A drive to give back: Alumni couple makes record-setting gift
Jim ’74 and Carole (Czerniak) Mounier ’75 have always been part of the Redbird family, but for 30 years they were more like long-lost relatives.
They met through Greek life as students at Illinois State, left Normal after graduation to start their lives and careers—and never really looked back. It wasn’t until 2006 that they reconnected with ISU, deciding on a whim to attend an alumni event in Rockford. In the eight years since, the Mouniers’ passion for giving has led to big things for Redbird Athletics, including a new scholarship for student-athletes and construction of the Jim and Carole Mounier Golf Training Center.
Now their reunion with Illinois State has led to something even bigger—an eight-figure planned gift that’s the largest single-gift commitment in ISU history.
“That’s going to be our legacy,” Jim said. “If you have kids, you give your money to your kids because you love them. We don’t have any kids. We love ISU, so we’re giving the money to ISU.”
The Rockford-area couple visited campus last fall when their record-setting gift commitment was announced. Athletics Director Larry Lyons ’86 called their generosity “transformational.”
“Jim and Carole believe in our vision. This incredible act of generosity will have tremendous lasting impact on our Athletics Department by benefiting generations of student-athletes through scholarship support, as well as the Weibring Golf Club and the Mounier Golf Training Center,” Lyons said. “It is truly humbling for us and incredible on their part.”
Jim and Carole both came to ISU as transfer students, their social lives dominated by Jim’s fraternity (Sigma Nu) and Carole’s sorority (Delta Zeta). After graduation, Jim went to work as a construction estimator and Carole as a teacher. For 10 years, they focused almost entirely on their careers.
Finally in 1985, they took a breath and decided to try a new hobby—golf. Carole had never played before, and Jim was a novice. Soon it became their new passion, the center of their social circle.
So when an Illinois State development officer visited the Mouniers after the 2006 event, asking if they’d be willing to support the University, they chose golf, a sport that builds character and life success after the 18th hole. They created the Mounier Scholarship in 2007, and the golf training center opened in fall 2013.
“It’s a game of integrity. It takes a lot of dedication and discipline to get really good,” said Jim, now a senior vice president and wealth management advisor at Merrill Lynch. “Young players carry that discipline and determination they have for golf into their careers later in life.”
The Mouniers’ philanthropic scorecard is full. Both are longtime community volunteers who serve on the boards of various local hospitals, colleges, and agencies. Jim also serves on the Illinois State University Foundation Board of Directors, and the couple has hosted Redbird Welcome Parties for incoming freshmen from the Rockford area.
“We’ve been very fortunate and blessed. We both feel it is our responsibility to support our community—whether it be ISU, or a hospital, or a community organization,” Jim said. “If we find something we’re connected with, we’re probably going to support it because they rely on it.”
The impact of their gifts on the lives of students and Redbird Athletics gives them “that warm fuzzy feeling on the inside,” Jim said. But it’s the way they’ve been treated by the extended Redbird family that’s inspired them to give back again and again. Whether it’s tailgating outside Hancock Stadium or making a road trip to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis, they’ve made lifelong friends.
“They have made us part of a family that we had stepped away from 30 years ago,” Carole said.
When their gift was announced last fall, Jim and Carole became emotional as their generosity was recognized during a Board of Trustees meeting. (The whole weekend was a “tear-fest,” Carole jokes.)
“It’s rare in somebody’s life that somebody says thank you,” Jim said. “The reason we became so emotional wasn’t because of what we had done for ISU. It was really what ISU had done for us.”
Illinois State President Larry Dietz honored the Mouniers during their fall visit, which included a dedication of the golf training center—one of the best facilities in collegiate golf.
“This historic commitment speaks volumes of the impact ISU had on the Mouniers and their desire to see the University flourish and ascend to new heights,” Dietz said. “We are so grateful for their friendship and their unprecedented investment in our students and programs.”
At the dedication of the training center, senior Redbird golfer Hayley Guyton thanked the Mouniers for impacting her ISU experience and future generations of Redbird student-athletes.
“I’ll always remember to invest in this program when I get older and become an alum,” Guyton said. “Seeing your generosity and how much that’s truly impacted all of us, you’ve given us so much more confidence going forward. Seeing you two believe in us has truly been amazing.”
The Mouniers believe in Illinois State in part because of its increased reputation in the decades since they graduated. Illinois State is now a Top 75 nationally ranked public university, among other points of pride.
“It shows ISU is on the right track,” Jim said. “We’re very proud. That makes it even easier for us to commit our resources to ISU, because we know it’s going to a good thing.”
Visit WeisbeckerFund.com to learn more about supporting Redbird Athletics.