SJR Column: Reaching Stellar, November 2017
Thanks to the talent and dedication of faculty and staff and the generosity of our many supporters, the University of Illinois Springfield has created positive momentum that is evident today everywhere you look – the largest graduating class in history last spring, new and expanded majors whose graduates are contributing to the regional economy, exceptional performing arts programs that enhance the cultural life of the community, and a beautiful campus on the south side of Springfield where a new Student Union will open in January.
The contributions of members of our academic community will undoubtedly continue to add value to the campus; but just a few weeks ago, we also launched an exciting new initiative that will take UIS toward even greater excellence and greater impact for our community, our state and beyond. It’s “Reaching Stellar,” a $40 million campaign that is part of the most ambitious fundraising effort in University of Illinois history.
Dr. Jeff Lorber, Vice Chancellor for Advancement, is leading the campaign which has already raised more than $18 million. “A comprehensive campaign like ‘Reaching Stellar’,” says Jeff, “enables the campus to develop strategic priorities that, with donor support, will help ensure the future success and expanded impact of the university.
At the same time, when donors contribute to specific projects that interest them, the vitality and quality of life of the entire community is enhanced.”
And speaking of leadership, the “Reaching Stellar” campaign committee is co-chaired by two exceptional community leaders – Arthur “Hy” Bunn, President and CEO of Bunn-O-Matic Corporation, one of Springfield’s most important corporate citizens, and Saul Morse, of counsel at Brown, Hay and Stephens, the oldest and one of the most highly respected law firms in Illinois.
“UIS is providing the educated citizens and skilled leaders for the future of our community at the same time it improves the culture of our area,” says Saul.
“I’m proud to know that, through my involvement with the campaign, I’m assisting in building one of the true gems in the area and the state.”
“I was honored to be asked to co-chair the ‘Reaching Stellar’ campaign,” adds Hy. “I believe strongly in the leadership and mission of UIS. The campaign is critical to the long-term success of the university and the quality of its value proposition.”
A planning process involving faculty and staff as well as alumni and members of the Springfield community has identified key priorities for the campaign. Increasing scholarships and enhancing academic excellence are two of those priorities. Scholarship support is essential for growing enrollment at the campus, since affordability is the deciding factor in many students’ college choice. More importantly, scholarships make a University of Illinois degree from UIS possible for talented and deserving students who could not otherwise afford college.
As most Springfield residents know, UIS contributes to the community and the Central Illinois region in a variety of ways including NPR Illinois public radio, the Sangamon Auditorium performing arts center, the Illinois Innocence Project, student volunteer programs and other ongoing initiatives. These activities and others represent a campaign priority for “The Public Good” and provide an opportunity for donors to make a positive difference in the community as well as the university.
Building and renovating needed facilities for our growing campus is another important priority. The Student Union, for example, has been financed entirely by private gifts and a student fee approved by the student body. Thanks to generous donors, we’ve already surpassed the $6 million mark; but we welcome additional gifts that will help achieve the $8 million Student Union goal as well as provide support for other needed facilities.
One of the most exciting priorities for the campaign is the new Center for Lincoln Studies. Building on existing assets including an exceptional History Department, the Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies (currently held by renowned Lincoln scholar Dr. Michael Burlingame) and the Center for State Policy and Leadership’s Lincoln Legacy Lecture Series, the Center will take advantage of its location here in Lincoln’s hometown and will add to the growing collaboration between the university and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
In a recent op/ed piece in this newspaper, the SJR editor noted UIS is “the perfect place” for the national base for scholarship, teaching and public history about Lincoln’s life, leadership and legacy.
We’re excited to see the many ways the Center for Lincoln Studies will enhance understanding of the life and times of the 16th President and we look forward to the significant contributions it will make to the overall excellence and impact of the university.
With the support and loyalty of both old and new friends and with contributions large and small, I’m confident the “Reaching Stellar” campaign will accelerate the positive momentum of UIS and enable the university to expand its impact on the community as well as on generations of students to come. Additional information and opportunities to make a gift are available at the Reaching Stellar website. You can also just give me a call … I’ll buy lunch!
Susan J. Koch, Chancellor of University of Illinois Springfield