For Cynthia “Cindy” Atwater ’75 and John “Jack” Felton ’74, M.D., it all began at Valparaiso University. It was the start of their 47 years of marriage. Valpo provided the educational foundation on which they built highly successful professional careers. And it has served as a guiding force in their commitment to give back to the University and the Valparaiso community.
Valpo offered each what they were seeking in a university. Jack knew he wanted to attend medical school and his research showed that Valpo science graduates had a solid acceptance rate. Cindy wanted to be a nurse and earn her degree at a four-year institution, at a time when hospital-based nursing programs were the norm.
“I fit into what Valpo was at that time,” Jack says. “The classes, the music, the size, it just fit for me.” Valpo was also the place where it all started for the Feltons.
Like many budding relationships, theirs began with a glance as they passed each other on campus. Jack recalls seeing Cindy walking with some friends out of Alumni Hall on her way to Lankenau Hall and wondered to himself, “Who’s the tall one?”
He learned the next day, when Cindy was positioned right in front of Jack at marching band practice — Cindy with her clarinet and Jack on the trombone. Their time together at Valpo continued for the next three years, until Jack graduated with his bachelor of science in chemistry. He then began medical school at Indiana University, while Cindy completed her senior year and earned her bachelor of science in nursing.
They both feel their Valpo education was instrumental in preparing them for the success they have achieved professionally and personally as individuals, as a couple, and as a family. “This is where it all started,” Cindy says. “Not only did we meet here, but Valpo gave us confidence, life skills, and a belief that you can do anything.”
A few months after Cindy graduated, they were married and living in Indianapolis, with Jack enrolled at IU med school and Cindy working as a critical care nurse and earning her master of science in nursing at IUPUI. Upon being awarded his M.D., Jack’s medical residency in ophthalmology took them to Ohio.
After Jack completed his residency, they moved to Monroe, Wisconsin, where he worked at a 70 doctor multi-specialty clinic. Cindy worked as a medical surgical nurse and taught nursing in the area.
During seven years in Monroe, Jack developed a strong practice as a gifted surgeon with enhanced diagnostic skills. But something was missing, and they knew it was time to move on. Jack felt his entrepreneurial spirit was being stifled by the large organization. They began to search for opportunities that would lead to ownership of an eye practice and putting his name on the shingle.
As they explored career options, Jack and Cindy considered possibilities across the country that would provide a path to ownership. “We could have ended up in Loma Linda, California,” Jack said. By fortune or providence, while the Feltons were studying their options, Dr. Dan Evans was planning his retirement and began his search for a partner to eventually take over his practice in Valparaiso.
Dr. Evans traveled to Monroe and an agreement was reached. So, in 1989, 15 years after leaving, they returned to the city where it all started. Jack worked alongside Dr. Evans for two years prior to acquiring the practice he renamed the Felton-Evans Eye Clinic. Initially, Cindy stayed at home raising their daughters and son and helped part-time at the eye clinic. In 2004, she joined the faculty of the College of Nursing and Health Professions (CONHP) as a professor and clinical coordinator. She retired in June 2022 as emeritus professor.
Since returning to Valpo, their engagement and commitment to the University and the community has been significant. Jack attributes former Valparaiso University President Alan Harre’s outreach with connecting them back with the University. Harre emphasized the lasting impact of endowments, which has guided the Feltons’ philanthropic giving and civic involvement.
Following Harre’s lead, they have established four endowed funds at Valpo — two of which support CONHP, as well as funds for pre-medical faculty and a student-athlete scholarship. They also served on the Executive Committee of the recently completed Forever Valpo: The Campaign for Our Future, which raised more than $302 million.
If you are looking for Jack and Cindy during basketball season, you can find them at the ARC, with the season tickets to men’s basketball they have held for more than 30 years — or even following the team on road games. In fact, the initial recipient of their endowed student-athlete scholarship fund was a member of the men’s basketball team.
“Jack and Cindy Felton are longtime supporters of Valpo Basketball,” says Matt Lottich, head coach of men’s basketball. “They have impacted our program in numerous ways, and I would call them dear friends. Their generosity and friendship are truly appreciated and as we continue on this journey together, it is people like Jack and Cindy Felton who make all the hard work worth it.”
It was their own hard work that grew Felton-Evans Eye Clinic into what became LTF Eye Clinic, with three offices in Northwest Indiana. Now that Cindy has joined Jack in retirement, you can expect their engagement and commitment to the University to remain high. “We are very active,” Cindy says. “We participate in the community.”
In addition to Valparaiso University, the Feltons support a wide number of area organizations, including the YMCA, First Tee, Porter County Community Foundation, Valpo First United Methodist Church, and Sunrise Kiwanis.
Cindy and Jack Felton truly reflect the Valpo ethos. They invest their time, resources, and talent in service into the University and community. Because they decided to come back to where it all started, we will be forever fortunate and will continuously benefit from their generosity.