Passing on a love of science
Sher ’71 and Todd Rockway are passionate about encouraging students to embrace science. During Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State, the Rockways established the Sheryll (Renken) and Todd Rockway Endowed Scholarship in Biology, giving more than $37,000 to support the fund. The scholarship assists ISU students majoring in biology or chemistry.
Sher and Todd met in 2001 through a mutual appreciation of science. Todd obtained a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1983 from the University of Arizona in Tucson. Sher earned a Ph.D. in science education from the University of Iowa in 1993. They married in 2004 and after both retired—Sher in 2004 from teaching science in the Indian Prairie School District and Todd in 2012 from a chemistry management role at Abbott Laboratories—they settled in Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin.
A shared volunteer experience was the impetus for their gift to Illinois State. While working with disadvantaged youth through Waukegan to College, a community-based college preparatory program, the Rockways saw firsthand the barriers some students face when pursuing a college degree.
“We spent many Saturday mornings mentoring youth through Waukegan to College,” Todd said. “It was neat to see kids we’d worked with go to college and graduate.” The Rockways’ endowment is a resource for undergraduate students majoring in biology or chemistry who demonstrate academic achievement and/or financial need.
“We feel very blessed to be able to give back to Illinois State,” said Sher, who has been giving consistently to her alma mater since she graduated. Todd agrees, noting that it’s rewarding to encourage students to maintain an interest in science.
“We wanted to communicate to students who love science that it’s okay to like science, it’s okay to be a chemistry person,” he said. “And if students who are interested in science can get a job doing what they love, their job will become a hobby.”
Chemistry major and biological science minor Elizabeth Garrelts received the scholarship in 2019. She knows first-hand how helpful the support of a fellow science lover can be.
“As a woman in chemistry with ambitions of attending medical school, receiving the scholarship helped me gain more confidence,” Garrelts said. “In the future, this scholarship will help others to find their value, just like it helped me to find mine.”
Donors like Sher and Todd Rockway bridge the gap between student access and student achievement. To support scholarships at Illinois State University, visit RedbirdsRising.IllinoisState.edu.