$10 million gift to combine with state funds for joint Indiana University-Notre Dame facility


Charles M.MikeHarper, retired chair and chief executive officer of ConAgra Foods and of RJR Nabisco, has made a $10 million gift to the University of Notre Dame to support the construction of Harper Hall, a new building for expanded medical school and cancer research initiatives at the Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend (IUSM-SB) in partnership with Notre Dame.

The gift will be combined with $10 million recently appropriated by the state to IU for the project. The state funds were included in the budget bill, which passed the General Assembly on April 29 and was signed into law May 11 by Gov. Mitch Daniels.

We are immensely grateful for Mikes generosity, leadership and vision in this innovative partnership between the private and public sectors,said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dames president.By combining the resources and research excellence of IU and Notre Dame, we will be able to make even more significant contributions in the battle against a disease that afflicts so many in our world.

We likewise appreciate the confidence and foresight of state leaders who played such a pivotal role in securing funds for this project, in particular House Speaker Pat Bauer. Others who deserve our special thanks are Sens. Bob Meeks, Joe Zakas and John Broden, Reps. Bill Crawford, Ryan Dvorak and David Niezgodski, and Gov. Daniels.

Harpers gift is in memory of his late wife, Josie.

My wife Josie and I grew up, dated and then were married inSouth Bend,he said.In 1999 she passed away from lung cancer. Our four children and I can think of no better tribute to this wonderful woman than the establishment of a cancer institute in theshadow of the Golden Dome in partnership with the state ofIndiana.

Dr. Rudy Navari, assistant dean and director of IUSM-SB and director of Notre DamesWaltherCancerResearchCenter, lauded Harpers decision to make a gift that would have such significant impact on his hometown.

Cancer research is the No. 1 research priority of the IU Medical School and of the highest importance at Notre Dame,he said.This facility will allow us to bring research being conducted in many areas under one roof in a designated cancer research area. With more research space comes the prospect of adding more research faculty, both which will allow us to get to the next level of cancer research.

Harper Hall will be of similar design as Raclin-Carmichael Hall, which houses IUSM-SB and Notre DamesKeckCenterfor Transgene Research at the corner ofAngela BoulevardandNotre Dame Avenue.

The new facility, which will be adjacent to Raclin-Carmichael, will include laboratories and offices for IUSM-SB and Notre Dames cancer research activities under the auspices of a new Mike and Josie Harper Cancer Research Institute. Scientists from Notre Dame andIndianaUniversitywill collaborate on research in the area of cancer biology, with an emphasis on genomics and proteomics.

Born inLansing,Mich., and raised inSouth Bend, Harper earned his bachelors degree in engineering fromPurdueUniversityand his master of business administration degree from theUniversityofChicago.

His professional career began at General Motors Corp., where he worked for five years as an engineer. He then spent 20 years working for Pillsbury Corp. inMinneapolis, leaving as group vice president responsible for poultry and food service businesses.

When Harper became chief operating officer and executive vice president of ConAgra in 1974, the companys annual sales totaled approximately $700 million. When he retired as chair and CEO in 1992, sales had increased to more than $20 billion, makingConAgra the nations second-largest food company.

Harper came out of retirement in 1993 to serve for three years as chair and CEO of RJR Nabisco.

Harper previously established at Notre Dame the Lou Holtz Leadership Scholarship endowment, earnings from which cover the majority of the costs of a senior at the University who exemplifies the qualities of a strong leader.

Harper currently resides inOmaha,Neb., and has four grown children – Mike Jr., Kathleen, Betsy and Carolyn.

Harpers gift is a component of the $1.5 billionSpirit of Notre Damecapital campaign. Announced last month, the campaign is the largest such endeavor in the history of Catholic higher education.

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