April 6, 2016 at 2:45pm

Millikin graduate pledges $2 million to new Center for Theatre and Dance

Julius HegelerEfforts to create a Center for Theatre and Dance on Millikin University's campus received a big boost with a $2 million pledge from Julius W. Hegeler II, a 1950 Millikin graduate. Hegeler, who lives in Danville, Ill., is also a trustee emeritus for the university.

Plans to create a dedicated Center for Theatre and Dance to house the signature Millikin program were announced in May 2010, and to date, $11.2 million has been committed to the project by alumni, friends, corporations and charitable foundations. Fundraising continues for the new facility, which would give a much-needed centralized home to Millikin's nationally recognized undergraduate theatre and dance program. This highly selective program, which currently enrolls more than 200 students across six degree programs, recruits talent from all over the country and increasingly from abroad.

The department stages more than 50 performances annually, including musicals, plays, operas, children's theatre and dance concerts, as well as productions through its student-run theatre company, Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre.

"Julius Hegeler has long been a committed and generous leader of Millikin University," says Millikin President Dr. Patrick E. White. "As a trustee and an alumnus, he has seen and supported potential and promise in many aspects of his alma mater. I am so grateful that Mr. Hegeler has chosen to make this major commitment to the Center for Theatre and Dance. His pledge will enable Millikin to move forward to create the kind of performance and learning spaces that match Millikin's very high reputation in theatre, musical theatre and dance."

Julius W. Hegeler II served Millikin as trustee from 1981 to 1996, and he was recognized with a 1998 Millikin Alumni Merit-Loyalty Award. A longtime philanthropist, especially in his native city of Danville, he established the Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation in 1992. The foundation typically focuses its gifts on historic preservation, health care, the arts, education, environmental education and improving the lives of children and people with disabilities.

After earning his degree in business administration from Millikin University, Hegeler served in the Air Force as an F-86 fighter pilot, participating in 70 combat missions – including the final mission of the Korean War. For his efforts, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, an Air Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster. Upon his return to Danville in 1955, he co-founded what became the world's largest contract packager of chemical specialties, Peterson Filling and Packaging, which at one time employed 1,000 workers in Vermilion County. The company was sold to Corn Products (now Ingredion) in 1966; Hegeler retired as vice president of facilities planning for Corn Products in 1978.

"We are immensely grateful to Mr. Hegeler for his investment toward providing a facility equipped with the leading-edge technology and spaces our students need to master their crafts," says Laura Ledford, dean of the College of Fine Arts.  

Hegeler has served on the boards of many community agencies and organizations and held a commercial pilot's license until 2006. He has given generously to Millikin for many years, both personally and through the foundation.

In addition to his pledge to the new Center for Theatre and Dance, Hegeler has provided funding for campus landscaping and beautification, and supported the Doug Zemke International Fellows program and the G. William Harner Scholarship Fund, as well as the Dr. Jan Devore Student Lobby in the new University Commons now under construction.

Theatre and Dance

Laura Ledford noted, "Once we receive the entire funding needed to create the new Center for Theatre and Dance, the space will also help Millikin continue to attract and retain the best in the field and increase the university's reputation for having one of the finest theatre and dance programs in the nation."

Millikin University is a private, comprehensive university with a diverse student population of approximately 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students. A Millikin education features Performance Learning, a unique learning approach offered only at Millikin that gives students the chance to build the confidence and skills to succeed before and after graduation. Millikin offers more than 50 majors in the College of Fine Arts, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Professional Studies and Tabor School of Business, and is located on a 75-acre residential campus in Decatur, Ill. Last year, 96 percent of Millikin graduates gained employment or admission into professional/graduate school within six months of graduation. More information is available at millikin.edu.