NIU’s Generous Donors Pour On Record-Setting Support to Aid Students
The 2016 Red and Black fundraising numbers are in and they add up to a better future for NIU students.
The generous outpouring of scholarship support — $319,000 to date — will allow the NIU Foundation to help propel more students toward graduation.
In his remarks at the Red and Black, NIU President Douglas Baker referred to donors as an “amazing asset.”
“Our 240,000 alumni and supporters are generously stepping up to help NIU through this challenging time,” Baker added. “Last year, donor giving set an all-time fundraising record, and we need it to keep going up to support our students.”
Catherine Squires, vice president of the Division of University Advancement and president and CEO of the NIU Foundation, called philanthropy “a game changer.”
“Scholarships attract students and keep them in school,” Squires noted. “Nine out of 10 NIU Foundation scholarship recipients graduate — a statistic that is undeniably powerful.”
The lively program followed an “angel investor” theme, adapted from the angel Clarence earning his wings in the classic movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
One of the evening’s speakers was accountancy/political science student Christine Wang. Among other accomplishments, Wang received the NIU Presidential Scholarship, is a McKearn Fellow and studied abroad at International Business Conferences with a scholarship through the NIU College of Law. She praised the sacrifice that her parents made to enable her to get an education and have other opportunities that they never experienced.
“It is because of people like my parents, people like you in this room tonight — those who care not just about instant gratification, but about the future and success of those who will come after them — who make it possible to allow my generation to be innovative and creative,” Wang told the crowd of nearly 450.
NIU Foundation Board President Jeffrey Yordon led the fundraising segment of the gala, which brought in more than $250,000 of the total that night.
“NIU was founded on the belief that an affordable education should be accessible to every student with a dream and a willingness to work hard, regardless of financial barriers,” said Yordon, a 1970 NIU graduate.
The NIU Foundation addresses an undeniable campus-wide need that has never been greater: student scholarships. Last year, 84 percent of NIU students required some form of financial aid, and only 24 percent of them received scholarship support.
One of the evening’s touching moments came when Giselle Sanroman Gutierrez, an NIU senior, came on stage to meet Dorothea Bilder, NIU emeritus art faculty member.
An accomplished artist whose work has graced galleries around the world, Bilder provided a $25,000 gift that went to Gutierrez in the form of the inaugural NIU Impact Scholarship. Scheduled to receive her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2017, Gutierrez plans to pursue an accelerated master’s degree in biomedical sciences as she eyes a career as a doctor of allopathic medicine.
“This scholarship is a catalyst for my success,” said Gutierrez. “It gives me the motivation and financial means so that I will never lose sight of my goals.”
The five other finalists of the award also received financial support from an anonymous donor on the foundation’s judging committee. Among those recipients was Eddie Garcia, a junior who aspires to be a sports announcer. Unfocused and uncertain of his future as a freshman, he has since begun his career path through broadcast and print journalism outlets at NIU. He described the scholarship as “a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”
In addition to Garcia, other recipients were Aaron Black, who wants to be a high school history teacher; Colleen Duncan, another aspiring history teacher; Sara Farmer, a communicative disorders major with a passion for literacy; and Alexis Massman, an electrical engineering student who wants to be a project engineer and develop biomedical prosthetics.
The Red and Black was also the setting to honor Jerry and Annette Johns. In recognition of their decades-long commitment to service and financial support to the university, the couple was selected to receive the NIU Foundation Award for High Impact Philanthropy.
A renowned reading professor, Jerry Johns taught 6,000 students for more than 30 years on the faculty at Northern Illinois University and has been a key force behind a community clinic in his name that serves more than 500 students annually, from kindergarten through high school.
Among many other contributions, in 2007, Jerry and Annette established a scholarship through the DeKalb County Community Foundation to benefit NIU women in theater, and they have named the box office in the soon-to-be-completed Stevens Building at Northern. Recently, they finalized plans to name the student gallery of NIU’s Art Building.
Although the Red and Black is an annual event, there is always opportunity to learn more, including how to support Northern Illinois University, by visiting http://niufoundation.org/ or calling 815-753-7470.