On Monday, December 2, faculty, staff, and students from the College of Business gathered to dedicate the Carson and Iris Varner International Business Institute in the State Farm Hall of Business. A $1 million gift from College of Business Professor Carson Varner and Professor Emerita Iris Varner, the largest faculty gift in Illinois State history, facilitated the space’s creation.

The Institute gives students pursuing an international business degree a physical home on campus. More broadly, it encourages them to become globally-minded citizens who think comprehensively about how the world’s marketplaces interact.

“Since Carson and Iris first came to Illinois State, they have encouraged their students to embrace global perspectives,” said Illinois State University President Larry H. Dietz. “By involving alumni and organizations in outreach programs, the Institute is preparing students to become leaders in international business.”

Carson Varner began teaching business law in Illinois State’s Department of Business Administration in 1975. In 1976, Iris was hired as a business communication instructor before her work developed into a role as professor of international business, director of the international business program, and eventually as director of the International Business Institute. Carson and Iris’ leadership within the College of Business led to the first graduate with an international business degree in 1981, and the creation of international business as a major in 1984. Today, over 1,000 students have graduated with an international business degree and the major—the only of its kind at a public university in Illinois—is a draw for prospective faculty and students.

“The Institute is opening doors for our students, enabling them to gain hands-on work and educational experiences across the world. This space represents a starting point for students who want to work abroad and just need the right tools to reach their dreams,” said Professor Emerita Iris Varner.

Barbara Ribbens, director of the Carson and Iris Varner International Business Institute, said “the space hosts international guests who come to teach, encourage, and recruit Illinois State students. It also facilitates conversations between students considering various study abroad opportunities and those who have recently returned from a study abroad trip.”

The Varner’s $1 million gift, made during the Redbirds Rising campaign, celebrates the campaign’s pillars of scholarship, leadership, and innovation. Illinois State surpassed the $150 million comprehensive campaign goal in June 2019, with fundraising efforts continuing through June 2020 to expand the University’s margin of excellence.

“Illinois State has been recognized as a pioneer in international business education for decades thanks to Carson and Iris. Their long-standing commitment to international business education, now coupled with the generous financial resources they have provided, will help ensure the Institute will reach new levels of success,” said Vice President of University Advancement Pat Vickerman. “The Varner’s support will keep Illinois State at the forefront of international business education, allowing students to interact with faculty leaders, collaborate with their peers, and enjoy truly transformative study abroad experiences.”

For more information about the Carson and Iris Varner International Business Institute, visit Business.IllinoisState.edu/ibi.

Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State has raised over $168 million for student support, innovative programs and spaces, and experiential leadership opportunities. To join more than 53,000 donors who have contributed to the campaign, visit RedbirdsRising.IllinoisState.edu.