Tonja Eagan

Tonja Eagan: Living to Give Back

Tonja Eagan believes in the students of IUPUI. She believes students at IUPUI can succeed if they are mentored and supported, and she knows there are undergraduate students at IUPUI just like she was—students who need to be believed in and developed to make an impact on IUPUI and the world. Eagan pays tribute to these students and her undergraduate education through the Mentoring Impact Fund, an endowment she established. This fund supports the mentoring efforts of the Bepko Learning Center at IUPUI, addresses mentoring needs, supports mentoring conferences, and funds internships and scholarships for students. She encourages other individuals also to give to or to create funds and scholarships for current IUPUI students as they reflect on the impact their undergraduate education has had on their own successes.

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As donors, we often forget about the undergrad, because obviously a lot of times, donors may be people that have gone on to graduate school, or law school, or, you know, medical school. So where they graduated ends up being their loyal place of support. Even though I certainly support my graduate degree and program, I know that without the undergraduate education, and the support I got, I would never have been there. So it's given me a chance to give back and say, you know, I'm not going to be someone who is wealthy or rich in life, but I am someone who is "well-off," through my career, thanks to my undergraduate education. So I can give back and help set up something that will hopefully inspire others to do the same.

Eagan feels her endowment will help students develop into future leaders, and her notion of paying it forward springs from lessons she learned at IUPUI, including how she and others could work to positively benefit others and to take on the responsibility of giving back.

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As a kid, neither one of them had a lot of money, but they had a lot of heart. I just remember constantly, every day, they'd be doing something little, like some small act of kindness, or they would really be trying to help someone get a car, or get Christmas gifts for their kids. So I think just witnessing that growing up, the cool thing about it, as a kid, kind of observing that, you see how excited the people are that are benefitting, and then you see how happy the people are that are giving. So it's kind of that first lesson in life, that you really do get what you give. So if you give joy, then you often receive joy.

Eagan holds mentoring as a dear passion and sees it as a true act of giving, a practice that she continues to this day. “This one is the one I’ve mentored the longest. Ten years I’ve been her Big Sister, and she is 18 this year, going to college,” beams Eagan, as she describes her 10-year mentorship of a girl through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana. She continued, pointing to a picture of a foreign exchange student from Japan that she mentored for a year, and then pointing to a picture of a woman she mentored as an undergraduate student. Although IUPUI cemented the idea of giving back in her, she first noticed the impact of giving back through observing her mother and grandfather as a child.

Description of the following video:

When I went to IUPUI, there was a really big emphasis on community service, and civic leadership, and ethics, kind of like our responsibility, because I might say, "Well, I don't have children, that's not my problem," or "I don't have that, that's not my problem." But really realizing that we're all in this together, and when the tide rises, all boats rise. So I kind of learned that in college, that by helping others, you help your own community and yourself.

While Eagan’s passion lies with mentorship, her belief in civic engagement also remains strong as she “walks the talk” by being an active member of her Indianapolis community. In addition to her involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana, Eagan serves as the CEO of the Social Health Association of Indiana, Inc., an organization committed to developing happy, healthy, and safe kids that focuses on bullying prevention, human growth, healthy relationships, and teen pregnancy prevention. She also volunteers with a variety of other organizations, including the Mentoring Women’s Network, which supports women who are new or mid-career; the FBI Citizens academy, focusing on community safety and health; and Women4Change, an inclusive nonpartisan group promoting health, safety, and respect for all Hoosiers.

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Eagan describes her mother and grandfather as mentors who first demonstrated the art of giving back to her at a young age.
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Tonja began mentoring a girl from Big Brothers Big Sisters 10 years ago. While their formal mentorship is over, Eagan plans to remain her mentor for life.
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Tonja began mentoring a girl from Big Brothers Big Sisters 10 years ago. While their formal mentorship is over, Eagan plans to remain her mentor for life.
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Eagan describes her mother and grandfather as mentors who first demonstrated the art of giving back to her at a young age.
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Eagan mentored a foreign exchange student from Japan for one year while the student studied in the States.
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Eagan mentored a foreign exchange student from Japan for one year while the student studied in the States.
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Dr. Herman Blake mentored Eagan as a student at IUPUI.
Eagan believes individuals should work together for the common good and believes students at IUPUI can be inspired to do so and also to engage in giving back through the example and help of others.