Lechleiters' Gift Spotlights UWCI Efforts

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Murtlow says she hopes the gift will inspire others, inside and outside of Lilly, to become engaged in UWCI's efforts. Murtlow says she hopes the gift will inspire others, inside and outside of Lilly, to become engaged in UWCI's efforts.

The chief executive officer of United Way of Central Indiana says a $5 million commitment from outgoing Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) Chief Executive Officer John Lechleiter and his wife Sarah, which is being matched by the Lilly Foundation, is a validation of the organization's efforts. Ann Murtlow tells Inside INdiana Business she is pleased that the Lechleiters' "deep investigation into our work" on early childhood education has met their "very high standards."

Murtlow says she hopes the gift will inspire others, inside and outside of Lilly, to become engaged in UWCI's efforts.

The Lechleiters and UWCI announced the gift this morning. The organization says it is the largest individual donation in its 98-year history. John Lechleiter is chair of the United Way Worldwide Board of Directors, and Sarah Lechleiter is a founding member of UWCI's women's leadership giving group, Women United. The organization says, through personal and matching gifts from the Lilly Foundation, the Lechleiters' commitments have topped $15 million.

Lilly is no stranger to the push for stronger early childhood education. In 2014, the drugmaker committed $2 million to support an educational aspect of then-Mayor Greg Ballard's long-term anti-crime package. At the time, it also pledged to raise another $8 million for the effort.

In April, United Way of Central Indiana Vice President of Public Policy Andrew Cullen said the need for expanded access to pre-k education is strong. He said, during the first year of the On My Way Pre-K program, which operated in Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties, more than 3,500 applicants were turned away in Indianapolis alone.

Late last month, John Lechleiter announced plans to retire from Lilly at the end of the year. Senior Vice President Dave Ricks will succeed Lechleiter as CEO January 1 and become board chair June 1.