‘Life-transforming’ campaign exceeds goal

Alumnus Keith Jewell said donating to the USI Foundation was one of the easiest decisions he’s ever made.

With Jewell’s gift of $2 million, the university exceeded Campaign USI’s goal of $50 million nearly a year ahead of schedule. Jewell finalized his donation in August.

Because of multiple anniversary events taking place during September, the foundation decided to wait to announce the campaign total at a foundation luncheon Nov. 19.

Between Jewell’s gift and the announcement, the total reached $55.4 million.

“If you can transform the lives of others and help somebody get a good education, they will go on to make an incredible impact,” the president of St. Mary’s Health System said. “Wow, how awesome is that?”

Jewell said he grew up relatively poor and was grateful to be able to attend college.

“I didn’t have a lot of options,” he said. “I chose (USI) because it was affordable.”

Jewell said he quickly found opportunities to thrive on campus.

“I was in Lambda Chi, APB (and) the AMIGOs,” he said. “I learned great leadership skills. Doing that at USI, you can fail, and it’s still okay.”

Until 1985, the university had been known as Indiana State University’s Evansville campus. Jewell was part of the first graduating class of the newly independent University of Southern Indiana in 1986.

He received an undergraduate degree in accounting and later a master’s degree in business administration.

After working in Indianapolis, Jewell heard of St. Mary’s need for a CEO and decided to come home.

“One of the first telephone calls I made was to (President) Linda Bennett,” he said. “I said, ‘I don’t know you, but I want to know you.’ We’ve established a great relationship.”

Jewell said reaching the campaign goal is a testament to the university’s strong leadership.

“(USI is) life transforming, not only for people like me, but also the community,” he said. “We’re able to help people have an education, earn more money and create jobs. I hope USI will continue that tradition.”

Jewell will serve as a 2017 USI Foundation director.

Foundation President David Bower said the organization and campaign’s purpose is to aid the university financially in any way needed.

According to Campaign USI’s website, $14 million will go to ‘enriching the student experience’ through scholarships, experiential learning and campus support. $7 million will go to academics, $7 million to athletics, $12 million to community partnerships and the remaining to any other university needs.

Bower said the board couldn’t be more excited to reach the campaign goal.

“I’m tremendously pleased and grateful to alumni, faculty and the business community,” he said. “I can’t say how grateful we are (to see) higher education transform.”

Bower said seeing private gifts impact students and faculty makes his job fulfilling.

“There’s been nothing more of a contribution to the community than the university in the past 50 years,” he said. “When students come, they leave a different person. There’s nothing more important in life than education.”