In appreciation for their alma mater and to foster innovation on campus, Steve ’73 and Sharon Hagge ’73 have given a $1 million gift during Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State. The gift will establish the Stephen and Sharon Hagge Innovation Institute, which will support student learning and leadership opportunities.

“Innovation is at the forefront of Illinois State University’s planning and curriculum,” said President Larry Dietz. “Steve and Sharon Hagge recognize the important role innovation plays in the University’s mission of preparing today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders. We are honored to be the recipient of their generosity and support.”

Illinois State was and remains a special place in the Hagges’ lives. The Hagges met on their first day of class at Illinois State and were married on graduation day four years later. Steve Hagge’s younger brother and sister are alums, as is their son and his wife. With each visit to campus, the Hagges experience new growth and innovation on campus. “We’re pleased with the fact that the University is always changing and growing. It’s not staying stagnant,” Sharon Hagge said.

Both benefited from individualized attention on campus—Steve in the Accounting Department, and Sharon as a special education major. They credit this attention for their career success.

“One of the things that continues to set ISU apart is the direct involvement of teaching professionals with students,” Steve Hagge said. “It was a huge benefit to have professors who were interested in me as a person.” Steve Hagge is now retired but most recently held the title of president and CEO of AptarGroup, Inc. Sharon Hagge taught for 23 years.

The Hagges have been longtime contributors to Illinois State. In 2013, they established the Stephen Hagge Faculty Accounting Award, which honors faculty within the College of Business’ Accounting Department.

The Hagges’ most recent gift supports the innovation pillar of Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State. The Hagges’ goal for the Stephen and Sharon Hagge Innovation Institute is to encourage the delivery of transformational learning opportunities for students and to recognize and encourage leadership. Their gift will create and support operations associated with the Institute, including, but not limited to experiential learning opportunities, innovation awards, space renovation, and staff support.

The Stephen and Sharon Hagge Innovation Institute will be based out of the College of Business, but the Hagges would like to see it foster innovation throughout campus.

“Our hope is that the Institute is a way to bring people together across the University and across many disciplines. We want to help students become more innovative before they go out into the working world,” Steve Hagge said. “Education needs innovation. The challenge is that what we’ve done in the past becomes too much of a roadmap for the future. We need to ask ourselves, ‘How can we be experimental?’”

College of Business Dean Ajay Samant said the Hagges’ gift will increase students’ competency in change management, a needed skill for a technologically-advancing world. He also noted it will give Illinois State a cutting edge when recruiting and retaining future students.

The Hagges are excited to see the impact their gift will have in the years to come.

“We’re proud to be able to support Illinois State,” Steve Hagge said. “It is more than just money. We’re very passionate about innovation and know it’s a priority for Illinois State.”

To learn more about the ways Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State is championing innovation on campus, visit

2 thoughts on “Alums’ $1 million gift establishes the Stephen and Sharon Hagge Innovation Institute

  1. Anonymous says:

    Would love to see some of this innovation funding go into the school of art. They are the core of innovation and creating our future.

    1. Laura Freyman says:

      Thank you for your comment! The Stephen and Sharon Hagge Innovation Institute will be available to students in all colleges, and Illinois State students across all disciplines will benefit from the experiential learning opportunities the Institute will provide.