During a Celebration Luncheon on October 25 as part of Ottawa University’s Homecoming festivities, the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma presented a $100,000 gift to the University for a signature fire and water feature that will be located in front of the new Gangwish Library, which is slated for construction beginning summer 2014. The library and adjoining student center, which is currently under construction, are the major initiatives of the University’s $24.3M Advancing the Vision capital campaign.
Ottawa University President Kevin C. Eichner explained the significance of the proposed art feature. “At one time, the Potawatomie, the Ojibwe and the Ottawa tribes were all one,” he said. “They then divided into what was called the Council of Three Fires. In envisioning this new building, we thought it would be wonderful to have a signature element in front of the library that would represent the Council of Three Fires and this history of the tribe. We are thrilled that the Ottawa chose to contribute to the project in this way, and we are deeply grateful for their generous gift. The relationship that we enjoy with the Ottawa Tribe and the vision that we share for this University is unquestionably one of the greatest joys of my presidency.”
First Chief Ethel Cook, the first female chief of the Ottawa Tribe, presented the check to President Eichner. “The Tribe board met two months ago, and we acknowledged how much Ottawa University is doing for our Tribe,” she said. “We’ve had so many calls from members thanking us for the opportunity to get a free education at OU that they could never have gotten otherwise. So we felt in our hearts that we needed to help where we could, especially toward the building of this incredible new facility. That is why the board voted to donate $100,000 toward this special feature as part of the student center and library.”
Ottawa University and the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma share a heritage dating back to the University’s founding in 1865, when the Tribe, through its relationship with the Baptists and missionaries Eleanor and Jotham Meeker, donated 65 acres on which to build the institution. In exchange, Tribe members received a free education from the residential campus in Ottawa, Kansas. In 2008, an enhanced and revitalized agreement with the Tribe was adopted as the first official act of President Kevin C. Eichner’s tenure. It allows for any official Tribe member to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree from Ottawa University, tuition free, at any of the institution’s nine campuses or online. Full-time students at the residential campus also now receive free room and board. More than 300 Tribe members have taken advantage of the revised agreement to date.
Second Chief Bert Kleidon was also present for the gift presentation. “I am grateful for the wisdom and vision of our forefathers who entered into a relationship with the Baptists so long ago,” he said. “We have entered into a lot of treaties over the years, but the Baptists and the University kept theirs, and it means so much to us that they have.”
The Celebration Luncheon is an annual event to honor Ottawa University’s Heritage Roll of Honor and Dome Society donors. In addition, this year’s event acknowledged the Class of ’63 50th Year Reunion and the Golden Club, which consists of alumni 50-plus years beyond graduation.