Small doesn’t mean small-time. You can ask Isabel ’98 and Aaron Santner ’98 about that.

They moved in different academic worlds at Manchester—Isabel an accounting major, Aaron an environmental studies and biology major—but found common ground in the coziness of the campus, which afforded opportunities to forge more intimate bonds with fellow students and faculty than might have been possible at a larger school.

“Because it’s a smaller number of people that you’re surrounded with and interacting with on a daily basis, you develop a deeper relationship with people,” says Isabel, who works as a director at BKD LLP in Bloomington.

 Her husband, who works for Cook Medical in Bloomington, agrees.

“I think the University itself, being a smaller school, is much more supportive to students than what you might find at a large public university,” Aaron says. “You actually know all of your professors, and they actually know you. That’s not always the case at the larger schools.”

It’s that sense of collegiality—as well as “the roundness of an education,” as Isabel puts it, they both received at Manchester—that has motivated the Santners to give back generously and often to their alma mater. They make yearly gifts to The Manchester Fund and supported the Students First! campaign with a gift to the Academic Center in memory of Aaron’s grandmother, Annabelle Anglin.

“I don’t know that there’s any one specific area that we’d like to support over the other,” Aaron says. “I think that we had such a positive experience that we just would like to give back, and we don’t tend to tie the money to any one project or another.”

Isabel cites Arthur Gilbert ’53, accounting professor emeritus, as being her  biggest academic influence at MU, while Aaron remembers most vividly a trip to Costa Rica with David Hicks, associate professor of biology, to study tropical ecology. “The trip was absolutely phenomenal and certainly solidified by appreciation for ecology and biology and the environment in general,” he says.

Both Santners also remember fondly one of the few classes they took together: An art history class taught by John Planer.

“He covered so much,” Isabel says. “That was one of the classes that resonated with both of us.”

By Benjamin Smith