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$5 million gift to IU establishes Tobias Center for Innovation in International Development

New center kicks off with two-day November conference

For Immediate Release Oct 31, 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – A gift of $5 million from Deborah and Randall Tobias to Indiana University will establish a new center focused on international development at the School of Global and International Studies. The center will formally start with a two-day conference Nov. 10 and 11.

The gift establishes the Randall L. and Deborah F. Tobias Center for Innovation in International Development, a center that will focus on development issues such as global efforts to reduce poverty and inequality, improving health, education, and employment opportunities, and dealing with climate change. The inaugural Tobias Center Conference, “Visions of Development,” will bring together development experts from around the world to discuss these topics with IU faculty.

In 2016, Deborah Tobias initiated a discussion with IU President Michael A. McRobbie about ways in which she might celebrate her husband’s 75th birthday with a gift to IU to recognize his passion for enhancing international development. Those discussions led to her gift of $2.5 million to establish the center. Randall Tobias subsequently matched Deborah’s gift with another $2.5 million.

“By advancing teaching and research activity related to such important issues as foreign aid, global public health and environmental protection, this new center will have an enormous impact on preparing a new generation of leaders in the increasingly vital field of international development,” McRobbie said. “On behalf of everyone at Indiana University, I want to express our deep gratitude to Deborah and Randy for their continued and remarkably generous contributions to IU that have furthered our missions of excellence in teaching, research and service to communities around the world.”

Deborah and Randall Tobias
Deborah and Randall Tobias

“This is an impactful gift for the school and the university,” said Lee Feinstein, dean of the School of Global and International Studies. “It is particularly meaningful in light of Randy Tobias’ accomplishments in the field, including setting a new course in combating HIV/AIDS and reorganizing development assistance as an essential element of U.S. foreign and national security policy. We deeply appreciate the confidence Deborah and Randy Tobias have shown in making this significant and generous gift to our school.”

“Deborah and Randy have long distinguished themselves as visionary philanthropists,” said Dan Smith, president of the IU Foundation. “They consistently seek to address many of the world’s most pressing challenges and emphasize achieving tangible outcomes through their support. The Tobias Center for Innovation in International Development will leverage many of the strategic resources at IU to achieve the economic, health and environmental outcomes envisioned by Deborah and Randy. Over the years, their support will enable us to improve the well-being of countless lives.”

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar pushed for passage of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR, in 2003. He said that Tobias brought innovation to his international development role leading that program.

“I think that President Bush recognized that Randall Tobias had a great deal of business knowledge and talent,” Lugar said. “It was an ideal combination to attack a problem – HIV/AIDS all over the world – that was going to require a lot of imagination. Randall Tobias was a visionary, an entrepreneur with new ideas and new organizational possibilities.”

Randall Tobias is recognized for leadership in business, education, philanthropy and government service around the world. He was named the United States global AIDS coordinator in 2003 with the rank of ambassador. There he launched PEPFAR and directed all U.S. government HIV/AIDS assistance around the world. Later he became the first U.S. director of United States foreign assistance with the rank of deputy secretary of state, overseeing all foreign assistance activities of the U.S. government. Concurrently he was named administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. These combined roles represented a major presidential initiative to consolidate the leadership of all U.S. foreign aid in order to enhance its effectiveness.

He is the former CEO of Eli Lilly and Co. and the former CEO of AT&T Communications as well as AT&T International. He served on the IU Board of Trustees from 2013 to 2016, chairing from 2014 to 2016, and has served on the IU Foundation’s Board of Directors since 1986.

Deborah Tobias retired as the operations director for the United Kingdom and Ireland for Juniper Networks. Prior to that she had executive roles at the technology firms Infotron, StrataCom and Cisco Systems. She is the current vice chair of the board of the IU Health Methodist Health Foundation in Indianapolis. She is a former director of the Catholic Youth Organization of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis City Ballet and the United Way’s “Ready to Learn Ready to Earn” child literacy program.

The new Tobias Center for Innovation in International Development is intended to be a hub and laboratory for research and teaching in development, designed to develop a new generation of leaders in the field. Faculty and students will work on identifying best practices in delivery of international assistance while examining metrics to assess aid effectiveness and creating self-sufficiency for aid recipients. The center will promote research of innovative approaches in the field, looking particularly toward partnerships with international donors.

The inaugural two-day conference will feature internationally recognized experts on global development and experienced practitioners to examine some of these issues. Topics include combating HIV/AIDS, nation-building in Afghanistan, and developing metrics to measure development effectiveness. Scheduled guests include retired Gen. David Rodriguez, the former commander of the U.S. Army’s International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and the deputy commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan; Mark Dybul, the former director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Ayodele Odusola, the chief economist and head of strategy and analysis for the U.N. Development Program Africa; and Una Osili, the associate dean for research and international programs at IUPUI who testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee this year about private philanthropy and remittances as a part of U.S. foreign aid to developing countries. School of Global and International Studies faculty will moderate the discussion.

Established in 2012, the School of Global and International Studies at IU Bloomington promotes understanding of contemporary and global issues, informed by a deep knowledge of history, culture and language. The school represents one of the nation’s largest investments in global studies, with the addition of 25 new faculty members and the opening of its $50 million LEED-certified building, inaugurated by the U.S. secretary of state in 2015.

The Tobiases’ gift counts toward the $3 billion campaign, For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign.

For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign is taking place on all IU-administered campuses including IU Bloomington, IUPUI, IU East, IU Kokomo, IU Northwest, IU South Bend and IU Southeast. The campaign will conclude in December 2019 to coincide with IU’s bicentennial year celebration in 2020. To learn more about the campaign, its impact and how to participate, visit

Founded in 1936, the Indiana University Foundation maximizes private support for Indiana University by fostering lifelong relationships with key stakeholders and providing advancement leadership and fundraising services for campuses and units across the university. Today, the IU Foundation oversees one of the largest public university endowments in the country, with a market value in excess of $2 billion. IU is consistently ranked among the top four of Big Ten universities in annual voluntary support.

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