Lilly Endowment Inc.

Donor Stories

Lilly Endowment Inc.

In 2015, Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded a grant to Eskenazi Health Foundation to expand the Gregory S. Fehribach Center (Fehribach Center). The Fehribach Center was established in 2013 and provides internships, training, and support for Indiana college and university students with physical disabilities, empowering them to achieve gainful, equitable, and sustainable employment. Specifically, this grant, in part, funded a full-time Program Manager to oversee the program’s expansion. This individual improved the placement process, recruited students from additional colleges and universities, and established more comprehensive career and professional development opportunities offered to students.

Students with physical disabilities remain one of the most marginalized groups with regard to both educational and professional opportunities. The Fehribach Center’s internship program enables students with physical disabilities to build upon academic knowledge through skill development, networking, and other professional competencies, collectively improving their potential in the competitive job market. Interns are compensated with market-based hourly wages and each intern works full-time for eight weeks. In an effort to reduce the barriers that can often impede the success of an individual with physical disabilities, the program provides wraparound support, including assistive technology, ADA-compliant housing, and transportation. Following the internship, students are then assisted in finding employment with the program’s many employer partners.

In 2017, Lilly Endowment awarded a five-year, $1.5 million grant that has enabled the program to expand even further to reach more students and more colleges and universities, and to collaborate with additional employer partners throughout the state who host, and hire, interns.

“We couldn’t be more grateful for the significant support from Lilly Endowment,” said Ernest Vargo II, CFRE, president and CEO of the Eskenazi Health Foundation. “This program not only provides real-world experience and compensation for college students with physical disabilities, but it also helps eradicate certain stereotypes and concerns that employers may have.”

“We want the interns to be treated exactly like any other employee,” said Christia Hicks, vice president of Human Resources at Eskenazi Health. “A large component of acceptance and independence is equal expectations. That’s why we hold all of our interns to the same admission and performance standards as our full-time workers.”

To date, more than 90 percent of former Fehribach Center interns have obtained employment, enrolled in a graduate program or are continuing their undergraduate coursework, compared to the national employment rate of 19 percent for students with physical disabilities. By the end of 2020, the program had provided 184 internships since it began in 2013.

“This is a truly remarkable and unprecedented initiative,” said Michael Huber, president and CEO of the Indy Chamber. “Programs like this continue the Indianapolis region’s trajectory as a leader in accessibility and opportunity.”

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.