SPRINGFIELD - Thanks to an unrestricted estate gift from a Springfield couple, the University of Illinois at Springfield has established a professorship in political science in its College of Public Affairs and Administration. The Wepner Distinguished Professorship in Political Science was made possible by a $1.2 million estate gift from Wilbur and Margaret Wepner, longtime supporters of the university.
Because the professorship will emphasize the legacy and politics of Abraham Lincoln, the senior faculty member who occupies the position will also be associated with UIS' History Department.
Pinky Wassenberg, Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration, said the professorship will allow the college to continue to build its scholarly profile, to enhance public affairs programming, and to expand local and national collaborations. "The Political Science Department has strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs taught by excellent faculty. The addition of the Wepner Professor will contribute to our ability to attract and retain high-quality graduate students," Wassenberg said. The department has experienced several years of growth in the graduate program because of the high quality of its faculty and the opportunities for students to "become involved immediately in practical politics," she said.
UIS Provost Harry Berman noted that "the Wepner Professorship is a major step in helping UIS realize its primary strategic goal, academic excellence. Additionally, it makes sense that UIS would have a second nationally recognized scholar, who, along with Dr. Phillip Paludan of the UIS History Program, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, will make Springfield an unrivaled center for Lincoln studies."
As a member of the Committee for Higher Education in Central Illinois, Wilbur Wepner helped found this university (then called Sangamon State University) in 1969. His wife, Margaret, supported her husband's efforts. He died in 1994. Before her death in 2005, Mrs. Wepner cast the couple's final vote of confidence in UIS' future by leaving an "unrestricted" estate gift to the university. Such gifts have no limitations on how the money is to be used, thus giving the university the discretion to apply the funds based on current need.
Wepner Distinguished Professorship in Political Science
and Estate Gift from Wilbur and Margaret Wepner
* Search committee now being formed to conduct national search for the Wepner Professor. Candidates must have superior record of accomplishment in teaching and scholarship in political science as well as expertise and scholarly accomplishments relating to the place of Abraham Lincoln in Illinois and American political development.
* Wepner Professor will be expected to help UIS develop and maintain strong relationships with Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, other universities, centers of scholarly excellence, and presidential studies.
* Appointment will be at a senior faculty rank in the Department of Political Studies, with an additional appointment as an associated faculty member in the History Department.
* Wepner Professorship is the first for the College of Public Affairs and Administration.
* Other uses of the Wepner gift include establishment of scholarships for incoming freshmen (about $23,000 in scholarship funds per year), and endowment of the annual Faculty Excellence Award, which has been supported by an annual gift from Chancellor Ringeisen.
* Wilbur Wepner was a member of the Theatrical Stage Employees and Projectionists for much of his life and was instrumental in designing and installing the sound and acoustic systems in UIS' Sangamon Auditorium.
* In addition to the Estate Gift, the Wepners previously donated funds for scholarships for the Capital Scholars Program, UIS' first four-year baccalaureate program for high-achieving freshmen.