Taylor University's $30 Million Grant From Lilly Endowment Creates Collaboration for Campus and Community Development


Taylor University, a prominent evangelical institution in rural Upland, Indiana, has secured a historic $30 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to enhance local infrastructure. This significant financial injection marks a transformative moment for the university and the community, aligning with Taylor's commitment to holistic development guided by its Christian values.

Taylor University's $30 Million Grant From Lilly Endowment Creates Collaboration for Campus and Community Development
(Photo : UNSPLASH / Steven Van Elk)

A Record-Breaking Grant for Taylor University

On January 2nd, Taylor University proudly announced the receipt of its largest-ever grant, a generous $30 million from the Lilly Endowment. This grant is part of Lilly Endowment's College and Community Collaboration initiative, aiming to foster partnerships between educational institutions and their surrounding communities. Taylor University's President, Michael Lindsay, expressed enthusiasm about the grant, emphasizing its profound impact beyond mere economic development.

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Upland's Unique Setting and Challenges

Nestled an hour northeast of Indianapolis, Taylor University boasts a distinctive campus in the town of Upland, characterized by brick buildings and grassy slopes. However, Upland faces challenges such as limited housing options, a lack of hospitality facilities, and an aging infrastructure along Main Street, which connects the campus to the downtown area. The grant provides a catalyst for addressing these issues and revitalizing the community.

Main Street Mile Initiative: A Holistic Approach

Taylor University's ambitious Main Street Mile Initiative, fueled by the Lilly Endowment grant, aims to bring about comprehensive changes. In downtown Upland, the initiative will create spaces for dining, retail, and startups, in addition to expanding the town library. On the campus side, the initiative envisions a residential development for individuals aged 55 and older, a college inn, and extended visitor housing. Infrastructure improvements include repaving Main Street, enhancing sidewalks, improving lighting, and extending local trails.

Lilly Endowment's College and Community Collaboration Initiative

The Lilly Endowment's initiative, launched in February 2023, invited 35 eligible Indiana colleges and universities to participate in a two-phase collaboration. Taylor University's receipt of the grant is a testament to the institution's successful engagement in the program. The first phase allowed for planning grants, facilitating resident surveys, and community gatherings. Approximately 25% of Upland residents participated in the planning process, illustrating a broad-based collaboration between the university and the community.

Upland's Ongoing Collaborations and Notre Dame's Inspiring Model

A new director at Taylor University will lead ongoing collaborations with Upland's community, working closely with an advisory board comprised of local residents to execute the Main Street Mile Initiative. President Lindsay points to Notre Dame's successful collaboration model, initiated in 2000, where the university partnered with local institutions to revitalize the surrounding neighborhood. This collaborative effort resulted in a thriving commercial district in South Bend's Northeast neighborhood.

Taylor University: A Model for Community Partnership

President Lindsay sees Taylor University as part of a growing trend among universities committed to revitalizing their local communities. Institutions like Sewanee University in Tennessee, Colby College in Maine, and Colgate University in New York serve as examples of academia actively contributing to local economic and community development. Lindsay envisions Taylor and Upland becoming a national model for how a small university and an engaged community can collaborate for substantial growth.

A Christian Commitment to Community Prosperity

Drawing inspiration from Jeremiah 29, Lindsay emphasizes Taylor's Christian faith, compelling the institution to actively pursue the peace and prosperity of Upland. The belief that a prospering community contributes to individual prosperity aligns with Taylor University's overarching mission, marking a significant step toward a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship between the university and its local environment.

Taylor University's $30 million grant from the Lilly Endowment signifies more than just an infusion of funds; it symbolizes a commitment to holistic development guided by Christian values. As Taylor and Upland embark on this transformative journey, the Main Street Mile Initiative stands as a beacon of collaboration, offering a potential blueprint for universities seeking to actively engage with and uplift their local communities.

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