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“I Owe Everything to IU”

Eleanor Cox Riggs smiles in front of her political button collection in a local museum.
Eleanor Cox Riggs smiles in front of her political button collection in a local museum.

Eleanor Cox Riggs, BA’55, MA’82, began cheering for Indiana University before she could spell it. As a little girl in Terre Haute, she sat on the living room floor, listening to IU basketball games on the radio with her father. “My dad never missed a game,” she recalls.

“Once, I surprised him, asking the IU station for a favor,” Riggs continues. “I called ahead of time to tell the IU announcer about my dad turning 80 years old. He shared the news of Dad’s 80th birthday during the IU game. Dad was so excited.”

Now in 2023, as she celebrates her 89th birthday, Riggs still faithfully watches the Hoosiers—but she doesn’t cheer alone. She founded an IU Fan Club at her retirement home, garnering over 20 members in their 80s and 90s. Even though the club is located in West Lafayette—the heart of “enemy territory”—Riggs stays unabashed with her IU pride. “I parade around in my IU shirt and IU purse,” she laughs. “I’m a true Hoosier fan.”

Riggs was thrilled to share her donor experience in a recent interview, stating, “I owe everything to Indiana University.”

Q: You’ve been a donor to IU for over 40 years, correct?
Riggs: Yes, I joined the IU Alumni Association in 1955, but I’ve been donating since 1982. I was able to go on an art tour to Europe with the organization. I still have a picture of us all! I’m the one holding the sign.

A group of people posing for a photo, in front stands Eleanor Cox Riggs holding a “Hoosier Travelers” sign.
The IU Alumni Association travels to Europe for an art tour. In front stands Eleanor Cox Riggs holding a “Hoosier Travelers” sign.

Q: Can you tell me about your IU education?
Riggs: In 1955, I graduated with a BA in English and History from the IU College of Arts & Sciences. As my husband was getting his MD at the IU School of Medicine, I taught government courses at West Lafayette High School. Then in 1982, I graduated with my MA in Teaching from the IU School of Education.

Q: Did anyone else in your family go to IU?
Riggs: Oh, yes! My father and my oldest son went to law school at IU; my youngest son went to medical school at IU; and four of my 11 grandchildren have graduated from IU—so far! They are all doing very well.

Q: Speaking of education, you created a professorship with one of your gifts to IU: the Eleanor Cox Riggs Professorship and Ethics Fund. Can you tell me about that?
Riggs:

After receiving a large inheritance from my grandfather, I decided to give it all to IU. My contribution was for a professorship in Arts and Sciences and Psychological and Brain Sciences. The name of the position includes my maiden name (“Cox”), and I added “Ethics” to the title. I wanted to make sure the person who received the professorship reflected that.

The professor who currently holds this position is Aine Puce, whom I’ve had the opportunity to meet a couple of times. I visited her classroom and met some of her research assistants, interns, and others. It’s fun to be a donor and see how your money has paid it forward … to see what it has done.

Q: How was the experience of making this gift?
Riggs: The process was very smooth. I didn’t have to get a lawyer or anything like that. It didn’t take much time at all. I called the school to say I wanted to donate the money; two people came to meet with me and my husband in-person; and then IU set it all up.

Q: Have you donated to Indiana University in other ways?
Riggs: I’m going to leave some money to IU in my will. I would recommend people consider doing this for a university they’re proud of if they can afford it. Donors should know that they don’t always have to give when they’re alive; they can give when they’re dead, too. [laughs] You know what I mean.

Eleanor Cox Riggs stands wearing her favorite crimson IU sweater and an IU purse, ready to cheer for the Hoosiers at her retirement home.
Eleanor Cox Riggs stands ready to cheer for the Hoosiers in her IU attire.

Q: Why do you think someone should consider donating to IU?
Riggs: I think people should give their respect back to the place they received their education. Also, I believe in an educated community—not just in terms of academics, but also in terms of experience and life. When you’re an educated citizen, you can give back to the community. And I’ve certainly used my Indiana University education to do that.

Q: That’s amazing—how so?
Riggs: I’ve served as a board member for the United Way, the Lafayette YMCA (at the time, I was only the second woman to serve in that capacity), and the Lafayette Urban Ministries, which assists people who are experiencing homelessness. I supported my husband’s establishment of the Riggs Community Center, which provides comprehensive primary health care to the uninsured and under-insured men, women, and children. My dedication to helping others was definitely shaped by my IU experience.

Q: How would you sum up IU in one word?
Riggs: Thrilling! It’s thrilling. I owe everything to Indiana University.

Written By

Brittany King

Brittany Talissa King is a graduate of IU (BA'14), New York University (MA'19), and a writer for the IU Foundation.

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