Lilly Fund Results from Years of Experience


If we all do our part, IU’s aspirations will be realized

Just as Peck made a legacy gift to her alma mater, Judy thoughtfully and generously marries her IU family legacy with her IU philanthropy. 

“When Daddy died of pancreatic cancer (1988), I learned through his illness how tragically difficult that disease has always been to diagnose and to treat,” Judy said. “At that point, the survival rate for just a year or two was something like 5%. Daddy took six months to pass away. I thought, here I am, just a professor, my husband a professor. What can we do that might make a difference in alleviating that dreaded illness?”

By the 2010s, IU had become the leader in cutting-edge pancreatic cancer research. Judy was ready to answer her question by creating the Leas Family Pancreatic Research Fund in 2020.

Judy credits Chancellor and President Emeritus Michael McRobbie with imparting a valuable message in the Memorial Stadium President’s Suite during the 2018 IU-Penn State football game. When President McRobbie thanked her for her generosity to the university, she remembered telling him she only wished she had more to give, but that she and her late husband were only professors. She continues, “He put his arm around me and pulled me over to him. He said, ‘Don't say just professors. I was just a professor. That’s an honorable tradition to be a professor.’”

“That was a lesson to me,” she continued. “A modest gift may seem like small potatoes when compared to what others could do, but it is important to help the university continue to be aspirational. If we all do our part, its aspirations will be realized.”

In 2022, she was thrilled to shake hands with IU’s first female president, Pamela Whitten, at the  President’s Circle induction, a ceremony honoring those who have given at least $100,000 over their lifetimes.

The recently endowed Everson Lilly Library Research Fund ensures that scholars can have either on-site or remote access to the Library’s holdings. Like Judy’s experiences with archival materials at the Lilly Library and the Ransom Center, her fund ensures many such experiences for future scholars who are realizing their own aspirations.