A Gift for the Ages
On September 10, scholarship recipients, representatives of the college and the university, and members of the community met at a luncheon to honor the generosity and memory of the late Leiby S. Hall, a Decatur businessman whose $6.5 million bequest includes $5 million for scholarships, the largest such gift ever received by the University of Illinois. The Leiby S. Hall Scholarship Fund has increased privately funded scholarship aid for undergraduates in the college by almost 50 percent, providing forty CBA upperclassmen with financial assistance for the 1999-2000 academic year. Harold Alsup, fund trustee and executor of the Hall estate, wants that number to grow in tandem with the trust itself. "An extensive stock portfolio forms the major part of the trust," Alsup explained. "It will go on forever, and, I hope, it will grow." University Chancellor Michael Aiken observed, in his remarks at the luncheon, that the Hall bequest, which also includes $1.5 million for an endowed chair in the Department of Economics, "will be in this institution as long as this institution exists."
"Leiby Hall believed that how you live and how successful you are depend on what you learn. He knew there are thousands of students who, without financial assistance, might not be able to meet the cost of an education."
As trustee for his friend's fund, Alsup spent ten days in the early summer reviewing the scholar-ship applications a process that pleased him greatly. "What bright students!" he said. "I was very impressed with the quality of the applications. Some had done special things. Some had worked very hard. Some had achieved a great deal. Some had encountered hardship. And they had lots of good things to say about the College of Commerce. I just wanted to give an award to everybody!"
"Leiby was so proud to be affiliated with the University of Illinois," Alsup observed, noting that his friend's parents and wife had died, and that he had no children, siblings, or other close relatives. "He wanted to do something really special, something that could benefit the greatest number of people." While the bulk of his estate went into the scholarship trust, Leiby Hall also endowed the University of Illinois Foundation with four hundred acres of farmland, to be used to establish the chair in economics. Further bequests included a donation of antique furniture to the Milliken Homestead and the gift of thirty-one acres of property to the Illinois Department of Conservation. Located outside Decatur, this will become the Leiby S. Hall Park.
Of the Leiby S. Hall Scholarship Fund, Alsup concluded: "Leiby did a wonderful thing. He put his money where it will do a tremendous amount of good."
The Gift of Education: How Hall Scholarships Touched Three Lives
Here are the stories of just three of the outstanding students who make up this year's recipients of the Leiby S. Hall Scholarships.
"Because of my situation I pay for 100 percent of my college expenses" she wrote in her scholarship application. "I finance my education with scholarships, grants, loans, and work. Since I am studying in Manchester, England, I will not be able to rely on the work/study portion of my financial aid package. I know that this will put a strain on my financial package, but getting the chance to study overseas is all worth it." Thanks to the Leiby Hall Scholarship, that strain has eased considerably.
En route to her year in England, Cristina has come a very long way in her life. Abandoned by her biological parents when she was six years old, she essentially grew up at Mooseheart, an orphanage in rural Illinois. "We were all white children, all at the same level. The grounds were like a campus, but you couldn't leave. I grew up having no idea what the world was like," she recalled. When she was twelve, her aunt and uncle became her legal guardians, and she went to live with them in St. Charles, a small Illinois town with a correspondingly small high school. Cristina always knew, somehow, that she would attend the University of Illinois. Nonetheless, arriving on the Urbana campus "was a complete culture shock."
"I couldn't believe that there were so many things I was unaware of in this world," she wrote on her application. "I have learned so much about people and I realized that different cultures and people intrigued me." She also found many ways to give of herself especially through committee memberships and chairs for Alpha Kappa Psi and Commerce Council. She is particularly proud of her philanthropic work for both organizations. Also a member of the Finance Club, the Illini Union Board, and the Fred Bailey Scholarship Reading Committee, she even found time to trip the light fantastic for a few seasons with the Dancing Illini. Through it all, Cristina has maintained a 3.07 grade-point average. For the 1998-99 academic year, she won General Assembly, Fred Bailey, and Gerald Marks scholarships. She also garnered a very different, very special sort of recognition last spring when she wrote an essay nominating Elise Hayes, her adoptive mother, for Queen Mom an honor accorded to one student's mother at the annual University of Illinois Mom's Weekend. "Her support and trust in me has helped to make me the confident, determined and caring person I am today," Cristina wrote. "Because of her love and compassion, I have learned to trust others and am not afraid to show my emotions." The essay won. Elise Hayes became the U of I Queen Mom.
