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CAST Donor Spotlight: Tawani Foundation

ROTC cadets

Illinois State ROTC cadets at a recent campus ceremony.

The College of Applied Science and Technology has many generous donors. One such donor, the Tawani Foundation, has been donating to the Department of Military Science annually for over 10 years.

The Tawani Foundation ROTC Awards program was founded in 1996 as a way to support the educational, civic and leadership goals of cadets and midshipmen by recognizing outstanding performance. Retired Col. Jennifer N. Pritzker (Illinois Army National Guard), Tawani Foundation’s founder and president, enlisted in the Army in 1974, having participated in ROTC while attending Loyola University Chicago. After commissioning in 1979, she spent over 25 years of service in airborne and infantry divisions before retiring from the Illinois Army National Guard in 2001.

Her love of country and the duty to give back to local communities lead Pritzker to establish the foundation’s mission with an emphasis on preserving military history and heritage by promoting the ideal of the “Citizen Soldier.” The ROTC Awards program is just one way she can achieve that mission and give back to the community while simultaneously supporting our nation’s future leaders and those who choose to serve.

The Tawani Foundation’s gift is impacting a department that is turning around and impacting the world. Illinois State University’s ROTC program started in the 1977–78 school year, with the first class commissioning in 1980–81. The program includes cadets from Illinois State, Illinois Wesleyan University, and Bradley University. Currently, the program has 125 students/cadets and has commissioned over 400 officers.

Within the ROTC program, over 50 percent of students are on some type of scholarship, and 40 of them are also receiving the Illinois State tuition waiver for the semester. The Tawani Foundation’s annual gift of $10,000 impacts 10 students per year.

“The Tawani Foundation graciously allows us to split the funds as we see fit,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Bender, professor of military science at Illinois State. “This allows us to provide funding for more students.”

The funds are split between 10 students who receive merit-based scholarships. Cadet Kayla Campbell was recently one of the recipients. A senior this year, Campbell is a cellular and molecular biology major.

The scholarship process looks at grade point average and also at a personal essay that applicants write. Campbell remembers her essay prompt well: “In a critical situation, would you choose your men or your mission?” Campbell explained that due to the Army’s ethos, the mission always comes first.

“Sometimes in the field you have to make tough decisions and make sacrifices. If you remember the ethos, your mission comes first. If you do it appropriately, your men will be taken care of.”

Before joining ROTC, Campbell played soccer for the Redbirds. As an athlete and now as a cadet, Campbell’s extracurriculars keep her active on campus and in the community, leaving little time for a job.

“I work hard to get scholarships so I can focus on my schoolwork and on ROTC,” Campbell said. “The scholarship from the Tawani Foundation helped give me some money to live on and took the pressure off, so I could focus on my priorities.”

As a cellular and molecular biology major, those priorities include science-intensive classes. Campbell lists ecology and organic chemistry as her current favorites, largely due to the quality instruction she is receiving.

“In ecology class, Dr. (Bill) Perry is very funny, and in organic chemistry Dr. (Shawn) Hitchcock is so helpful. He really wants to make sure students do well.” Campbell is benefiting from the quality classroom instruction that has been one of Illinois State’s hallmarks for decades.

After graduation, Campbell is looking forward to what’s next: “I always liked thinking about having a career in the Army. I like the idea of protecting the nation,” she explained. Upon commissioning, Campbell is hoping for a role in the Army in either the area of chemical corps, military intelligence, or medical service corps.

“The Tawani Foundation is honored to be a part of impacting lives by recognizing excellence and achievement, especially at the point where academics and service intersect,” said Kareema Adiele, grants manager at the foundation. “Donations, of any kind and to any department, are an easy way for people of all walks of life to show support for important and impactful programs which can inspire recipients to pay it forward through their own future philanthropic endeavors.”

If you would like to support the Department of Military Science or another area of interest in the College of Applied Science and Technology, please contact Heather Hartman at hshartm@IllinoisState.edu or (309) 438-3134.

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