Debra Mesch, Andrea Pactor honored for distinguished, distinctive service
Dr. Debra Mesch and Andrea Pactor of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI have been honored with the Indiana University Bicentennial Medal for their landmark achievements in advancing understanding and awareness of women’s philanthropy nationally and internationally.
Indiana University First Lady Laurie Burns McRobbie presented the medals virtually during an online school celebration on April 20, 2020. She led the creation of Women’s Philanthropy at Indiana University, an initiative to support innovative work by IU’s faculty, staff and students, and is a 2016 alumna of the school’s master’s degree program.
The Bicentennial Medal honors distinguished and distinctive service in support of Indiana University’s mission as a public university, individuals who have enlarged the footprint of IU, or have helped to put IU on the map in unique ways. The medals themselves are unique, made from materials salvaged from the old bells which hung in the Student Building on the IU Bloomington campus. The bells were a gift from Frances Swain, a 19th century IU first lady and volunteer fundraiser who led the campaign for the Student Building and organized the IU Women’s League. Swain was one of IU’s first women philanthropists, making the medals an especially appropriate tribute to Mesch and Pactor.
“Under the leadership of Debra Mesch and Andrea Pactor, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute has demonstrated time and again that growing women’s philanthropy resonates with people all over the world,” said Jeannie Sager, WPI’s director. “A criteria for the Bicentennial Medal is recognizing individuals who have helped to put IU on the map in unique ways, and their work and dedication to the mission and vision of WPI is worthy of recognition and celebration. Thank you, Deb and Andrea, for your passion and commitment.”
Mesch is the Eileen Lamb O’Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy and professor of philanthropic studies. She previously served as the inaugural director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) at the school from 2008 to 2018. The nation’s leading scholar of women’s philanthropy, Mesch has conducted and overseen creation of an extensive body of groundbreaking research on giving by and for women and differences in the ways women and men approach and carry out their charitable giving and volunteering.
Following nearly 29 years at IU and 12 years working with WPI, Mesch will move into a phased-in retirement beginning Aug. 1.
“I will always cherish being a part of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute and the talented colleagues that were instrumental in building this world-class organization at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy,” Mesch said. “I am truly honored and humbled to receive the Bicentennial Medal. As I move into retirement, I cannot have imagined a greater recognition toward the end of my career at IUPUI.”
Pactor, M.A.’03, is associate director of WPI and served as its interim director between 2018 and 2020. She has substantially elevated and advanced women’s philanthropy, and has developed for the institute a vast network of philanthropists, philanthropy professionals and researchers dedicated to understanding and further strengthening the power and possibilities of women’s philanthropic leadership.
“I was bowled over and rendered speechless by this recognition. It was totally unexpected and I am deeply grateful to WPI and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy leadership for bestowing this award on me. That First Lady Laurie Burns McRobbie presented the award to me is extra special, as Laurie has worked tirelessly to turn WPI research into action and is a staunch WPI advocate and supporter,” Pactor said.
After nearly 20 years of affiliation with the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and 15 years to serving with WPI, Pactor will retire on April 30.
Mesch and Pactor are at the vanguard of revealing and helping shape the landscape of women’s philanthropy in the U.S. They co-developed and co-taught the world’s first graduate-level course on gender and philanthropy and developed and convened six national and international symposia (the most recent online) to explore key issues and exchange insights about the ways in which women engage in and practice philanthropy. They initiated the WPI Council, a volunteer advisory group that has helped to guide strategic planning, marketing, and fundraising efforts.
Through their partnership, WPI has taught nonprofit organizations and women donors nationwide about the nature and strength of women’s philanthropy and how it differs from that of men. Together with their colleagues, they have built WPI into the foremost resource for nonprofits, fundraisers, donors and scholars.
About the Women’s Philanthropy Institute
The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) is part of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. WPI increases understanding of women’s philanthropy through rigorous research and education, interpreting and sharing these insights broadly to improve philanthropy. By addressing significant and groundbreaking research questions and translating that research into increased understanding and improvements in practice, WPI helps to leverage new and expanded resources for the common good.
About the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic, research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram, and “Like” us on Facebook.