When Gary Gemberling ’63 came to Illinois State in 1959, enrollment was around 4,500, only a fraction of today’s student body. Coming from a small town of 300 and a high school graduating class of 16, Illinois State seemed like a metropolis. But Gary didn’t allow himself to be intimidated—he embraced it.
“Coming to Illinois State was a turning point in my life. I became involved with committees and organizations,” Gary said. “It really opened my eyes to how much I enjoyed being involved.”
Gary graduated after four years with a degree in business administration. Though he had originally intended to teach, he instead took a position as a claims adjustor at State Farm. Three years later, he left to serve in the military during the Vietnam War.
“It was in the military that I made the decision to pursue accounting. We had courses available to us on base and through correspondence schools, so I was able to take 80 hours of accounting before leaving the military,” Gary said. “I was interviewed for jobs while still overseas and had five job offers before I was done serving.”Gary chose to work for Arthur Andersen LLP, a Chicago-based accounting firm. While working for Andersen, Gary earned his M.B.A. and CPA. It was several years later that Gary and two of his colleagues decided to strike out on their own. In 1972, they created Hoffman, Immington, Gemberling in LaSalle—a previously untapped market. After establishing the firm successfully and running it for several years, Gary sold the firm to build a new firm. This began a string of many successful ventures that led Gary to establish Gemberling and Associates in Minier.
“I was able to establish many new ventures because being in accounting exposed me to many kinds of business,” Gary said. “I was able to come in and help people build their businesses up. Because of that, I have worked with businesses ranging from tomato farming to oil wells.”
Since he has returned to Central Illinois, Gary has reconnected with his alma mater as a member of the ISU Foundation Board, assuming roles such as chairman of the Audit Committee and member of the Investment Committee. He also serves on the Department of Management and Quantitative Methods Advisory Board.
“Illinois State is at the forefront of many things that are happening in educational institutions within the country,” Gary said. “I am very positive about the long-term future of Illinois State.”
Seeing the value of investing in the University, Gary established and funded the Herbert Sieg Endowed Scholarship in honor of Sieg, a former ISU professor and Gary’s classmate. The scholarship funds a fifth year in the accounting program for students.
“The scholarship was an idea from Dixie Mills, emeritus dean of the College of Business,” Gary said. “I was glad to do it because I prefer to give money to a definite project and purpose and see what the results are going to be.”
But Gary was not done there. His years in the accounting world and experience as an entrepreneur gave him insight into opportunities for Illinois State. Seeing rapid growth for certified financial planners, he met with faculty members and encouraged them to consider offering a program.
“It is a lucrative field,” Gary said. “There are very few schools that have a curriculum to become a certified financial planner.”
Today students can minor in certified financial planning. Gary’s enthusiasm for the minor was so great that he has also made a gift through a bequest to support the minor well into the future. His gifts will ensure that students continue to enjoy excellent opportunities at Illinois State.