It didn’t take long for Kathryn (Trau) Van Valey ’10 to realize that deaf education was her calling. During her senior year of high school she began exploring special education programs at Illinois State. Once she started learning about deaf education, she knew she had found something special.

“Deaf education chose me,” she said. “I have loved it from the minute I started my freshman year, and that feeling has not changed. It will continue to be part of me for the rest of my life.”

Van Valey’s passion made her an ideal recipient for the Wanda and Dale Weaver Endowed Scholarship and Fellowship Fund, a scholarship for students who plan to teach persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. The scholarship supplemented the modest income Van Valey received from a part-time job at Marcfirst, a Central Illinois agency that serves those with developmental disabilities. She was also able to enhance her education through membership in the Deaf Redbirds Association.

“When I began my teaching practicum, I was able to use the scholarship and get supplies for my classroom, which many other teachers do not have,” Van Valey said. “I learned a lot working at Metcalf and through the Deaf Redbirds Association. You can’t fully prepare yourself for a new classroom because every classroom is going to be a new experience, but experiencing as much as you can eases that transition.”

Van Valey was more than ready to lead her first classroom. The fall after graduation she accepted a position as a permanent substitute teacher at the Illinois School for the Deaf in Jacksonville. The following spring, she was offered a new position teaching math, reading, and consumer education for high school students.

Thanks to philanthropists with similar passions, Van Valey was able to seize the opportunities around her and cultivate her passion into one that will make a difference to her students for years to come.

Wanda Weaver ’64 and her husband, Dale, established the Wanda and Dale Weaver Endowed Scholarship and Fellowship Fund. It assists juniors, seniors, and graduate students studying special education. Special consideration is given to students in the deaf and hard-of-hearing sequence. Wanda has made arrangements to provide additional funding to the scholarship through her estate. Dale applies for matching gifts from his employer, doubling the impact of their gifts.

The personal stories of gratitude shared by these students are increasingly the norm at Illinois State University, as more alumni and friends of Illinois State make an investment in the University’s programs and people. Every gift received has a positive impact. Private support reveals each donor’s passion, while fueling the passion of students whose college experience is either made possible through financial assistance or further enriched because campus offerings are bolstered. State your Passion today by making a contribution online at, calling (309) 438-8041, or sending an email to