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Donor Spotlight: Milner Library Interim Dean Shari Zeck

Dr. Shari Zeck

Dr. Shari Zeck

Dr. Shari Zeck’s mom, Doris Grube, didn’t have the opportunity to go to college, but she made sure her four children had all the educational opportunities they wanted. To honor her mother’s commitment to education and leave a lasting mark on Illinois State, Zeck pledged a major gift during the Redbirds Rising campaign. The gift establishes the Doris Grube Zeck Library Outreach Restricted Fund.

A lasting impression

Zeck has been an Illinois State University employee for more than 28 years. From her start in the School of Theatre and Dance to her present role as interim dean of Milner Library, Zeck has embraced collaboration as a way to advance the University’s initiatives.

The first director of the Arts Technology Program, Zeck hired faculty and worked with marketing and other units to distinguish the program from other arts’ curricula. Her work strengthened the program’s credibility on campus.

“The experience taught me the importance of building relationships,” said Zeck. “It’s something that still serves me well today.”

Zeck’s most recent point of pride is Milner’s Student Success Center, which is scheduled to open fall 2021. The center will be a hub for learning, research, and technology, allowing Milner to supplement traditional library services to support student development.

“It will really be a transformative feature of the library, and a transformative space for students,” said Zeck.

Giving in a meaningful way

Director of Development Toni Burningham with Milner Library Interim Dean Dr. Shari Zeck after Zeck signed her gift commitment to establish the Doris Grube Zeck Library Outreach Restricted Fund.

Director of Development Toni Burningham with Milner Library Interim Dean Dr. Shari Zeck after Zeck signed her gift commitment to establish the Doris Grube Zeck Library Outreach Restricted Fund.

As a new Illinois State employee in 1996, Zeck communicated her commitment to the University by contributing regularly to various Illinois State causes.

“I still remember the first time I gave $10 to WGLT. That was a big deal to me, and it’s why I respect every gift, no matter the amount,” said Zeck.

She challenged herself to do more with each gift, until she became a major donor herself. Zeck credits Director of Development Toni Burningham and Executive Director of Development Joy Hutchcraft for helping her see that giving a major gift was within her reach.

“This gift was a stretch for me financially,” said Zeck. “But I discovered that when I try to do something a little bit bigger with my dollars, that it makes me feel a little bit bigger too.”

Zeck’s endowment will provide discretionary funds future deans can use for outreach. Potential uses include receptions for guests to Milner, exhibit fees, and funds for students interning in Washington, D.C.

“It’s not a life-changing amount, but having been in the dean’s position, I know how much even the few hundred dollars the endowment will generate each year can make an impact,” said Zeck.

Zeck’s mother, Doris Grube, on her high school graduation day in 1936.

Dr. Shari Zeck’s mother, Doris Grube, on her high school graduation day in 1936.

Honoring Doris Grube

Zeck’s humility when talking about her contributions keeps the focus where she wants it, on her mom. She described Doris, who passed away more than 20 years ago, as “one of the smartest people I ever knew.”

To know that her mother’s name will live on at the University where Zeck flourished is important to Zeck.

“She was very proud to tell people I taught here, where several of her relatives went to school, and she would be proud that I’m still at the University,” said Zeck.

With retirement in sight, Zeck is glad to have forged an ongoing association with the University through a fund that bears her mother’s name. “We’re doing great things at ISU. And I’m proud to be a part of it.”

In the last fiscal year alone, 2,034 faculty and staff made gifts to support scholarship, leadership, and innovation at Illinois State. Employees who are interested in giving back can visit Giving.IllinoisState.edu/opportunities/faculty-staff. In the words of Milner Library Interim Dean Shari Zeck, “You won’t regret it.”