SJR Column: Donor Giving, December 2018

One of my favorite quotes is strategically posted just below my computer screen where I can read it each day when I get to work. The author, Andrew Heiskell, was chairman of Time Inc. and a renowned philanthropist who raised millions of dollars for the New York Public Library. Heiskell asserted the best strategy for successful fundraising is to first “create a place where people want to be involved.” UIS is creating just such a place at One University Plaza on the south side of Springfield – a place where people increasingly want to be involved.

Momentum is evident across the young UIS campus with growing academic programs like Business, Computer Science, Biology, Theatre, Exercise Science, Music, and Nursing. Community engagement is growing via the UIS Performing Arts Center, NPR Illinois public radio and other initiatives. An increasingly successful NCAA Division II athletics program features student athletes who achieve academic excellence at the same time they’re winning championships and new facilities include a stunning Student Union, opened this year, that recently won the 2018 Excellence in Design Award from the American Institute of Architects.

The best proof of Heiskell’s assertion may be the progress of the current UIS capital campaign. The largest philanthropic effort in the University’s history, “Reaching Stellar” has already raised over $25.2 million – 63 percent of its $40 million goal.

Priorities for the campaign include: increasing scholarship support, enhancing academic excellence, establishing a new Center for Lincoln Studies, bolstering the “public good” UIS provides through its outreach programs, and enhancing facilities and technology.

According to Dr. Jeff Lorber, UIS Vice Chancellor for Advancement, “the success to date of the Reaching Stellar campaign has being achieved in large part because of the increasing engagement of alumni and community friends in the life of the University.”

Anne and Ray Capestrain are among those valued friends. “We believe in UIS’s mission to provide a quality, cost-effective college education to the community,” says Anne.

“Scholarships are an important priority for us because students need more support than ever to realize their academic goals without accumulating debt that negatively impacts their future choices.”

“The Student Union was an attractive project, too,” she continues, “because we believe it will draw more students to the university – which will contribute to the diversity of the campus as well as our community.” (The Capestrains, along with other family members, have named a conference room in the Student Union in honor of their parents, Robert and Dorothy Tracy.)

Longtime educator, community leader and philanthropist Mary Loken is another “Reaching Stellar” contributor who believes deeply in the value of UIS in the community.

“A vibrant UIS is essential for the growth and enrichment of Springfield, and I applaud each exciting priority in the campaign,” says Mary.

“Scholarships are especially important to me and I’m proud the Loken Family Scholarship has provided numerous area individuals with the opportunity to earn their college degrees at UIS and become teachers.”

Mark and Julie Staley are contributing to the “Reaching Stellar” campaign in many important ways, including by providing financial support for scholarships, the Student Union and athletic facilities. Julie also serves on the campaign planning committee.

“Investing in UIS means investing in the future of this community,” says Julie.

“We’re always honored to support scholarships and bring more ways for students to get the help they need to pay for college.”

“The proposed Center for Lincoln Studies is also incredibly important,” she adds. “Lincoln changed the world forever, and it is the duty and honor of UIS to keep his legacy alive – nowhere else would such a center be so important.”

As I conclude this column, I’m reflecting on a new favorite quote now posted next to Heiskell’s. It’s from Dennis Sedlak, an early SSU/UIS alum who created a scholarship at UIS for students (like he once was) who need financial help to accomplish their aspiration to earn a college degree.

Speaking at the annual UIS Scholarship Luncheon a few weeks ago, Sedlak expressed the personal satisfaction he’s gained from meeting his scholarship recipients.

Whenever we give, whatever we give,“ he said, “it always comes back.”

I’m so grateful to the many UIS supporters who, like donors mentioned in this column, are expressing their confidence in the future of UIS with their generous financial support and who – like Dennis Sedlak – appreciate seeing their gifts “come back.”

If you’d like to be involved and make a contribution, you can learn more about UIS and the “Reaching Stellar” campaign … or just give me a call. I’ll buy lunch!

Susan J. Koch, Chancellor of University of Illinois at Springfield

Chancellor Susan J. Koch