Tilaars' gift to IU supports work on education and women's empowerment in Southeast Asia

$100,000 endowment will fund faculty in School of Education and School of Global and International Studies

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Groundbreaking Indonesian business leader Martha Tilaar and prominent Indiana University alumnus H.A.R. “Alex” Tilaar have made a gift to the university to support faculty work focused on education and women’s empowerment in Southeast Asia. The Tilaars have created a $100,000 endowment to fund teaching, learning and research activities of faculty from the IU School of Education and the new School of Global and International Studies.    

The Tilaars recently visited Bloomington to sign the gift agreement with David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs, IU School of Education Dean Gerardo Gonzalez and IU College of Arts and Sciences Executive Dean Larry Singell. The gift is to support expenses related to faculty work throughout the Asia-Pacific region, with preference given to projects focused on Southeast Asia.

Martha Tilaar is the founder and president of Indonesia’s foremost cosmetic company group and is often referred to as the “Mother of Indonesia’s natural cosmetics.” She enrolled at the Academy of Beauty Culture in Bloomington while her husband studied at IU. When she returned to Indonesia, she studied with practitioners of traditional Indonesian medicine, which led to her use of the natural ingredients for which her cosmetic products are known. Starting from a single salon in 1970, her company, The Martha Tilaar Group, has grown to 43 shops in Indonesia, with another opening in Singapore in 2010.

Her leadership is recognized nationally and internationally. Tilaar is the Indonesian ambassador of education and training on human rights. In 2000, then-United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan invited her to become a founding member of the United Nations Global Compact, a group whose member companies support human rights, labor standards, environmental conservation, and fight corruption. Martha Tilaar has written and published several books, including "Leadership Quotient: Perempuan Pemimpin Indonesia," which chronicles leading Indonesian women in politics and business.

Alex Tilaar, an IU School of Education alumnus (MS’66, EdD’67), is a highly influential voice for education in Indonesia. IU President A. Michael McRobbie presented him with the Thomas Hart Benton Medal in May, 2012. He is professor emeritus at the State University of Jakarta and was an educational specialist for BAPPENAS, the Indonesian government’s central planning agency, for 23 years.

Tilaar served as deputy director for education and culture and assistant minister for human resource development. He is a member of the prestigious Indonesian Academy of Sciences and has authored more than 200 articles and 20 books on Indonesian education. In 2009, the IU School of Education recognized him with the Distinguished Alumni Award.

“We are grateful for this gift, which will complement and enhance much of the important work that Martha and Alex Tilaar are doing in Indonesia and throughout the world,” Gonzalez said. “I’m also very pleased that this will be the first philanthropic gift given to Indiana University for collaborative work between the new School of Global and International Studies and an established academic unit on campus.

"It is only fitting that such a groundbreaking gift would be made possible by two outstanding international leaders who have brought people together in the service of educational and human development causes around the globe. Their gift will help expand educational opportunity that I hope will result in more successful women like Martha Tilaar."

“This gift reflects the generosity of spirit that the Tilaars have shown to many with their philanthropy around the world,” Singell said. “They have been  involved in building mutually beneficial relationships to help students throughout their lives and careers. With this gift, they have forged an opportune partnership between IU’s School of Education and the School of Global and International Studies. We are truly fortunate to have such generous alumni."

The Tilaars said they decided to give the gift for a few reasons, but primarily because of their love of Bloomington and IU and the need for a focus on women’s education in Indonesia. Martha Tilaar cited the Indonesian philosophy called Tri Hita Karana, an outlook on life that emphasizes relationships to bring about a harmonious life.

“You have to live harmoniously between you and God, human to human, between you and your environment,” she said. “If you are successful, you have to share it,” she said of the gift. “We studied here, we started here, and then we went global. That, we have to share.”

Throughout his career, Alex Tilaar has advocated for modernizing Indonesian education by utilizing the ideas he took from his studies at IU, but always with the understanding of what Indonesian students needed.

“I am educated in the States, but I am not westernized,” Tilaar said of beliefs for education in his country. He said the gift should spur IU involvement that can help women’s education grow in the same way. “Your development should start from yourself, but do not close the door to international cooperation,” he said.

Starting immediately, a joint committee of faculty from the School of Education and the School of Global and International Studies will begin the process of selecting grantees for what will be known as The Martha Tilaar and H.A.R. Tilaar Faculty Support Fund.