Butler Receives $343,000 Grant From Kristel DeHaan Family Foundation – Stories

On Friday, October 20, the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation (CDFF) announced a $343,000 grant to Butler University to support the Christel DeHaan Visiting International Theater Artists (VITA) program. In total, CDFF has contributed approximately $1.2 million in support of the arts at Butler University since 2000.

The Christel DeHaan VITA Program was established in the Butler Theater Department in 2010 with support from the CDFF. The program brings acclaimed international theater artists to Butler for eight to ten weeks to teach special workshops in Butler’s theater department and direct and/or design a main stage production that offers Butler students and extended audiences a chance to experience different ideas and cultures through theater.

Since its inception, the program has sponsored 11 international artist visits to Butler. The CDFF Legacy Grant will provide international artist residencies that will continue into the next decade and beyond.

“Christel DeHaan’s VITA program matched Christel’s interests in the arts, education and all things international perfectly. This has been a truly transformative program for Butler Theatre, our students and the community,” says Diane Timmerman, Butler Theater Department Chair. “The Butler Theater Department is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and Christel DeHaan’s legacy of generosity is an important part of our department’s history. We are honored to continue to develop her vision and passion through this program in the coming years.”

Christel De Haan was a community leader, businesswoman and philanthropist whose generosity and influence touched lives around the world. She co-founded RCI International, the company that pioneered the vacation exchange, and founder of Christel House International, a community charity that helps children around the world break the cycle of poverty and become independent, contributing members of society.

“Christel’s passion for life, for causes, for people, and for the arts, music and nature was underscored by a deep commitment to excellence in all that she did,” says Melin Klaus, CDFF director and board member. “She made a difference as an employer, as a community leader and as a philanthropist. Christel DeHaan will be remembered for providing educational opportunities to children in Indianapolis and around the world and for strengthening arts and cultural institutions in Indianapolis. Her life philosophy was ‘caring, sharing, making a difference’ and nothing could have summed up her life more clearly.’

CDFF has awarded grants to support over 700 arts, education, child welfare and human needs organizations. As a thoughtful and strategic philanthropist, DeHaan wished that the CDFF close upon her death and that the corps’ assets be given to designated organizations through Legacy Gifts. The foundation closed in 2023, having overseen more than $133 million in grants over its lifetime. Along with its generous support of the VITA program, CDFF has also provided significant support to Butler Community Arts School through previous grants.

“Krystel DeHaan has been a generous and loyal friend to Butler University and especially to our students at the Jordan College of Art,” said Jordan College of Art Dean Lisa Brooks. “She believed deeply in the transformative power of the arts, and her gifts to support the Christel DeHaan VITA program and Butler Community Arts School greatly enriched our community. We are delighted that this outstanding program will continue to bear her name and honor her legacy at Butler University.”

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