When Ron Ulmer ’70, M.S. ’75, established his namesake scholarship a few years ago, he wasn’t looking to help the typical scholarship recipient.
You know, the high-achieving student who was already well-decorated with laurels. Instead, he was hoping to help students who were like himself: economic majors who were passionate about the field and struggled to deal with a challenging subject.
“I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the bushel, but I was a hard worker,” Ulmer said. “This scholarship is for the students who have had to work to get B’s and C’s and to be an econ major. I want to reward those who try hard and are successful.”
Ulmer went on to get an advanced degree in economics and nearly enough credit for a doctorate. He was able to use his degrees to get a job at Illinois Power Company, where he worked in a variety of roles for 17 years. He also taught economic classes at three Central Illinois universities, including Illinois State.
But his success was unexpected. His high school counselor didn’t even want to talk to him. He didn’t think Ulmer had a chance to attend college. He credits his professors at Illinois State for being patient with him. He enjoyed economics and found it stimulating, but it was never easy.
“I graduated in 1970, and I still have a relationship with the econ department. It has molded my whole professional career,” Ulmer said. “I had a pretty successful career, and I made more money than I ever thought I would.
Recent graduate Ryan Javorski ’16 received the Ron Ulmer Scholarship in the spring.
“It’s relieving to be able to relate to someone who had a similar experience to the one I had during college and ended up having a successful career. The reward was a good reminder to myself that I could always improve,” said Javorski, who wants to work as an underwriter in the banking or mortgage industries.
Ulmer hopes the scholarship relieves some of the students’ financial burden and shows them that it is important to give back.
“I want them to learn that once they are successful, they should help the ones behind them,” he said.