The founder and board chair of Indianapolis-based Christel House International has died. Christel DeHaan, who established the nonprofit more than two decades ago, is being remembered for her work to help impoverished children throughout the world. She was 77.
DeHaan founded Christel House International in 1998 after a successful and high profile business career.
The German immigrant co-founded timeshare company Resorts Condominiums International with husband Jon in 1974. She received half of the company in a 1987 divorce settlement, then took full ownership after buying out her ex-husband.
In 1996, DeHaan sold RCI, netting a reported $550 million in the deal and used much of her wealth to support Christel House and other charitable endeavors.
Christel House says it now serves nearly 6,000 students and graduates through schools in India, Jamaica, Mexico, South Africa and the U.S.
“Christel’s vision and compassion were unparalleled,” said Dennert Ware, chair of the Christel House International Governance Committee. “Christel sought to provide impoverished children with a seat at the table of life – and accomplished her mission with a unique blend of business acumen, generosity and empathy for those less fortunate. Her legacy will live on in the thousands of lives she uplifted.”
The nonprofit says it will continue to be supported through funding from the Endless Success Foundation, an organization created by DeHaan’s estate. The foundation will allow all donor investments to continue to directly serve Christel House programs and services.
Governor Eric Holcomb released the following statement shortly after the news of DeHaan’s passing:
“Janet and I were heartbroken to hear of the passing of a great community leader Christel DeHaan, and we are keeping her family in our thoughts. Christel was a world renown humanitarian, rooted in her expertise in business and expressed through immense compassion. She used her talents to support the arts, and transform the lives of impoverished children globally through educational access to those she had never met. I will miss her spirit, her wit, her commitment, but most of all daily inspiration. We should all be comforted knowing her legacy will live on for generations to come.”
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett also released a statement:
“While we were lucky that Christel decided to call Indianapolis home, she was truly a citizen of the world. As a philanthropist, Christel utilized her resources to invest in areas where she saw a need – strengthening arts and cultural institutions and providing educational opportunities to children in Indianapolis and around the globe.
I am grateful for the friendship and support of Christel over the years and know that her impact will be felt for generations to come.”
DeHaan retired as chief executive officer of Christel House in 2018. Former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson succeed her in the position and the pair appeared on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick to talk about the transition and the organization’s mission, which you can watch below: