Sandra Groves, a retired professor in the School of Kinesiology and Recreation, has supported Illinois State University for decades. With the launch of Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State, Groves has turned her attention towards mobilizing faculty and staff to contribute.

“It is important to participate,” Groves said. “Participate not just by giving your money, but by becoming part of institutional traditions. That level of participation will increase your commitment. And the institution will be committed back to you.”

Groves spent her early career in municipal and county park and recreation agencies throughout Illinois and Kansas, before being led into higher education. She moved to Pennsylvania from Illinois 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.

Groves started giving back to Illinois State from the start. Giving early started a process where she was able to identify specific places of need at Illinois State and make a greater impact on those issues later on in life.

While at Illinois State, Groves was a Graduate Coordinator for Kinesiology and Recreation and often found herself assisting graduate students with tuition waivers and identifying other sources of funding. As part of her retirement, fellow faculty members started The Sandra Little Groves Graduate Student Emergency Assistance Endowed Fund in 2008, which awards money to graduate students that need financial assistance.

Groves enjoyed meeting the students her scholarship supported. Seeing the impact of her philanthropy encouraged her to seek out additional ways to support her passion at Illinois State.

In 2014, Groves launched The Sandra Little Groves Recreation and Park Administration Faculty Development Fund. The fund supports faculty development opportunities for the School of Kinesiology and Recreation’s Recreation and Park Administration program. The philanthropic dollars have been used to help faculty with establishing a research agenda as they pursue promotion and tenure.

For faculty and staff just starting out, Groves recommends starting small. Often the best place to start is within your own unit on campus.

“I am happy that I responded to my department’s call to give,” Groves said. “That is the best place to start as that money goes right back to supporting your students and fellow faculty.”

Groves is excited about the timing of Redbirds Rising.

“There are so many positive things going on for Illinois State,” Groves said. “The leadership at the institution, strong enrollment, new opportunities… a whole variety of things have risen. This campaign is part of that continued rising process and to bring that to the forefront for more people.”

To learn more about how you can support your passion at Illinois State, visit