And now the world is opening to Cristina, a world beyond even the far horizons of Britain. "I have friends from U of I who will be in Japan, Budapest, and Belgium. I'm going to travel to see them while I'm studying abroad," she said. "I'm excited. But I'm a little nervous." And that too is part of embracing a challenging new life.
It was always Illinois. Right from the start. From the time he was old enough to think about going to college, Matt McClure felt sure he'd be heading to the Urbana campus. It was the world-class education he knew he'd get here, of course. But partly it was also the football and partly the ties his grandfather, father, sister, and other family members attended Illinois. And partly a lot, in fact it was the support.
Everybody needs support of one kind or another. And when you've grown up in a wheelchair, support is crucial. Not just the support you get, either. The support you're able to give counts for a lot, too. Now a senior majoring in finance and recipient of a Leiby S. Hall Scholarship Matt McClure gets and gives the kind of support that makes a lot of difference. Since coming to campus as a freshman, he has worked with Tim Millikan, supervisor of therapy services at the Division of Rehabilitation-Education Services. Their work together has centered on muscle- and paralysis-related therapy. "I've learned a lot about my disability. Tim has gotten me to do some things I never thought I could do," he told InSight. "I'm much stronger than when I got here. I'm able to climb in and out of my wheelchair now." He lives in Beckwith Hall, a small dorm reserved and outfitted for students with disabilities. "It's really a great place," he says. "You get a lot of help and you meet a lot of people there too."
He serves as president of Delta Sigma Omicron, a service fraternity for students with disabilities. Founded in 1949, DSO at Illinois is the fraternity's alpha chapter. Each year, members carry out three major service projects. One is a holiday party for disabled children, with displays of magic and wheelchair athletics, and (of course) an appearance by Santa. Another service project is the annual Wheel-A-Thon, a fundraiser held each April. Participants get sponsors to underwrite wheelchair laps around the Quad, and proceeds go to wheelchair athletic programs. "One lap is nine-tenths of a mile," said Matt. "We have people who push their chairs as much as thirty or forty miles." The organizations also publishes Sigma Signs, an annual magazine for students with disabilities. Distributed at large universities and high schools, the magazine contains feature stories and information for disabled students about resources, research, technology and innovation, events, awards, and sports, focusing on work being done at Illinois. For Matt it's a matter of giving back. "The University of Illinois has been instrumental in setting the trend for accessibility and rights for disabled students," he pointed out, noting that student staffers produce all the magazine's photography and writing.
Matt, who was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder known as "brittle bone disease," is just not the kind of guy who's inclined to let disability hold him back. Since sophomore year, he has worked in the varsity sports office, handling ticket sales and logistical matters related to scholarships, donors, alumni, and students. He's a member of Sigma Chi social fraternity, where he just finished a stint as tribune and chapter editor, serving as correspondent between the Illinois chapter and the fraternity's national office and alumni. Having spent the summer on campus working for Intercollegiate Athletics and taking a class, he was excited about starting his senior year with a jump start, of sorts. "I've been in a wheelchair all my life," he noted. "Now I'm getting a new power chair. It will just be a little faster, a different color, and more state-of-the-art."
That Matt McClure has ambitious plans for his future is thus really no surprise. "There are a number of directions I've looked at," he said. "Being in a wheelchair, I have to live in an accessible community, which means a fairly large city, in the South, perhaps, or on either the East or West Coasts. I'd like to begin by working for a large nationwide bank. My ultimate dream is to work in the entertainment industry in Hollywood, or for a resort, or a sports team."
Corn and beans. Beans and corn. Here, on the vast and fertile Champaign that is much of Illinois, what life is about is very often life
A senior finance major, and Leiby S. Hall Scholarship winner, Arianne
is the first member of her family to pursue an education at Illinois.
Her older sisters both lived at home while attending college
Danielle went to Kankakee Community College, and Colleen attended
Olivet (also in Kankakee) and Milliken. When Arianne decided she wanted to go
to the University of Illinois, she recalls, "Everybody said, `You're going to be
lost in the crowd.' And I said, `Well, I kind of want to
be.'" She took to life here as the proverbial duck to water. "I like living
in Champaign-Urbana. I like all the different people. I like having things to do.
At home you have to drive half an hour if you want to see a movie."
Arianne, who wants to pursue a career in corporate finance, expects that after graduation as a member of the Class of 2000, she'll move to greater Chicago. She hopes to do financial accounting for a large company, or to work as a consultant. And as for the next Tammen her brother Tim, who's still in high school "He's thinking about University of Illinois too. But he's not sure. He's waiting to see how I do finding a job."