Virtually everyone at North Central knows of Ian and Mimi Flickinger ’55 Rolland—whether they’ve met them or not.
The couple has stood among the College’s strongest supporters at its most pivotal moments. They supported the renovation of Old Main and established an endowed chair in the fine arts to help attract and retain the finest professors. Among their most visible projects was funding the conversion of the College’s original boilerhouse into the Rolland Center Boilerhouse Café to provide students with a welcoming gathering space. Their generous donation to the Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center helped raise the College’s performing arts to new heights… and their annual gifts have supported much, much more.
Recently they added another $1 million gift to their legacy to support the Brilliant Future Campaign and new Science Center, which will enrich the experience of all students in every major.
Mimi Rolland’s commitment to North Central runs deep. An education major, she recalls her student days with tremendous fondness. “Back then, Naperville was a small town surrounded by farmland,” she says. “We had so much fun. The craziest thing we did was lead a cow up several flights of Old Main stairs. The problem is, cows don’t go down stairs … so we had to hire a crane! I don’t think the administration was too happy with me.”
“I just loved college,” she continues. “You learn so much when you’re on your own for the first time. Freshman year, I got a D in biology. My parents said, ‘If that’s the best you can do, then you’re done with college. We’ll make other plans.’ Well, that got me off my rear end, because I couldn’t bear the idea of leaving North Central!”
After graduation, Rolland accepted a position teaching second grade in Michigan. She also married her high school sweetheart, Ian. (They had dated casually until her junior year at North Central; at that point she knew it “had become true love, because he started hitchhiking 200 miles from Indiana every other weekend to see me.”) The pair recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
Rolland stopped teaching formally after the birth of the couple’s first child. They ultimately had five children and, at last count, 17 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Rolland remains extremely active in the community, devoting much of her time to improving opportunities for disadvantaged children. She helped found a preschool that later became one of the first Head Start programs in the country.
Rolland also continued to pursue the music she has always loved by singing and playing the harp and piano. “Art and music bring beauty and joy to life,” she says. Her love of music is ever-present at North Central through the endowed chair held by Ramona M. Wis, Mimi Rolland Professor in the Fine Arts and professor of music.
A College Trustee from 1994 to 1997, Rolland is thrilled by the plans for North Central’s new Science Center. “It’s so important for students,” she says. “We’ve needed it so badly, for so long. We’ve worked and waited a long time for this moment.”