Nursing major Abby Mustread visits with donor John Lawrence at Greet our Grads.

Nursing major Abby Mustread visits with donor John Lawrence at Greet our Grads.

“We do not get the chance, often enough, to meet with the donors who give back to the institution that gave them so much. Tonight, we are able to meet some of the men and women who did so and continue to provide today’s students with an enhanced education,” said President Larry Dietz during Greet Our Grads, a dinner for donors and class of 2019 students on Monday, April 22 in the Bone Student Center’s Old Main Room.

Donors were invited to dinner to meet some of the students who have benefited from their generous contributions to Illinois State.

The students, representing the best and brightest of the class of 2019, were nominated by their departments and spent the evening sharing their post-graduation plans with university supporters.

“I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Bioinformatics & Integrative Genomics at Harvard Medical School Department of Biomedical Informatics this fall,” senior computer science and mathematics major and Robert G. Bone Scholarship recipient Basheer Becerra from El Paso told donors. “I hope to become a leader in the biomedical industry.”

Attendees of the event included university donors from central Illinois who are recognized as part of the 1857 Society and/or Heritage Society. Donors are inducted into the 1857 Society when their cumulative gifts and gift commitments reach at least $50,000. The Heritage Society recognizes and engages donors who have designated Illinois State University as a beneficiary through a planned or deferred gift commitment.

During dinner, donors had the chance to mentor students and offer welcomed career advice. Students enjoyed learning from donors whose experiences span a wide range of professions.

One student was particularly touched by the chance to get to know the people at her table. Sara Keene, a senior renewable energy major from Bloomington sat with donors and faculty emeriti Hank and Mary Campbell.

“Mr. and Mrs. Campbell are two amazing members of our community and have been a guiding light in my education. I first met Mary at Heartland Community College during my graduation and I met Hank here at Illinois State University during Technology Department week, 2018,” said Keene. “Mary is such an inspiration to me. This dinner was a fabulous way to end my time at ISU.”

Mary Campbell, who was on the Heartland Community College Board of Trustees when she first met Keene, was equally thrilled to be reunited. “To reconnect with Sara and hear of the transformative impact her educational experiences at Illinois State have had on her was so exciting. She is clearly an exceptional young person who will take everything she has gained from her faculty, mentors, and peers and use that to make a difference in the world.”

After dinner, President Dietz addressed the group and highlighted the event’s theme “from a small seed, a mighty trunk may grow.” Dietz spoke of the nurturing environment Illinois State provides its students. From faculty members who provide a student-focused approach to education, to flexible learning spaces, to scholarships that make college affordable and reduce barriers to graduation, donor support is evident across campus.

“When I think about the type of environment our students need to thrive, I reflect on the investment each and every one of our donors has made to Illinois State,” said President Dietz. “Your support has given our students a rich setting for advancing their dreams.”

President Dietz also encouraged the students in attendance to pay forward the help they’ve been given.

“Students, as you embark on your next adventure, do not forget the alumni and friends who had such confidence in your potential that they chose to invest in your future. You may never be able to pay back the support they gave to you, but you can pay it forward,” said President Dietz.

As the event ended, students thanked donors for their mentorship during the event and their contributions to Illinois State.

When expressing her gratitude, senior marking major Mariah Moran from Park Forest reflected on her time at Illinois State. “I love being a Redbird, and although I am sad that my time here has come to an end, I am extremely excited to start my bright future.”

Donor support to faculty, facilities, students, and programs creates an abundant environment where students thrive. Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State promotes growth in the areas of scholarship, leadership, and innovation. To learn more about Illinois State’s distinguished giving societies, including the 1857 Society and Heritage Society, visit

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