On Friday, October 5, 2018, new inductees to the prestigious 1857 Society, as well as members moving up in level within the society, enjoyed the Tasty Tour, a traveling dinner with courses held at four locations across campus.

The Tasty Tour is an experience for members of the 1857 Society, which is made up of the University’s highest level of donors. Illinois State University donors receive an invitation to the Tasty Tour and 1857 Society induction when their cumulative lifetime giving reaches a total of $50,000, or when they achieve a new philanthropic milestone within the society. These milestones include:

  • Benefactor: $50,000–$249,999
  • Guardian: $250,000–$999,999
  • Ambassador: $1,000,000–$4,999,999
  • Visionary: $5,000,000

“You are among the University’s most generous supporters,” Vice President of University Advancement Pat Vickerman said. “Together, all of our new inductees and those who have moved levels have contributed more than $13 million dollars to support ISU programs, students, faculty and facilities. Thank you!”

Innovative spaces

Vickerman’s comments kicked off the first course of the Tasty Tour, during which guests tasted hors d’Oeurves in the north end zone of Hancock Field. To emphasize the campaign pillar of Innovation, student-athletes mingled with guests, explaining how the construction of a new and innovative indoor practice facility would enhance their practices and overall athletic performance.

As the sun set over Hancock Field, guests were transported by bus to the new Redbird Adventure Center for the evening’s soup and salad course, which focused on the campaign pillar of Leadership. Undeterred by the darkening sky, guests surveyed the new outdoor ropes course. Students wearing belaying equipment used on the ropes course spoke with donors about their experiences on the course and leadership roles around campus.

The entrée course was held in another unusual dinner locale, the State Farm Hall of Business atrium. At dinner, student scholarship recipients hosted each table of donors, highlighting the third campaign pillar of Scholarship. Startup Showcase participant and scholarship recipient Derek Zimmerman played his mixed electronic and tuba version of Leonard Cohen’s classic, “Hallelujah.”

Zimmerman spoke about his business, Tubazimm and thanked guests for their generosity.

“It’s because of donors like you and the scholarships I’ve received that I have the freedom to pursue my passions and grow my business,” Zimmerman said.

After the event, he added, “The Tasty Tour was an awesome way for alumni and donors to see into the current life of ISU. I am so happy I could share my passion with so many people that keep ISU running strong.”

Demonstrating impact

For the dessert course, the bus stopped at the Bone Student Center’s Circus Room, where guests toasted marshmallows for s’mores and crafted their own caramel apples using a variety of toppings.

Not only does the Tasty Tour allow the University’s most committed financial supporters to experience campus from a new vantage point, but the event also gives donors a behind-the-scenes look at students’ lives, many of whom their generosity has directly affected.  Three students spoke to donors during dessert about the impact their scholarships have had on their lives. The students were Angelina Hernandez, a Spanish major; Dalton Gorsuch, an early child education major; and Shelby Johnson, an actuarial sciences major. These students described the hardships they have overcome on their journey to college graduation.

Gorsuch and his four siblings were raised by their grandparents, so receiving the Greenbaum Memorial Fund scholarship was especially impactful.

“Getting the scholarship meant so much to my family because they did not have to worry about how they would come up with the money to support me. It’s not an understatement to say that without the support of donors like you all, I wouldn’t be here at ISU today,” Gorsuch said.

For some donors, the students’ presentations were even more personal. Shelby Johnson’s scholarship donors Greg Simpson, dean emeritus of the College of Arts and Sciences, and his wife Mary-Margaret Simpson attended Friday’s event and Johnson was able to thank her benefactors in person.

“When I had the opportunity to meet my donors, it was so nice to put a face to a name,” she said. “I was so happy to tell them in person how much of an impact they have on my education here at Illinois State.”

As for Greg and Mary-Margaret Simpson, the feeling was mutual.

“Illinois State University has been such a welcoming home for us,” Simpson said, “And we wanted to do what we could to further the University’s tradition of being a welcoming place for students. It was such a pleasure for us to meet Shelby, a bright young scholar with such a promising future in actuarial science. We look forward to watching her progress through her program and supporting her in any way we can.”

Honoring our supporters

As a final courtesy to members of the 1857 Society, member names are displayed on the 1857 Society wall in the Bone Student Center. Tasty Tour guests visited the donor wall to take a picture in front of their names as a conclusion to the night. Members of the esteemed 1857 Society left the event feeling inspired, connected, and committed.

“Meeting ISU students hearing and listening of their dreams has reconfirmed our commitment to ISU’s Redbirds Rising Campaign,” said 1857 Society member Jaime Flores ‘80. “Lizet and I met new alumni friends who are inspiring … it’s an honor for us to share our names on the 1857 Society wall with them.”

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To learn how you can join the 1857 Society of donors and give to Redbird Rising:  The Campaign for Illinois State, visit Advancement.IllinoisState.edu.