Mimi Rolland’s influence will live on at Saint Francis

August 22, 2023

A love of art—and a dedication to encouraging and supporting young people—permeated the lives of Mimi and Ian Rolland, and their legacy is forever secure at the University of Saint Francis.

Visitors will always be reminded of the couple’s support and commitment when they enter the Mimi and Ian Rolland Art and Visual Communication Center on the southeast side of campus. Those who were personally touched by the Rollands will never forget them.

Mimi Rolland, 90, died on Saturday, leaving lasting memories of friendship and support for Saint Francis, which she demonstrated along with her late husband Ian, who died in 2017.

“I will miss being able to spend time with her,” Saint Francis President Emerita Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF, said. “Spending time with her was enjoyable—and an honor, really.”

Ian Rolland, who earned a national reputation in business as CEO of Lincoln National Corporation, began serving on the Saint Francis College board under then-President Sister JoEllen Sheetz in 1979. That was the beginning of a decades-long relationship between Ian and Mimi Rolland and Saint Francis.

The late Rick Cartwright sold the idea of turning a dilapidated Standard Oil facility into the Creative Arts home that now carries the Rollands’ names. The couple was impressed with Cartwright’s vision for how Saint Francis could grow its creative arts program in a renovated campus home. They also worked closely with Sister Elise, who served 27 years as Saint Francis president, as the program developed.

“Rick demonstrated his vision to us, and Mimi was drawn to it also,” Ian said in 2014. “The first time in the building I thought, ‘You’ve got to be nuts, this place is a mess.’ But you can’t say no to Rick, and Lincoln used to say I couldn’t say no to a nun. So now, it’s a special place.”

Ian Rolland encouraged other board members and community leaders to support Saint Francis, and he and Mimi led the way with their commitment to philanthropy. Arts United presented them with a Lifetime Achievement Award and they were honored by the American Red Cross, the United Way and many other community organizations.

Saint Francis awarded Mimi with a Doctor of Humane Letters in 2016.

While Ian used his business savvy to assist various organizations, Mimi often brought the extra personal touch that epitomized the couple’s caring personalities.

“She doesn’t like boards and structure and decisions, and is more comfortable with one-on-one and small groups,” Ian said in 2014. “She contributes to individuals, schools and the inner city. I can do the boards and the organizational stuff. I prefer it and it works out pretty well that way.”

Mimi worked with the East Wayne Street Center and led Girl Scouts, among many volunteer activities.

The couple’s love of art was evident to those who visited their home, and they shared artwork with others, including donating a collection to Saint Francis. They also left a Mimi and Ian Rolland Endowed Scholarship to Saint Francis.

Their impact on Saint Francis will live on in the Mimi and Ian Rolland Art and Visual Communication Center—and in the hearts of those who experienced the couple’s kindness and generosity.