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Business Professor Who Sued ISU Loves It Enough To Give A Million Dollars

Illinois State University
Carson and Iris Varner

An Illinois State University professor who once sued the institution over gender pay equity has now given ISU its largest faculty cash gift ever.
Iris Varner and a group of other women professors eventually settled their 1995 lawsuit over equal pay for equal work. Now Varner and her husband Carson have given ISU's International Business Institute a $1 million gift.

The Varners founded ISU's international business program, the only such offering at an Illinois public university.

More than 1,000 students have graduated from it in the last 37 years. The gift supports student leadership skills training and study abroad.

Iris Varner is retired. Carson still teaches.

“I tell my students in no uncertain terms that as an undergraduate business school, we are second to none. No one is better than we are," said Carson Varner.

Ajay Samant, dean of the College of Business, called the Varners’ gift transformational.

"It will elevate the visibility of our international business program from the national to global stage,” said Samant.

The gift is part of Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State. University President Larry Dietz said that effort will help prepare tomorrow’s leaders today at Illinois State.

"The Varners’ generous gift will encourage students to immerse themselves in international initiatives which will, in turn, help to prepare them to work in a global economy and live in a global society,” said Dietz.

In the past, the Varners have also endowed a scholarship, donated the bell used in Founders Day observances, and helped fund the theater at Ewing Manor.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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