Philanthropy has always been important to Robert (Bob) ’67, M.S. ’70, and Susan Lee Walling, both professionally and personally. The Wallings met at Towson University where Susan worked as director of student activities and Bob worked as director of financial aid. They met on Bob’s first day and were married the following year.

Their higher education administrative careers took them to Cornell University and then Central Michigan University. As a final career chapter, Susan created a philanthropy consulting firm, as well as a professional publication, and attained the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential. Bob obtained the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM certification (2007-2011) and advised high net worth clients on financial planning and investment topics.

Now residing in Arizona, they are retired with two children and two granddaughters. A comfortable retirement is afforded by a lifetime of moderate living, saving, and investing.

Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State presented the perfect opportunity for the Wallings to apply their knowledge of financial planning and their passion for philanthropy. The couple serves on the National Campaign Committee for Redbirds Rising. This dedicated group of volunteers aims to advance the University by communicating the impact of philanthropic support.

In addition to volunteering their time, the Wallings have supported Redbirds Rising by donating $26,000 to create the Robert C. And Susan Lee Walling Music Education Scholarship. To maximize their giving, the Wallings use the IRA charitable rollover to fund their philanthropy.

“Once the IRA charitable rollover became permanent in 2015, there were so many advantages to giving in this way,” Bob said. “It’s what has allowed us to facilitate our larger philanthropic gifts. And after consolidating our 401k and 403(b) retirement assets into our IRA, all of our taxable IRA assets became eligible for this strategy.”

The Wallings advocate taking advantage of this simple way to benefit the Illinois State University Foundation and receiving tax benefits in return. If you are 70½ years old or older, you can give up to $100,000 from your IRA directly to a qualified charity without having to add to your taxable income and pay income taxes on the money.

Whether or not you have taken your yearly required minimum distribution, your IRA charitable rollover can fulfill part or all of that requirement. You can give any amount, so long as it is $100,000 or less in one year.

By giving through their IRA, the Wallings see the impact of their philanthropy immediately. “The IRA rollover provides you with the opportunity to give now and feel good about what you’re doing,” Susan said. “After working in philanthropy for so many years, we feel the calling to do as much as we can for students.”

More than anything, the Wallings appreciate the opportunity to meet their student recipients. “What a great feeling it is, to know you’re helping someone,” Bob said. “We know that those scholarships will be there, in our names, forever.”

The push to do all they can now has inspired the Wallings to create not only the Robert C. and Susan Lee Walling Music Education Scholarship at Illinois State but also the Susan Lee (Stecker) and Robert C. Walling Scholarship for Civic Engagement at Brooklyn College, Susan’s alma mater. The Wallings are currently in the process of creating a second endowed scholarship at Illinois State University, this time in support of the College of Education’s Educational Administration and Foundations Department to provide financial support and encouragement to future higher education leaders.

The Wallings’ generosity is tied not only to their previous work but also to their interactions with individuals such as late President Emeritus Robert G. Bone. Bob knew President Bone personally.

“He was a giving and generous man,” Bob said. “His concern for the welfare of students and putting students first really defines his beloved presidency.”

Bob’s graduating class donated the Hand of Friendship to commemorate President Bone, and the Wallings’ generosity and dedication to the welfare of students are carrying on Bone’s legacy of extending the Hand of Friendship to Redbirds present and Redbirds to come.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can structure your giving to meet your philanthropic goals, contact Pat Vickerman at or call (309) 438-8184. Click here to learn more about the IRA rollover and other planned giving options. 

This information is not intended as tax, legal, or financial advice. Consult your personal financial advisor for information specific to your situation.