Chris Conner got his early training as a sociologist (BA'06, MA'10) in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. That's also where he learned to appreciate the many people who helped him along the way.
Now 31, Chris is earning his PhD at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and he's included IUPUI in his will.
Wait—how's that again?
Not many single 31-year-olds have wills at all, much less wills that include charitable bequests. But Chris feels a lot of gratitude to his IUPUI mentors, so he has demonstrated his appreciation the best way he can, this early in his professional career.
Chris landed at IUPUI almost by default. He and his parents lived in Mooresville, about 30 minutes south of Indianapolis. They did not have a lot of money, so Chris chose IUPUI as being not only affordable, but also close. Living at home was the economical thing to do, despite the commute.
He started out in psychology, but as often happens, he met a faculty member who fired his enthusiasm for a different field—in this case, James Hunter in sociology. And Hunter was not the only one.
"I learned so much from the sociology faculty: Carrie Foote, Ain Haas, Robert Aponte, Lynn Pike, Peter Seybold...they gradually pulled me into the life of the university and helped me get jobs. Coming from a working class background, the structure of the university was foreign to me, very intimidating at the start. They helped me go from feeling like an outsider to feeling like I belonged in the department and in this field."
In 2006, the year he finished his undergraduate degree, Chris's mother passed away. Soon after that, his uncle died. Then in 2010, his father passed away, too. "My parents had me late in life, so they and many of my relatives were rather elderly by the time I was in college. Death was always kind of there."
"Graduate school was a turbulent time for me. For a while I did not think I would be able to finish my master's degree. But I managed to do it, with the help of my professors."
It was the process of settling his parents' estate that got Chris thinking about a bequest. "Our lawyer emphasized to my sister and me that we need to have wills. I am not married; I have no kids; I have no plans for either in the future. So, after making sure that my nephew will be taken care of, the main thing in my will is that IUPUI Sociology will get a percentage of my estate."
How will the money be used? Recalling his own experience, Chris wants his bequest to fund the Christopher T. Conner Master's Thesis Award, providing resources to help sociology graduate students wrap up their degrees.
"I feel really good about the decision," Chris emphasizes. "I know how important it is for alumni to give back to the university, to help the next generation of students, and this is a way I can do that now.
"The funny thing is, making this gift has gotten me thinking more about saving, to make sure that my estate will be large enough to fund the gift when the time comes. Once I've gotten a tenure-track job, I'm also hoping to make a future gift that can be awarded during my lifetime."
Those IUPUI graduates: They know how to plan ahead.