Elmhurst University receives $3.4 million gift to support student veterans, military career exploration

  • Tim and Robert Jans (from left), with Elmhurst University Troy D. VanAken, recently approved a $3.4 million gift that will enable more students to explore careers in the military and support student veterans at Elmhurst.

    Tim and Robert Jans (from left), with Elmhurst University Troy D. VanAken, recently approved a $3.4 million gift that will enable more students to explore careers in the military and support student veterans at Elmhurst. Courtesy of Elmhurst University

Updated 9/16/2021 11:29 PM

Two brothers with multigenerational ties to Elmhurst University are giving the University $3.4 million to implement a comprehensive initiative that will introduce more STEM students to careers in the military while also supporting student veterans on campus.

The gift from Robert Jans, of Brookfield; and Elmhurst U. alumnus Tim Jans, of Elmhurst, represents the largest the University has ever received from living donors.


Inspired by Robert Jans' lifelong interest in supporting the military and veterans, and Tim Jans' desire to provide more opportunities for Elmhurst University students, the gift establishes:

The Jans Family Endowed Internship Fund, which will support students pursuing internships in science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics at a military or U.S. Department of Defense-oriented institution.

The scholarship could be used to augment internship wages, reduce transportation or housing costs, or in any other ways that would remove financial impediments to pursuing the internships. The fund would expand experiential opportunities for STEM students by exposing them to career options they might not have considered before, while attracting new faces to important careers that serve national security and defense.

The Jans Director of Military and Veterans Affairs, a new position that would direct and manage the military-oriented internship placements­­­ while also providing support and resources to student veterans on campus.

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The Jans Military and Veterans Center, a dedicated space on campus (potentially in Memorial Hall, which was named in commemoration of those who served in World War I) that will house the director of military and veterans affairs and also provide a gathering space for military and veteran students.

"Elmhurst University is deeply grateful for this extraordinary gift from Robert and Tim Jans," said President Troy D. VanAken. "Its goals mesh perfectly with Elmhurst University's commitment to preparing active service members, veterans, and all of our students to succeed in an increasingly complex economy and world."

Both recently retired, Robert and Tim Jans were the longtime owners of Cook-DuPage Transportation Company Inc., a provider of mobility-limited transportation services. The brothers founded the company in 1973, after Robert Jans had finished serving in the military and as Tim Jans was completing his senior year at Elmhurst.

"I enjoyed my years at Elmhurst, and got help to be able to stay at a time when my family couldn't make the payments" Tim Jans said. "Now's the time to give back."


Robert Jans is a longtime supporter of military education and the current chairman of the Defense Orientation Conference Association (DOCA), a nationwide nonprofit that educates civic and business leaders on defense, foreign policy and national security issues.

Over the years, as Jans visited military installations for his work with DOCA, he frequently heard about the need for more enlistees with STEM backgrounds, and wanted to do something to better connect talented students with potential careers in the military.

"I'd hear from my military connections about losing these students to Silicon Valley or Wall Street, even though they could enter jobs in the military field at a high level and find them to be lucrative and impactful," he said.

He hopes the new internship fund at Elmhurst will "empower and bring awareness to" these students, and eventually draw some into military careers.

"It's about giving them the opportunity," he said.

Elmhurst University is a leading four-year institution of higher education that seamlessly blends liberal learning and professional preparation to help students reach their full potential.

Founded in 1871, Elmhurst now offers more than 70 undergraduate programs of study, more than 20 graduate and certificate programs in flexible formats, and the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy for young adults with differing abilities. Celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, Elmhurst University is among the top-ranked colleges and universities in the Midwest, according to U.S. News & World Report.

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