When most people think of funding incentives in college, they think of giving scholarships to students. However, Sandra (Sandy) Groves, retired professor in the School of Kinesiology and Recreation, decided to give back in a different way.

The Sandra Little Groves Recreation and Park Administration Faculty Development Endowed Fund was founded in 2014. Groves was an assistant professor at the beginning of an academic career where there were critical needs for funding to establish a research agenda meeting the expectations for annual evaluation, promotion, and tenure.

“It was a challenge to manage the extraordinary expense for the conduct of research, its presentation at conferences and symposia, and related publications on a beginning faculty member’s salary in 1985,” Groves said.

This is the reason Groves felt it was fit to give back in such a way.

Groves discovered her passion at an early age. Her summer employment while in college was serving as a recreation worker for churches and summer camps. A faculty mentor recognized her love for the field and recommended Groves for a graduate assistantship at Indiana University in recreation and park administration. From there she spent 11 years employed by municipal and county park and recreation agencies throughout Illinois and Kansas.

Her second career path led into higher education to prepare students for professional practice in parks and recreation. She moved to Pennsylvania from Illinois and connected with a colleague who asked her to be an instructor at Penn State University. Being successful at teaching, Groves was encouraged to earn her Ph.D. at Penn State and become a faculty member. Upon completing her doctorate, she returned to Illinois to become an assistant professor at Illinois State University.

“To me, this contribution means the work I do is valued, and encourages me to continue working tirelessly to improve my teaching and research.” —Rebecca Achen

At Illinois State, Groves’ favorite classes to teach included Recreation and Park Management, and Sport Administration Management at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The recipient of this year’s Sandra Little Groves Recreation and Park Administration Faculty Development Endowment was Rebecca Achen. The School of Kinesiology and Recreation assistant professor discovered her passion when she started coaching part-time in college. This helped her realize how much she loves to teach. As a personal trainer, Achen found her passion for helping people achieve their goals. After a lot of thought, she realized that she could teach and help young people reach their goals by becoming a college professor.

As Achen worked on her Ph.D. at Kansas, she realized how much she loves research and solving business problems.

“I am truly honored to receive this contribution that will help me advance personally and professionally. To me, this contribution means the work I do is valued, and encourages me to continue working tirelessly to improve my teaching and research,” said Achen.

“I am truly touched by her (Dr. Groves) support of new faculty members at Illinois State University,” Achen said. “It takes a very special person to donate their money to help faculty members like me improve as professionals and individuals. I am very thankful to Dr. Groves for funding this award and honored to be chosen as the recipient.”

Groves says the overall reason she decided to give back was to “anticipate that investment in pre-tenure recreation and park faculty will yield an outstanding teacher and researcher available to undergraduate and graduate students as well as a helping to develop an outstanding professional in the field.”

Interested in giving back? Contact Heather Hartman, director of development for the College of Applied Science and Technology.