Wednesday Nov 20, 2013
At the memorial service for the late Professor Frank Caucci, Ph.D., a beloved 25-year veteran of Indiana University Northwest, some colleagues discussed how fitting it would be if the Languages, Cultures, and Listening Lab in Hawthorn Hall could be named in his honor. The lab is a resource that Caucci, who passed away in 2011, had fervently fought to establish.
As Brian Bates, Caucci’s life partner, began pursuing this philanthropic endeavor, and he learned more about IU Northwest’s student needs, and its responsibility to its urban population, he gained an even greater appreciation for the campus he had known about only through Caucci.
“IU Northwest is a phenomenal resource for Northwest Indiana,” Bates said. “I got to know, on a personal level, lots of professors. As I met these people, I realized that . . . any student who wanted to go there would receive a great education, a really great education.”
In Bates’ view, what he’d learned about IU Northwest made his philanthropy meaningful on many levels. Not only did his gift appropriately honor Caucci, but also, it would continue to support the students that Caucci valued most while furthering one of Caucci’s most fundamental beliefs, that education is critical to the advancement of society.
“When Frank passed away, it was so sudden and unexpected, but after he was gone I thought about what I could possibly do that would create something lasting for him,” Bates said. “Frank was someone who I thought deserved something significant at the University that would live on.”
The lab now fittingly bears his name and Bates’ gift was used to renovate the lab. In addition, Bates began a scholarship fund earmarked for students who share Caucci’s passion for language and international studies and also share his progressive views about basic human rights and gender issues.
The Frank Caucci Scholarship is meant to offset some of the costs of studying abroad for academically deserving modern languages students. “We focused on French, which Frank taught at the University,” Bates said, “and Italian because of his Italian background and his love of Italy.”
Able to read, write and academically publish in three languages, Caucci was often mistaken for a native resident in many foreign countries. It was IU Northwest’s students who had the privilege of being the beneficiaries of Caucci’s impressive credentials, which could have taken him to any corner of the world.
“I wanted something associated with academia but also reflective of the fact that Frank came from a humble background,” Bates said. “His father, mother and stepmother had each received basic educations, and they are working, salt-of-the-earth people. Frank came from that background and went on to get a university degree, a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. from The Sorbonne. Getting a Ph.D. from the University of Paris is no easy task. I thought that if we could do something along those lines that would live on, that would be better than anything else I could think of.”
Bates, an international capital markets lawyer with the law firm, Morrison & Foerster LLP, lives in Chicago and London. He also spends as much time as possible at his home in Dune Acres, Ind.
Bates described a humble upbringing in Iowa. One of eight siblings, he was brought up by parents who lacked college educations themselves, but were “advanced beyond their contemporaries” intellectually. As a result, he and his siblings experienced a robust and progressive worldview.
“Foreign studies actually changed my own life,” Bates said. “That was one of my big reasons, personally, behind the scholarship. I never got to study abroad as an undergraduate. I never had the resources. But in law school, I did my second year abroad in London … and it completely changed my outlook, my life . . . If this scholarship can be the difference between someone deciding to study abroad and not, I feel really good about that and I hope that they do as well.”
Bates said that because of his own financial success, he is obligated to be generous, and education is where he gives because he believes greater amounts of education are key to solving many of society’s ills.
“You can’t just sit there and expect everyone else to do it,” Bates said. “It’s all about giving back so others can have the tools to achieve what they can achieve.”
Bates said giving to IU Northwest can have an astounding impact. For the folks who live and work in Northwest Indiana, many might not attend college at all if not for IU Northwest’s presence here, he said.
“The funds are going to be well taken care of by the IU Foundation, the funds are going to be used well on campus and that is going to have a positive impact for the community,” Bates said.
Bates wishes that more people locally would take advantage of what IU Northwest offers.
“If you actually get to know people at the University, and you get to know the dedication that the professors and administrators and others have to the students, and you see what the school can do for Gary and the region, that, in and of itself, should motivate you to give. If it doesn’t, I don’t know what else can,” Bates said. “Your dollars will have a significant impact.”