The Indianapolis arts and education community has suffered a profound loss with the passing of Christel DeHaan. A self-made millionaire, DeHaan dedicated the last decades of her life to philanthropy in the areas of music, the arts, education, and global poverty. She was a huge supporter of local music programs and the arts community.

DeHaan emigrated to the United States from Germany at age 20, settling in Indiana. In 1974, she founded Resort Condiminiums International with her then-husband Jon DeHaan, and in 1987 she was awarded half the company and purchased the other half when they divorced. In 1995, she sold RCI for $825 million. From that point on, she dedicated her life to philanthropic ventures focused heavily on Indianapolis arts programs, as well as other global initiatives. In 1998, DeHaan founded and donated $220 million to Christel House International, a non-profit organization for assisting impoverished children, both abroad and locally. The organization operates two learning centers in India, one in Mexico, one in South Africa, and four schools in the United States, including one in Indianapolis. She also donated to the creation of the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center on the campus of the University of Indianapolis. This award-winning building houses a performance hall, art gallery, and studio theatre; it attracts top-notch performers to the Indianapolis area. She was also a staunch supporter of many other musical offerings in the city and beyond, including the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

DeHaan founded the Christel DeHaan Family foundation in 1993, and since its reorganization into a private family foundation in 1997, it has overseen grants of more than $60 million to the arts, education, and other initiatives in the Indianapolis area. Their mission states, “A community rich in artistic offerings enhances quality of life by providing opportunities to enjoy, learn and appreciate creative expression. Arts and cultural organizations bring significant value to our community. It is important for individuals, corporations and foundations to embrace and sustain the arts. We enthusiastically support a wide range of organizations that produce excellent and diverse artistic product. By so doing, we contribute to making our community a richer and more vibrant place.” Our city is certainly a more vibrant place because of the tireless work of Christel DeHaan, and she will surely be missed.