For years, Dr. Rade Pejic and his wife, Dr. Leslie Pejic, drove past the former Walters Hospital building in Michigan City and thought that someone should do something with it. It was a prominent building on the city's main street, but it had been vacant for some time. In 1998, they decided they would be the ones to buy it and fix it up. That decision benefitted the community as a whole, and Ivy Tech Community College specifically.
Ivy Tech leased space in the building beginning in 1998. Then, in 2010, the Drs. Pejic sold the 70,000 square foot building to Ivy Tech at more than half its value, taking the balance of the building's market price as a charitable donation— an in-kind gift of nearly $3 million. The building was renamed "The Drs. Rade and Leslie Pejic Michigan City campus" in their honor.
Jerry Huddleston, vice chancellor of the Michigan City campus of Ivy Tech, says the additional space is a great fit for the College's needs.
"It sits right on Franklin Street, which is the main North- South road in Michigan City," Huddleston says. "We have great exposure. The building is very well built architecturally. We have a lot of land adjacent to us, so we are not land-locked, and we have ample parking."
The Pejics both have benefitted from their own investments in education, and they're committed to helping others enjoy the same benefits. Dr. Rade Pejic completed medical school, went on to a successful career as a general and vascular surgeon, and is now on the faculty at Louisiana State University. Dr. Leslie Pejic went back for advanced education after her children were all enrolled in school. She first pursued a career as a nurse, then earned a doctorate degree and became a neuroscientist. Dr. Leslie Pejic retired last year from the Louisiana State faculty.
When Ivy Tech first moved into the former Walters Hospital building, the campus had just 169 students. Now, the campus has nearly 1,500. And according to Huddleston, the College still has room to grow in Michigan City, with space for as many as 3,000 students.
Huddleston says the Drs. Pejic have been strong advocates for the College, spreading the word about the opportunities available at Ivy Tech.
"They are both so strongly respected here that their thoughts and views carry a lot of weight in the community, and it's very helpful to have them advocate for us," Huddleston says.
Dr. Rade Pejic says that he and his wife became motivated to support Ivy Tech because they believe in the value of education, and want to share that belief with as many people as possible.
"We believe that is the road to success," Dr. Rade Pejic says. "As we all know, knowledge is power and that's what Ivy Tech is all about - providing knowledge to its students. We are thrilled that Ivy Tech is in our community."