SJR Column: Philanthropy, March 2015
Many Springfield residents, including me, have greatly appreciated the opportunity to attend one or more presentations by Dr. Michael Burlingame, an internationally renowned teacher and scholar at UIS who is said to know more about Abraham Lincoln than any other living person. What many may not know, however, is that Dr. Burlingame is a member of the UIS faculty thanks to an exceptionally generous gift.
In 2000, Dr. Richard Vaden and his family donated funds to the campus to establish a Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies to celebrate their longtime admiration for then – Chancellor Naomi Lynn. Dr. Burlingame is the current occupant of the Distinguished Lincoln Chair and, through him, the Vaden family gift continues to give each year… to students, to the Springfield community and to the ever-growing body of knowledge about Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln Chair is just one of many examples of the important impact that philanthropy has on the UIS campus.
According to a recent report published by the Giving USA Foundation, charitable giving to education has been on the rise, with donations to education drawing more gifts than any other category of giving except religion. According to the study, colleges and universities are viewed by donors as being among the most attractive places to direct gifts because they can so readily see that their contributions make a difference in an important area.
Gifts support scholarships for deserving students, programs or projects in a particular academic area, community outreach like performing arts or public radio, critically needed facilities, athletics, or the broader strategic goals of the campus.
Whatever the use, a gift serves to connect something that the donor feels passionate about with a corresponding compelling need on the campus.
UIS alum Pamela McClelland is one such donor. Pam attended what was then Sangamon State University as a working adult and earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Accountancy. She became a Certified Public Accountant (winning recognition for scoring in the top 100 nationally on the CPA exam) and later became a partner at Kerber, Eck and Braeckel, one of Springfield’s top accounting firms. Now retired, Pam is passionate about providing access to higher education for students. Besides funding her own named accountancy scholarship, Pam has provided leadership to establish several other scholarships including the Stanhope Scholarship in honor of accounting professor Don Stanhope, the Leona Stanford Vollantine Scholarship, and the KEB Accountancy Scholarship, funded by her former employer. She has been recognized for her leadership and generosity with the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award and will receive the University of Illinois Foundation’s William Winter Award this May – an award that honors a volunteer who has shown extraordinary leadership in supporting philanthropy at the University of Illinois.
Recently retired UIS professor Kathryn Eisenhart and her partner Lucille “Mickey” Rendok have a special place in their hearts for returning students and they have created a scholarship fund especially for them.
“I didn’t start college myself until I was almost 30,” says Kathryn. “Part of our motivation to set up a scholarship for returning students is that they often maintain high grade point averages, work full time and are single parents and yet don’t qualify for federal financial aid.”
Like Kathryn, many UIS employees are donors to the campus. In fact, last year 49.2% of UIS faculty and staff made gifts to UIS – an extraordinary endorsement of their commitment to students and to the mission and vision of the university.
Donors are also increasingly investing in capital projects (i.e. buildings) on campuses across the country and that is also true at UIS. With the Student Union campaign a current priority that has such compelling benefits for the university and the community, it is a particularly exciting opportunity.
Whatever their passion, we’re deeply grateful for the investment that so many friends and alumni are making at UIS . Charitable giving represents an important aspect of an institution’s financial well-being and philanthropy plays a central role in making a good university and great one.
Susan J. Koch, Chancellor of University of Illinois Springfield