On Friday, October 20, the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation (CDFF) announced a $343,000 Legacy Grant to Butler University to support the Christel DeHaan Visiting International Theatre Artist (VITA) program. In total, CDFF has contributed approximately $1.2 million to support the arts at Butler University since 2000.

The Christel DeHaan VITA program was established in the Butler Theatre Department in 2010 through CDFF’s support. The program brings acclaimed international theatre artists to Butler for eight to ten weeks to teach special seminars in the Butler Theatre Department and direct and/or design a mainstage production, which offers Butler students and extended audiences a chance to experience diverse ideas and cultures through theatre. 

Since its inception, the program has sponsored 11 international artist visits to Butler. The CDFF Legacy Grant will provide for international artist residencies to continue for the upcoming decade and beyond.

“The Christel DeHaan VITA program aligned perfectly with Christel’s interests in arts, education, and all things international. It has been a truly transformational program for Butler Theatre, our students, and the community,” Chair of the Butler Theatre Department Diane Timmerman says. “The Butler Theatre Department is celebrating its 75th year and Christel DeHaan’s legacy of generosity is an important part of our department’s history. We are honored to continue carrying forth her vision and passion through this program in the years to come.”

Christel DeHaan was a community leader, businesswoman, and philanthropist whose generosity and influence touched lives around the world. She was co-founder of RCI International, the company that pioneered vacation exchange, and founder of Christel House International, a public charity that helps children around the world break the cycle of poverty and become self-sufficient, contributing members of society.

“Christel’s passion for life, for causes, for people and for the arts, music and nature was underscored by a deep commitment to excellence in all that she did,” CDFF Director and Board Member Melynne Klaus says. “She made a difference as an employer, as a community leader, and as a philanthropist. Christel DeHaan will be remembered for providing educational opportunities to children in Indianapolis and around the globe, and for strengthening arts and cultural institutions in Indianapolis. Her philosophy of life was, ‘to care, to share, to make a difference,’ and nothing could summarize her life more clearly.”

CDFF has made grants supporting over 700 arts, education, child welfare, and human needs organizations. As a thoughtful and strategic philanthropist, DeHaan desired CDFF to close following her death and corpus assets be provided to designated organizations through Legacy Gifts. The Foundation closed in 2023 after overseeing more than $133 million in grants over its lifespan. Along with the generous support of the VITA program, CDFF has also provided significant support to the Butler Community Arts School through previous grants.

“Christel DeHaan was a generous and loyal friend to Butler University and particularly to our students in the Jordan College of the Arts,” Jordan College of the Arts Dean Lisa Brooks says. “She believed deeply in the transformative power of the arts, and her gifts to support the Christel DeHaan VITA program and the Butler Community Arts School have greatly enriched our community. We are delighted that this outstanding program will continue to bear her name and honor her legacy at Butler University.”