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IW professor, alumna gifts $500k to university

Community prayer chapel held Thursday on campus

GTNS photo by Grace King

Iowa Wesleyan University student Lena Henriksen bows her head  as university President Steven Titus prays for the future of the institution during a community prayer chapel on Thursday, Nov. 8.
GTNS photo by Grace King Iowa Wesleyan University student Lena Henriksen bows her head as university President Steven Titus prays for the future of the institution during a community prayer chapel on Thursday, Nov. 8.
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Iowa Wesleyan University 1962 graduate and longtime professor Dr. Dolores Poulter Wilson pledged $500,000 to the university during a community prayer chapel on Thursday, Nov. 8.

The donation comes a week after the university’s board of trustees announced on Thursday, Nov. 1, that the institution faces significant financial challenges, and needs $2.1 million for a spring 2019 semester and $4.6 million to carry the university through December 2019.

University President Steven Titus said the university has another verbal commitment from a donor for another $350,000 to $400,000. “After six days, we are just nearly at $1 million, which helps us as we move into the spring,” Titus said.

Wilson said she is giving the university $500,000 because she believes in it like the faculty and staff have believed in her over the years.

In Wilson’s last semester of college in the fall of 1962, she realized it would be impossible to make ends meet. She would not be able to graduate.

Wilson met with a financial adviser at the university, explaining her situation and why she would be unable to register for the fall semester. He told her to register anyway, saying he would find funds for her.

With tuition funds secured, Wilson knew someone believed in her. She began teaching at the university on Jan. 28, 1963, following her graduation.

“I now stand before you much like the moment I faced in 1962 when I had no other options,” Wilson said during the prayer chapel. “The faculty and staff of Iowa Wesleyan believed in me. And now it’s time for us to believe in Iowa Wesleyan University.”

“I believe in our students, in our faculty, in our staff, in our alumni and all of our friends, which is why I am making a $500,000 gift so that our university has the opportunity to educate students for another 177 years,” Wilson continued to a standing ovation.

IW Trustee Mary Elgar expressed gratitude to Wilson for her generosity, saying that her story is similar to so many students on campus today.

“Definitely we will find a way to move forward,” IW Trustee Melinda Huisinga said following the prayer chapel. “We are hopeful and encouraged. We’re amazed and appreciative of the community, student body and faculty.”

Titus said he is heartened and encouraged by the conversations over the past week. While he has no expectation that the university will have “all that put together” by the time the board of trustees meets on Thursday, Nov. 15, Titus said, “The conditions are really good right now for us to find a pathway forward.”

Titus and other university officials met with Two Rivers Bank & Trust and the USDA Thursday morning, which Titus said was a very constructive meeting.

Titus said he thinks the USDA really wants to work with the university. They are creating a presentation for the USDA for Wednesday, Nov. 14. The USDA has committed to have the management team review IW’s request by Wednesday afternoon. Titus said he hopes to have the USDA’s response for how they can help the university by the time they go into Thursday’s board meeting.

Titus said IW officials are also working on future potential partnerships. “I think our way for a sustainable future is a program with another institution or some sort of partner where we can create stronger fundamental resource base,” Titus said.

During the prayer chapel, Titus prayed, saying that IW cannot be sustained as the community has known it.

“We now understand that Iowa Wesleyan University as we have known it, served it and loved it must be relinquished, not because it has lost its beauty, but because its time has passed and something new is beckoning,” Titus said in prayer. “Help us to look beyond and rise above our fear in preparing for the real future of Iowa Wesleyan University, Mt. Pleasant and southeast Iowa.”

IW student Sarah Duos also prayed during the chapel. Duos, who immigrated to the U.S. from Sudan in 1999, said that right now the university is in a bad storm. Duos said she too has experienced bad storms in her life growing up in Sudan, and that just as she was given the chance of a second life in the U.S., she believes IW will get a second chance.

“I hear you, students, I hear you, especially those that are getting ready to graduate. I hear you but know that in unity we can conquer anything,” Duos said.

Duos is expected to graduate in May of 2020 and is studying nursing. She has no plans to transfer, saying that she is resting in the power of prayer. “This is where I want to be,” she said.

IW student Lena Henriksen spoke during the prayer chapel as well. Henriksen acknowledged that as a student she is unable to give financially in this situation, but she has the power of prayer, she said.

Henriksen prayed that God would give the campus of IW peace in a time of anxiety, worry and uncertainty.

“I pray you would give us hope in knowing your hand is over this campus, over this community and it’s over this entire situation,” Henriksen said in prayer. “Your hand is going to guide us step by step the entire way and you’re not going to leave us and you’re not going to forsake us.”