Diocese filled with gratitude for $150M historic gift by Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation

CEDAR LAKE – An upstairs room in Lighthouse Restaurant served as a fitting location for the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation to announce a $150 million donation to support Big Shoulders Fund’s efforts within the Diocese of Gary, helping Catholic schools become a beacon of hope for families and students in Northwest Indiana. 
Joining the White family and board members of the Foundation for the June 12 announcement were Big Shoulders Fund board members and staff, representatives of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and several state and local government officials.
Bishop Robert J. McClory called it a “truly historic and transformative day,” pointing out the commitment from the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation is the largest single investment ever to PreK-12 Catholic education.
“(This investment is being made) right here in the Region, right here in the Diocese of Gary, right here where lives will be changed and transformed, and on behalf of all of the families, on behalf of all of the educators, on behalf of the principals and the pastors and the families and the teachers, we say thank you... thank you… thank you.”
The contribution, Bishop McClory stated, reflects an enormous confidence in Catholic education and affirms the value of diocesan schools. 
“We do not take that lightly,” he remarked, “and that commitment is met with our commitment. This gift creates an opportunity for the Diocese of Gary to fulfill our mission even more vibrantly. We are committed to support families and to enhance our schools so we may become an extraordinary model of Catholic school education.”
Bishop McClory explained that school leaders within the diocese embrace an unwavering commitment to providing a values-based, performance-driven education for all students. In addition, he shared that Catholic schools also take a holistic approach to education that includes social, emotional, spiritual, physical and cultural development designed to help children become compassionate, contributing leaders. 
“This enhanced relationship with Big Shoulders, by building upon the five years already in place here, will exponentially impact our Catholic schools’ abilities to collaborate with families, to nurture students, to help them excel in measurable ways including academic performance, student growth, graduation rates and post-secondary outcomes,” said the bishop.
William (Bill) Hanna, director of the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation, said he does not remember another period of time when there's been more momentum; more consecutive successes than the Region is experiencing right now.
“Even more important than the sum of all of our advancements, is this great team that has been built out of this process because it is all of you,” he said, addressing those in attendance, “that will hold all of these things to the standard and continue to make it happen for the people who not only live here today, but for those who are yet to come.”
Executive Director of Big Shoulders Fund Northwest Indiana Dan Kozlowski admitted he’s still in shock by the size of the contribution but excited, noting the “monumental task ahead of us.” Assisting in that task are what he referred to as the incredible partners in the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation, the Diocese of Gary, as well as the brilliant minds of his coworkers at Big Shoulders.
“These are the teammates you want by your side,” Kozlowski said. 
He detailed that the gift will begin to go into effect in the upcoming 2024-25 school year, as Big Shoulders starts to work closely with each school to provide support as needed. 
Kozlowski also expressed his appreciation to Beth White and the late Bruce White and the trustees and family members of the Dean of Barbara White Family Foundation adding, “Your generosity has blown us away.
“The best way we can thank you is to honor your gift by jumping in and letting us get started in making an impact in the lives of our students and families in years to come,” he said.
Beth White said she was truly humbled to represent the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation, the nonprofit developed by her late mother and father-in-law, who founded a real estate development company. Later, Bruce White carried on the work of the philanthropic organization.
“Today is an exciting and significant moment, but this is just the beginning,” Beth White said. “As we move forward, the true success will be the fulfillment of dreams and academic process,” further noting success will be measured by facilitating academic progress for every single student that walks through the doors of a school supported by Big Shoulders Fund.
Josh Hale, president and CEO of Big Shoulders Fund, commented that it is a beautiful thing when individuals, residents and leaders all come together for the greater good. Research has shown, he said, that communities are made stronger when there is a high level of social trust – a belief in the honesty and integrity of others, or faith in people.
Hale added that by working together those involved could strengthen the network of schools in a model that could be replicated across the country. The donation will allow for the creation and enhancement of curriculum, provide advanced and professional development for teachers and school leadership, assist with enrollment intuition management, provide infrastructure improvements where needed and create support services to meet the learning needs of all children.
“These children will feel and understand the enormity of the support that is behind them,” he said. “And because of this they will give back to their communities for decades to come.”
Gov. Holcomb felt a sense of pride and said he knew it took courage for those involved to place themselves in the spotlight as they began thinking about casting a vision, setting goals, creating that roadmap and then delivering measurable results.
“This dream team that came together is really getting students – Hoosiers, our future – closer to realizing the American dream – resourcing them, equipping them, giving them the better opportunity to realize a different future,” he said.
Indiana Speaker of the House Todd Huston brought attention to the fact there is no state, diocese, foundational partnership like the one in Northwest Indiana. 
“I don’t think you are just a leader for the Region,” he said. “I think you’re a leader for the state and, quite frankly, a leader for the nation.”
Distinctively, separate from the extraordinary gift revealed by the Foundation, Bishop McClory announced that the Diocese of Gary will establish an endowment within the Catholic Foundation for Northwest Indiana. The goal of the invested funds is to supplement compensation enhancements for principals, teachers and staff within the diocesan schools. The long-term projection is for this to grow exponentially to be a fund of $50 million over the next 15 years.
“And so, to those of you teachers, to those of you administrators in our schools, we are so grateful for your commitment, that renews the lives, the families and the students who you touch,” he said. “This is our commitment (to you).”
For more information about the gift announcement, including a list of frequently asked questions, visit dcgary.org.


Caption: Bishop Robert J. McClory (lower left), sits at the signing table and shakes the hand of Joshua Hale (lower right), president and chief executive officer of the Big Shoulders Fund, at the event announcing the 10-year commitment by The Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation to donate $150 million to the non-profit, on June 12 at the Lighthouse Restaurant in Cedar Lake. The donation is the largest single gift to Catholic pre-kindergarten through grade 12 education in history and will be invested in the quality, accessibility and sustainability of Diocese of Gary schools. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)