Elaine (Hakey) Cushman ’58 grew up in a poor mining town. If not for scholarships, she wouldn’t have been able to come to Illinois State University.
She also wouldn’t have met her husband Roger ’62, been launched into an education career, or still be involved with the University nearly 60 years later. Now that she is a donor the roles have been reversed, and she proudly gives students the same opportunities she had.
“We’ve received so much from ISU, our education, our livelihood, our entertainment, everything, so it’s just a matter of giving back,” she said.
The Cushmans met in September 1952, just weeks after Elaine arrived on campus. They have been involved with Illinois State ever since. For Roger, the choice to become a Redbird was one of the best he ever made.
“It’s family. It’s just been such an important part of our lives,” he said. “I owe basically everything good in my life to the University.”
The Cushmans moved to Missouri in 1963 so Roger could pursue his master’s degree in journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia. They jumped at the opportunity to come back to Illinois State in 1966 when Roger was hired as sports information director at Illinois State.
“We didn’t hesitate, not at all,” Elaine said. “We never once regretted coming back.”
Roger left that position in 1980 to become Illinois State’s director of news service, retiring in 1995. Elaine taught in Normal’s Unit 5 school district until 1991.
The couple donates to the Redbird Club, Senior Professionals, Friends of the Arts, and the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. For them, donating is a way to attract students to the University while keeping programs they love alive.
Senior Professionals is an organization that brings together retirees from the campus and the community, students, and faculty. Started in 1989 by Charles Bolen, former dean of the College of Fine Arts, it offers creative learning experiences, social interaction, and mentoring opportunities.
Anita Revelle, director of Senior Professionals, said it allows retirees to see what is going on in college life while allowing students to see what it is like in the professional world.
“It’s a way to open a door for that intergenerational interaction,” Revelle said.
Roger recently went to a meeting expecting to fill the role of mentor and teacher. What happened was a bit of a surprise to him.
“I thought I might go to that meeting giving some of my knowledge. What I soon discovered was that these students are so sharp that I was learning more from them than they were learning from me.”