Civic leader Ian Rolland dies, funeral services set

FILE - Ian Rolland during an interview with NewsChannel 15 in 2014.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Ian Rolland, perhaps the definition of a pillar of society, died Saturday morning.

He was 84.

Rolland retired from Lincoln National in 1998 as chairman after having spent more than 40 years at the company. He served in the top job for more than two decades. His passion for Lincoln and Fort Wayne kept the company’s headquarters in the Summit City until they eventually relocated in 1999 to Philadelphia.

Rolland’s perhaps greatest mark on Fort Wayne was his pursuit of racial balance within Fort Wayne Community Schools.

With legal action, Rolland helped form the Parents for Quality Education with Integration. In the 1980s, the U.S Department of Education said FWCS’ elementary schools were racially imbalanced.

Rolland and the foundation at Lincoln National helped pay the legal bill and in 1994 the lawsuit was settled by the state for nearly $13 million.

Steve Corona, the FWCS board president during those tense times remembers how heated Rolland would get.

“There was some conversations and meetings I was a part of that Ian got pretty hot and it was a side that I had never seen of him,” Corona said. “He was always very calm and under control. He lost his cool in this meeting simply because there was no compromise. There was no give by the superintendent at the time to try to work this out. Ian was pretty upset, but he was a fighter and it really goes to the heart of who he was in representing the little guy, the poor, the minorities in this community that weren’t getting a fair shake.”

In the 1990s, Rolland was instrumental in leading the funding drive and collecting money for Headwaters Park.

Rolland and his wife Mimi were also big supporters of the arts. Most notably, their donation to the University of Saint Francis helped spur the Mimi and Ian Rolland Art and Visual Communication Center.

Rolland was also instrumental in supporting a local AIDS Task Force among numerous other projects in and around Fort Wayne.

Mayor Tom Henry (D-Fort Wayne) issued a statement Saturday afternoon:

My thoughts and prayers are with Ian Rolland’s family. Ian was a champion for many successful causes in Fort Wayne  from desegregation to family values. His leadership, professionalism and kindness were unmatched. He was intelligent, articulate and a true servant leader. We lost a true hero today. Our City is a better place in many ways due to Ian. He will be missed.

In 2008, Rolland and Mimi were awarded the Red Cross Local Humanitarian Award. They were the first to receive the award. In 1998, Rolland was named Business Leader of the Year by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. In 2012, Rolland was award the Sachem Award, the highest award in the state. He is a member of the Indiana Conservation Hall of Fame.

Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-IN) also issued a statement Saturday:

Ian Rolland was among the most talented businessmen Indiana has ever been able to call its own. His caring and generous spirit, his community leadership, and his work for educational equality define true civic virtue. All throughout his life, Ian was recognized for his integrity and actions that improved not just the lives of those in northeast Indiana, but our entire state. His passing is a great loss, and Janet and I extend our sincere condolences to the Rolland family and the entire Fort Wayne community.

Congressman Jim Banks (R-IN3) tweeted Saturday, “Ian Rolland is a Fort Wayne legend who helped shape our region for generations to come. RIP.”

Former Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke said, “Ian helped make Fort Wayne the city it is today – growing, inclusive, supportive of the arts, and with a vibrant downtown. I’ll miss him.”

Rolland was born in 1933 to Florence Hunte and David Rolland. He is survived by his wife Mimi, three daughters; Cheri, Carol, and Sara, and two sons; Lawrence and Robert.

Funeral arrangements are as follows, provided by D.O. McComb and Sons:

  • Celebration of Life
    Friday July 7, 12p-8p – Turnstone Center, 3320 North Clinton Street
  • Visitation
    Saturday July 8, 1p-2p – Turnstone Center, 3320 North Clinton Street
  • Funeral
    Saturday July 8, 2p – Turnstone Center, 3320 North Clniton Street