Professor Donates $500,000 To Struggling Iowa Wesleyan University

Nov 9, 2018

A professor and alumna of Iowa Wesleyan University is donating half a million dollars to help keep the school open. The potentially transformational gift comes a little over a week after school leaders announced they're considering closing the school due to "significant financial challenges."

Iowa Wesleyan University biology professor and alum Dolores Poulter Wilson says she only graduated from her beloved school due to generous scholarships and donations. She ended her undergraduate career with "only $1.87 to my name", her final semester's tuition in the Fall of 1962 paid by an anonymous benefactor.

"I could do a whole lot with a half million dollars. That even staggers me. But what would've been the gain there?" - Dolores Poulter Wilson, Iowa Wesleyan professor and alum

Now she says it's time to give back to the university in Mount Pleasant in its time of need. At a campus prayer service in the school's chapel Thursday she announced she's donating $500,000 to help keep the school open. 

“With this university we’re at the same place I was in 1962, really, as an individual. And that may be presumptuous to say," she said. "But look at all the students I’ve had the privilege of teaching, all the people that I’ve had the privilege of being with and learn from!”

After the announcement, she admitted she could've used the money in other ways, ("Who needs retirement?" she joked). But she says she "can't stand by" while her school struggles.

“I could do a whole lot with a half million dollars. That even staggers me," she said, laughing. "But what would’ve been the gain there? We’re at a critical point.”

The half a million dollar gift is a considerable step towards the $2.1 million the school needs to stay open for the Spring 2019 semester. The school serves about 700 students, an estimated 69 percent of which are from low income families, and 117 of which are international students. The school's President Steven Titus says he is "so humbled and so grateful" for the donation.

"You amaze me," Titus told her. "Her gift of half a million dollars to the institution to help move us to this next level, this next part of the future."

Titus says he also has a verbal commitment of an additional $350 to 400 thousand from another donor, although the arrangement needs to be secured. In the meantime he's meeting with local and federal officials, bankers and businesses in the hopes of gathering more support. 

"Be hopeful. Be encouraged. There are never guarantees in this life...but the conditions are really good right now for us to find a pathway forward." - Steven Titus, President, Iowa Wesleyan University

School leaders are hoping to amass all the support and potential partnerships they can before the university's board of trustees meets on November 15th. They're expected to make a decision on whether the school will close. Leading up to the meeting, Titus is urging faculty, staff, students, and the Mount Pleasant community to remain hopeful.

"Be hopeful. Be encouraged. There are never guarantees in this life and we all are grownups and we know that," he said. "But the conditions are really good right now for us to find a pathway forward."

In the meantime, many students at the Methodist-affiliated school say they're taking comfort in prayer. Nursing student Sarah Duos helped lead a campus prayer service Thursday, telling the Iowa Wesleyan community they're not alone.

"No matter what happens to Iowa Wesleyan, we are in it together and we're going to get through it, whether it's bad news or good news."