Former Lilly CEO, wife donate $20 million to Xavier for science center

Xavier University announced a $20 million gift from Sarah and John Lechleiter to help establish a state-of-the-art science facility on its campus.

John and Sarah Lechleiter

Having earned a chemistry degree from Xavier in 1975, John Lechleiter credits his Xavier education for propelling him in a 37-year career at Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. After earning master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard, he joined the Eli Lilly in 1979 as a chemist, ultimately serving as its chairman, president and CEO until his retirement in December 2016. Sarah Lechleiter graduated in 1976 from Edgecliff College, a Catholic women’s college that merged with Xavier in 1980, with a degree in sociology and social welfare. She has served on multiple nonprofit boards in Indianapolis, including the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Indiana Repertory Theatre and Newfields.

The gift ensures future generations of Xavier students will benefit from a cutting-edge learning experience in the sciences. Founded in 1831, the university is the sixth-longest-running Catholic university in the nation.

“Through their generosity, the Lechleiters have provided Xavier with an incredible opportunity to enhance our strong programming in the sciences, further elevating our tremendous spires of excellence on this campus,” said Colleen Hanycz, Xavier University president.

The Lechleiters’ support for the University is rooted in their strong belief in the importance of Catholic education, and their desire to secure Xavier’s future for decades to come.

“We have a sincere interest in supporting academic excellence at Xavier in the Jesuit Catholic tradition,” the Lechleiters said in a statement.

The Lechleiters’ past gifts to Xavier include a multimillion-dollar endowment for the annual purchase of scientific equipment, the creation of an endowed scholarship and a $1 million gift to Xavier’s Center for Catholic Education.

In addition to his philanthropic efforts, John Lechleiter served on Xavier’s board of trustees from 2004 through 2014. He received the Gallagher Leadership Medallion in 2017 – the university’s highest honor – as well as the distinguished alumni award in 2011.

“Sarah and John Lechleiter both have had their lives influenced by Xavier University and Edgecliff College, and are examples of the Jesuit Catholic mission of developing men and women for others” said Gary Massa, the University’s vice president for university relations. “Their incredible generosity is transformational and will have a lasting positive impact on future generations of Xavier students.”