Lasting Legacy

With his recent passing, the impact that Mike Valder (’62) had on Loras College can be measured by the students who have had their lives changed through his commitment to their success. A member of the board of regents and long-time champion of Loras students, Valder leaves a lasting impact on his alma mater.

“Mike loved Loras. He was an outspoken advocate for students on the margins,” President Jim Collins (’84) said. “He funded our Valder Scholar Summer Internship program and was so excited about our efforts to grow our Hispanic student enrollment.”

Mike (’62) and Janet Valder

In honor of his brother Robert Valder (‘60), a civil rights organizer in the South, Mike and his wife, Janet, established the Robert Valder Social Justice Scholarship program at Loras. While it started as an award in name and a financial contribution to a student’s tuition, the scholarship transformed into an eight-to-ten week summer experience working at a social justice organization.

The impact of the scholarship has been significant to many students since its inception in 1988. Every year, students have had transformative experiences made possible by Mike and Janet.

“We have lost a great, kind and generous man,” Nancy (Zachar) Fett (‘90), associate professor of social work, said. “I do believe his legacy will live on in the lives of people he has helped through all of his efforts. There are people who may not know his name, but their lives are better because he walked with us for a while. His example will continue to influence me for the rest of my journey.”

Mike and Janet also conceived of a new initiative, The Loras Giving Circle, for an annual fund for social justice internships and projects to create opportunities for members of the Loras community to engage in transformative experiences in the areas of peace, interfaith understanding, diversity, equity and inclusion.

“The Valders envisioned the fund being a way to expand social justice work on campus through creating a giving circle, enabling us to expand summer internships and new projects during the year,” Stacia (Edwards) McDermott (’03), director of spiritual life, said. “I am thrilled with the possibility of continuing to guide students on how they can engage in social change in real and tangible ways.”

The annual fund will increase available money for summer social justice award recipients and provide for additional funding, creating a Loras community that has access to transformative experiences that lead to systemic change on the Loras campus and in our nation and world.

In coordination with the Loras advancement team, members of the giving circle are constituents who provide annual gifts to this initiative of $500 or more and alumni who were Valder Justice Scholars who give $100 or more annually. Upon entry into the circle, donors will be provided periodic briefings and newsletters to update and describe funding proposals, with hopes of an annual event to come.

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2020, Loras was ranked the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the fourth consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 12th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).