Jim Funk ՚69 and Jan Funk MA ՚99 are lifelong learners who have both experienced the power of education to open unexpected doors in their lives and careers. From meeting in Illinois as employees at Long John Silver’s restaurant to winding career paths that have included work in the government, insurance, human relations, and public relations sectors, the Funks credit their liberal arts educations for their diverse skill sets and the great versatility they have experienced in their careers. Now, through a planned gift, they are committed to opening doors to education for future generations through the First-Generation Scholars Endowed Scholarship Fund.
Jan was a first-generation student herself when she enrolled at the University of Illinois with encouragement from her mother, who always wished she could have attended college.
“My mother instilled in my sister and me the benefits of getting an education,” Jan says. “She always reminded us that if you get an education, you have more opportunities.”
While Jan and her sister were both able to fulfill their mother’s dream of attending college, as first-generation students, they initially encountered challenges in navigating college life.
“We didn’t know the rules of the game, so there were opportunities we missed,” Jan says. “I don’t want others to have to go through that experience. Families who don’t have the tradition of knowing how to navigate financial aid might have sticker shock and wonder how they’re going to handle the cost. Well, one way it gets handled is people who have been through it donating to make way for others.”
Growing up in Vincennes, Jim first became familiar with Butler through attending state high school basketball championships at Hinkle Fieldhouse with his dad. Jim pursued his bachelor’s degree in history and political science and spent his senior year at Butler working on Birch Bayh’s 1968 Senate re-election campaign. He then began his career working as a business reporter and in-office consultant and was later hired to oversee operations of several new Long John Silver’s locations opening in Illinois.
There, he met Jan, and together the couple moved back to Indianapolis where Jan began law school and Jim began working in human resources for an insurance company. He went on to become Vice President of Public Relations for the company and became a licensed agent himself to learn more about the industry. This led to starting his own agency with a friend, where he worked until his retirement in 2019.
“Jim is a sterling example of the value of a liberal arts education,” Jan says. “It teaches you how to think and sets you up for success in any career.”
Jan earned her undergraduate degree in American history and politics from the University of Illinois, a law degree from IU Indianapolis, and later a master’s degree in history from Butler. Her career included practicing law as a securities regulator for the State of Indiana, working in private practice, and later returning to the state government working under Governors Evan Bayh and Frank O’Bannon as Executive Director of the Indiana State Office Building Commission. Before retiring, Jan served as the Executive Director of a non-profit association that provided a “safety net” for insurance consumers.
“I’ve had a lot of different roles, but they’ve all been geared toward helping people in a bad situation,” Jan says. “My education was well rounded and prepared me to analyze and find solutions in all those different kinds of roles.”
As fellow Butler alumni (though they earned their degrees 30 years apart), the Funks have enjoyed staying connected to Butler by participating in arts and athletics events and serving in leadership roles through various committees. Jan served two terms on the Central Indiana Alumni Board, and Jim is currently a member of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Board. Jim was also recently recognized at the 2023 Alumni Awards Ceremony as the recipient of the Robert Todd Duncan Alumni Achievement Award.
“Butler was a significant part of my early life, and in the second half of my life, it’s been an integral part of our social life,” Jim says. “Butler has provided broad opportunities to learn and engage, and it’s stimulated our lives in so many ways. When you’re in school, you really only know the people in your class or those just above or below you, but now we have a group of Butler friends that span a 20- or 30-year age range that we’ve met through various activities over the years.”
Jan says that Butler has also provided opportunities to put their broad life experiences to use for the good of others.
“It’s given us an avenue to give back in a meaningful way,” Jan added. “There is great satisfaction in providing opportunities for Butler students to learn and grow and serve others themselves when it’s their time.”
The Funks have been loyal donors to Butler for many years, giving to a diverse range of funds that reflect their many interests, including athletics, arts, and student scholarships.
“We’re confident that Butler is a good steward of the money. We see the concern for the students so we know our values align,” Jim says.
Last year, the Funks made plans through their estate to establish the First-Generation Scholars Endowed Scholarship Fund. They said it is meaningful to know that after they are gone, they can continue supporting future students in pursuing their Butler education.
“As a responsible adult, you need to plan for the eventual and how you want to help promote what’s important to you,” Jan says. “We talked about what we wanted to do, and Butler helped us figure out how to make it happen.”
To learn more about how you can make a planned gift to Butler, visit Butler Gift Planning.