. I’m also interested in the relationship between cities and green spaces. For example, we have White River State Park next to the city of Indianapolis. That’s really special, and I’d like to get more involved with urban planning and city design.”
What she’ll miss the most: “Being around people in the library.”
What is a memory you have of working with Dr. Huehls? Share in the comments below.